Estate Sale vs Liquidation: What Are The Key Differences?

When it comes to selling off the possessions of a deceased loved one, many people are unsure as to whether they should utilize estate sale services or liquidation services. Both offer distinct advantages, but understanding the key differences between these two options is essential in order to make an informed decision.

In this article, we will explore six major distinctions between estate sales and liquidations so that you can decide which option best meets your needs. Furthermore, we will discuss why estate sales may be the most beneficial overall for those looking to sell their items quickly and maximize returns on their investments.


The first major difference between estate sales and liquidations is the level of organization. Estate sales are run by individuals or companies who specialize in organizing, setting up, and selling the items of an estate, usually with many years of experience.

They will take inventory of all the items for sale, research each item’s value, price them accordingly, and even advertise the sale. Conversely, liquidations are handled by companies that specialize in buying bulk lots of items from estates and reselling them at a discounted rate. These companies often purchase entire estates without taking inventory or researching the value of each item.


The second distinction between estate sales and liquidations is the timeframe involved. Estate sales can be advertised and held over several days, whereas liquidations are typically done in a much shorter time frame, often within two weeks or less.

This difference is important to consider if you are looking for an expedient process and/or hoping to maximize returns on your items; estate sales may offer far greater returns due to the ability of the organizers to research and price items correctly.

Collection & Distribution of Funds

The third major difference between estate sales and liquidations is the collection and distribution of funds. Estate sale companies will collect all proceeds from the event, disburse them to relevant parties (such as charities or heirs) and provide an accounting of those transactions.

On the other hand, liquidation companies will usually purchase items outright, and the seller of the estate will receive a one-time sum.


The fourth difference between estate sales and liquidations is commission fees. Estate sale personnel charge a commission for their services that can range from 15-50%, depending on the size of the estate and the amount of work required. Liquidation companies, on the other hand, generally offer flat fees or purchase prices for estates.

Marketing & Advertising

The fifth distinction between estate sales and liquidations is that of marketing and advertising. Estate sale companies will typically market their events to local buyers by placing ads in newspapers, posting signs around town, and/or utilizing social media. Liquidation companies, however, rely on their own contacts and networks to purchase estates.

Premises Access

The sixth difference between estate sales and liquidations is premises access. Estate sale personnel are typically given access to the seller’s home in order to arrange items, photograph them for advertising purposes, and provide a secure environment for buyers. By contrast, liquidation companies will often purchase items without ever entering the premises.

Overall, estate sales are often the most beneficial option for individuals looking to sell their belongings. They offer greater returns on investments due to the ability to research and price items correctly, as well as a secure environment and marketing opportunities. 

However, it is essential to understand the differences between estate sales and liquidations in order to make an informed decision. By understanding the six key distinctions discussed above, you will be able to decide which option best suits your needs when it comes time to sell off a deceased loved one’s possessions.