Down Sizing Made Easy


Adventures can begin with excitement by choice or with resignation by necessity. Regardless of the reason for downsizing, Sellers all have the same questions:

  1. What is my stuff worth?
  2. What's the best way to sell my stuff?
  3. How do I get started
  4. How much will it cost?

This article addresses those questions and more.

1. How much is my stuff worth?

This is probably the question most often asked and the one with the answer that is the hardest for our clients to accept. First of all, let me say this: I am just as guilty of this as are our clients. Of course I think my stuff is very valuable. “Do you know what I paid for that in 1990?” Times change though. For example, take the VHS machine. How much did those cost when they came out and what are they worth now? So the answer to “How much is my stuff worth” is “Your stuff is worth whatever some willing person will pay you for it on the day you want to sell it.”

That being said, there are some things you can do to get an idea of where the market is today. First, on our website at, we have a dropdown menu that contains two lists. They are “Good Consignment Items” and “Bad Consignment Items”. These are a must-read for anyone considering down-sizing. Second, and also one our website, are many recently concluded auctions. If you open up any of those auctions you will be able to see the amounts that were paid for thousands of items. You can also go to E-Bay and look for items that are similar to the items you would like to sell. Make sure though that you only consider the “completed sales” on the “advanced search” page so you are not mislead by someone’s asking price for an item that did not sell. Finally, AAA Auction is always happy to look at photographs of any items you would like to sell. Of course we can’t promise what amount you will get for the item, but we can tell you what we have sold similar items for in the past.

2. How do I get started?

Many people try getting rid of things on their own before we are called. They often offer the items to family or friends, have a garage sale, or try selling on E-Bay, Facebook or Craig’s List. Some even put the items in a rented storage unit with the thought that they will sell them later. The problem with these methods is that today’s young people don’t want their parents’ stuff and garage sales are too much work for too little money and only get rid of some of the items. You also have to have some computer skills to sell on the internet and that too takes a lot of time and only gets rid of a small amount of your items.

So what do you do? The first step is for you to call us for an appointment. At AAA Auction we welcome the opportunity to provide downsizing services to our clients and it is our goal to free our clients from the stress and burden of dealing with the sale of their personal property as they move on to the next phase of their lives.

In most cases we will come to your home and visit with you to determine your needs. For example, do you need everything gone by a looming closing date? Do you just need to declutter in preparation for listing your home in the future? Do you need cash quickly for some reason? Once we know your needs, we will recommend one of a number of methods that will best meet them. We will also discuss the costs and the details of the method we recommend which may include a live auction, an online estate auction, a consignment, a pick, a buy, a clean-out or a traditional estate sale.

Live Auction

A live auction works well if the seller has a large amount of items to sell, space to spread them all out, space for people to park and weather that is warm enough so folks won’t mind being outside for several hours or more. The commission charged by the auctioneer is determined on a case-by case basis and it takes into consideration the amount of work necessary to do the job as well as the overall value of the auction items. In our area it is not uncommon for auctioneers to charge 20% to 40% for conducting a live estate auction. Sometimes a minimum fee amount is also guaranteed. There also may be extra costs for a live auction such set-up, advertising, printing and portable biffys. Because of these factors, and because live auctions are more historically common outside the metro area, live auctions are not often held in the city.

Online Estate Auction vs. Traditional Estate Sales

Much more common in the metropolitan area are online auctions or traditional estate sales. These are quite different in their approach because in a traditional estate sale only one person determines the price of an item whereas in an online auction the entire viewing public determines the price of the item. For example, if your estate sale professional overprices and item it won’t sell or if he underprices and item it will sell for less than what it is worth. You don’t have that risk with AAA Auction because at AAA Auction we receive over 200,000 page hits for each online auction we conduct and thus the final bid price represents the true market value which is determined by the entire viewing public. Also, with an online estate auction you don’t have to worry about many people being in your home. In addition since online auctions run about 10 to14 days, you don’t run the risk that bad weather or other commitments might keep people from attending a traditional two-day estate sale.

Online estate auctions work best if you have 250 or more lots to sell. A “lot” is one item or group of items put together for a bid. Similar to a live auction the cost of an online auction depends on the amount of work required and the anticipated gross of the auction. Consequently we tell folks that a gross auction total of $8,000 is a good gauge of when an online auction will be successful. There are always exceptions though such as when there are not many items but their value is high.

How an online auction works

If you decide to go with an online auction you have only one job and that is determine what you want to sell and what you want to keep. After you have done that is very helpful (but not required) that the items not to be included in the sale are removed from the home. If the items not to be sold cannot be removed from the home before the auction, then our clients will often move, or have us move, all of the items they are going to keep into one bedroom so we don’t accidentally sell something we shouldn’t. Finally, if the items to be kept cannot be easily moved, then we ask our clients to mark them with long strips of painters’ tape. We’ll do all the rest.

When that is done, we will come to your home for 2 or 3 days to photograph all of the items to be sold. We will also type descriptions of those items into our software program and if possible we will begin staging the items in your home to get them ready for the day the bidders will be invited to come to your home to inspect the items. This will be scheduled for a 3-hour period sometime during the two-week run of the auction. We will be present for that. This often involves moving the smaller items into one area such as a garage or large room. The larger items such as large pieces of furniture are usually left where they are located in your home. It is then up to the winning bidder to remove those pieces on the pick-up day. We will also be present on the scheduled pick-up day to collect the money and to assist the successful bidders with their purchases.

After the auction is over, we will provide you with a detailed list of each lot and its selling price. We will also provide you with a detailed report of the pre-agreed expenses we incurred on your behalf. Finally, if you have asked us to clean up any unsold items after the auction, we will promptly do that as well.


So what do you do if you don’t have 250 or more items or your anticipated gross is way less than $8,000? That’s when you should consider consigning your items to AAA Auction for one of our regular online consignment auctions in our Auction Barn at 7140 Old Viking Blvd. in Nowthen. These auctions are held about every two weeks from April through October and somewhat less frequently during the colder months. To do this you bring us a single item or a whole trailer full of items or you have us come to your home and pick them up and bring them to our Auction Barn in Nowthen ourselves.

Our 2020 per lot rates for items brought to us are 30% for items selling for $30 or more or $10 flat for items selling for less than $30. Also, for items selling for $100 or more the rates go down on a sliding scale all the way down to zero for items selling for $1,000 or more. AAA Auction is also a licensed federal firearms dealer and our rate for selling firearms is 3%. On the other hand, if we come to your home and pick up the items to be sold on consignment, the fee is higher to take into consideration the cost of picking up your items. Again those rates depend upon the amount of work involved.

A Pick

A “pick” is when our clients ask us to go through their items and decide what has auction value and what does not. This sometimes includes barns and outbuildings as well as homes with attics and basements. (We don’t mind getting dirty.) We then pack up the saleable items and bring them to the Auction Barn where they will be sold for you on a commission that is determined on a case-by-case basis.

A Buy

Sometimes our clients don’t want to wait for an online auction. In those cases we are sometimes asked to simply buy the saleable items outright. We may be asked to purchase the entire household or just some things that have been gathered and set aside. In cases like this we will make our clients a fair offer to purchase the items outright.

In some cases the entire household may include many items that have no value. In those cases when we are asked to make an outright purchase, we will make a fair offer to do a pick. That means that for an agreed price we will go through everything and only take the items that have auction value. This method usually results in our clients receiving somewhat less money for the items than a consignment would produce, but on the other hand, it does provide the clients with an agreed amount of money right on the spot.


It is not uncommon that AAA Auction assists sellers of homes by completely removing all items of personal property, both good and bad, from the home. In cases like this, there are usually at least some items that are saleable which AAA Auction keeps. Those items are taken into consideration by us when we determine the fee for the clean-out service. In some cases AAA Auction may even provide the clean-out service for free or even pay the seller for the opportunity to do the clean-out. As always, these fees are determined on a case-by-case basis. In addition, as much as is reasonable, AAA Auction often donates or recycles items that have no auction value, but have some remaining useful life.

Traditional Estate Sale

For the reasons stated above, online auctions are usually better than traditional estate sales. That being said, there are some cases where we recommend a traditional estate sale. Those include very high-end estates where many items have a minimum price or they will not be sold. There are also some clients who just prefer a traditional estate sale. In those cases we are happy to refer the prospective client to a reputable estate sale company.


If you have ever had to sell an estate that belonged to someone else you know it can be overwhelming. It doesn’t get any easier when you are down-sizing your own personal property. We understand that and would enjoy taking that burden on for you. So in conclusion, your first step should be to review the helpful information on at The next step is to contact us for a home visit. When you do, we may ask that you text or email us some photos of your estate to give us an idea of the type of project before our visit with you. We will then visit you at your home and recommend a plan that will best meet your needs.

Tony Elfelt

AAA Auction and Realty, LLC

(763) 421-3044

7140 Old Viking Blvd. NW

Nowthen, MN 55303