What’s the Difference Between an Auction and an Estate Sale?

Judge Holding Gavel With House Model At Desk

An estate sale and an auction are two different ways to sell the contents of your space when you’re planning a move or selling a home. Sometimes these circumstances arise when the death of a loved one occurs. Typically, the easiest way to take care of the family members’ items is to hire a team to manage an estate sale or auction for the home.

While the general purpose of estate sales and auctions is the same—to sell all of someone’s belongings—the method of sale is different!

Estate Sales

 If you decide to have an estate sale, you rely on the company and its employees to determine the value of every item you own. The estate sale company will charge you a commission. They want the most accurate estimate possible to get the most return for their work, but there is always the risk that the company prices items too high and no one buys anything, or too low, and you don’t get the full value for your estate. You also have to trust that your estate sale company can accurately value everything from common household items to antique artwork.

Estate sales typically work on a model that reduces prices as the sale goes on, and even if you’re the first one in the door, you don’t always have time to fully evaluate the worth of an item before you purchase it for fear of losing it.


Unlike estate sales, auctions allow you to find the true market value of any item you own because the bidder’s set prices. True market value is what someone is willing to pay at any time for any object. This is largely contingent on the crowd, so auctioneers are very good marketers who draw the right buyers to the right sellers. On top of that, the pace, excitement, and competition aspects of an auction mean bidders are sometimes willing to pay more in the heat of the moment.

Auctions give bidders time to assess the value, condition, and authenticity of any item up for auction before raising their hand or paddle. This allows buyers to bid confidently, and everyone has the same chance to bid on any item.

If you’re looking to find the largest, most qualified buyer pool, auctions will find you those buyers. Many auctioneers are required to be licensed in their state, requiring continuing education. Many others are members of their state association or the National Auctioneers Association, which holds members to a high standard and educates them on best practices. There are no such requirements for estate sales.

At Smith & Co Auction & Realty, we pride ourselves on being a full-service auction and realty company with a niche for marketing. We are Northwest Oklahoma and Kansas’s choice for all your land auctions and real estate needs!

Contact us today at (580)254-3975 to learn about our services and view our current auctions online.