January 16, 2023

What Is a Downsizing Sale?

Downsizing sale deal with a small wood house on the table

People often think of an estate sale as something that happens after the death of a parent or loved one close to them. In the industry, we consider this type of sale a full estate sale.

A full estate sale is a necessary step when you have an entire household that needs to be sold due to the passing of a parent or loved one. A “full estate sale” accounts for only about 40% of all estate sales. The other 60% of estate sales are people that downsizing.

When someone needs a downsizing sale, it’s called a “living estate sale”. That means the estate owner, usually a senior citizen, is still living and needs to sell only some of what they own. Seniors have a downsizing sale for a variety of reasons.

  • Lower cost of upkeep, mortgage cost, utility bills, and insurance. Having a smaller home or even a home in a maintenance-free community means less to manage and more time to enjoy life. 
  • A smaller home can reduce property taxes and rent in a maintenance-free place can eliminate property taxes altogether. 
  • Your home or living space becomes easier to manage and maintain. Instead of managing a 4-bedroom home with a large yard you now manage a 2-bedroom home and the yard is maintained for you.
  • The sale of a larger home and proceeds from an estate sale can help boost your retirement
  • account.
  • Moving to an assisted living facility. Sometimes seniors need to relocate somewhere that can provide them with the attention and the extra care they need to continue to live a full and healthy life. With the advances in medicine and medical care, people are living longer and more seniors are choosing to downsize.
  • Downsizing when it’s your choice gives you more freedom to choose where you are moving to. The next step may include moving closer to family or moving to that warm beachfront property you’ve always dreamed of.


People may also downsize or have a living estate sale because they are relocating across the country or even moving out of the country.

Sometimes it’s just easier to sell what isn’t sentimental and necessary and re-buy when you get settled in your new place. If you are moving out of the country the cost of shipping your entire household may be more than its worth and having a living estate sale is an option that makes sense. There are also scenarios where a job relocation is happening and they are willing to pay for new furnishings and home goods instead of paying the moving costs.

Downsizing sales can be needed in case of a divorce, job loss, business closure, or another negative circumstance beyond our control.

The reality is life doesn’t always play out exactly as you planned and sometimes a downsizing estate sale is needed when it isn’t necessarily wanted.

These kinds of downsizing sales can be a little more challenging for the client but when handled by a professional company that is sensitive to the circumstances they can be a step in a positive direction.

Downsizing Estate Sale Tips

Downsizing sales are not very different from full estate sales. The owner needs to determine what is being kept vs. what’s being sold. You don’t need to separate everything into designated sell/keep piles.

  • It is important to have a plan for what items you are keeping. 
  • It’s best to have a general idea of what you are selling before you have an estate sale company do its assessment. Companies base their percentage of the based on the amount of merchandise and manpower needed to set up the sale.
  • Plan ahead as much as you can so you aren’t scrambling to make important decisions at the last minute. 
  • Most estate sale companies are booked at least a month or two in advance so don’t wait until the last minute to start interviewing companies. 
  • De-clutter but be careful what you throw away, remember one person’s trash can be another person’s treasure! 
  • Try to plan your move-out date before the estate sale. It’s easier on everyone involved if no one is living in the home during the setup and sale. Most companies won’t do a sale if someone is still living in the home. 
  • Make sure your real estate agent is aware of the estate sale and understands the process and timeframe after the sale. You don’t want your closing date to be the day after the sale is over!


A good estate sale company should be comfortable working alongside your real estate agent to help make sure your downsizing experience is a painless and seamless experience.