Tips & FAQs for Sellers

Hiring an Estate Sale Company Tips

Shop Around

Interview more than one, and preferably several companies.  Do not fall in love with the first individual who comes to your home for a consultation and wants you to sign a contract.  A good estate sale representative should encourage you to speak with other companies and choose the one that best fits your needs.

Secret Shop Estate Sales

If you have time and are able, attend sales events of potential estate sale service providers.  Do not make the company aware you are researching potential estate sale service providers and walk around as if you were a customer. Make note of how the staff interacts with customers. Look at the prices they are asking for items, ask them what they do with items that do not sell? Ask them what types of discounts are being offered today and subsequent days? Ask them if there is a discount if you pay cash? 

Get a Contract to Review Before They Arrive

Ask the estate sale company representative to send you a copy of their contract (email) BEFORE the consultation. If that is against their policy – find a different company.  Review the contract and have other ‘stake-holders’ review the contract so you can prepare questions related to the contract during the consultation.

Unsold Items

There are always items remaining after the last day of an estate sale.  The reason for unsold items vary from the items simply being undesirable, they are difficult to remove/relocate (such as a piano), or because they were not priced correctly, or they were not appropriately reduced during the course of the sale.  If items of significant value remain at the conclusion of the sale what becomes of them?  Be sure to ask the estate sale company up front about what happens to the valuable items that do not sell? Do not permit an estate sale company to remove items of value without compensating you or ensuring the items will be taken to auction and consigned on your behalf. 

Clean-out Services

Many estate sale companies offer a clean-out service for an added fee of anywhere from $1000.00 to several thousand depending on the quantity of items to be removed. Clean-outs include the removal of everything remaining, usually leaving the residence broom clean. Items that are useful should be donated, and the owner provided with a donation receipt.  Items that have value should be taken to auction and you should receive the lion’s share of the revenue generated by them.  Items of no value should be recycled or discarded as appropriate.  Be wary of estate sale companies offering clean-out services and ‘donating’ or disposing of everything that is unsold at the conclusion of an estate sale. Not selling items of value is a direct conflict of interest for estate sale companies. 

Contact ezDownsizing.com today for a free consultation on how we can assist you with your estate sale services needs.

Start with These Questions

What is your commission? Are there additional fees included? Do you have a minimum fee? (Keep in mind that just because an estate sale company charges a higher commission, does not mean you will receive less money. Ask the estate sale company for an estimate of the total value of the estate? If they are experienced, they should be able to tell you within a few thousand dollars how much you should expect to receive at the conclusion of the sale – clean-outs included!)

May I have list of your RECENT referrals? (If a company is touting they conduct several estate sales each month, ask for several referrals within the past few months. Do not settle for referrals that are year’s old. Call and speak to referrals and get a sense of their expectation and their satisfaction of the services performed.)

Are you licensed, bonded & insured?

May I put reserve prices on certain items? (If you have items of significant value you’d like a specific amount for – let the estate sale company know. Additionally, do not be apprehensive about asking for reduced commissions on high-dollar items. Estate sale companies would prefer to have the car or motorcycle or Aunt Katherine’s diamond ring in the sale and sell it at a reduced commission rather than not have it in the sale at all.)

Do you sell items early, prior to the posted sale date?

How many days will the sale run?

Do you have a shop or store location? What is the address at which you can be reached? (Ensure the company provides an address, and not just a P.O. Box. If they are licensed – they have a physical address).

May I stop by during the sale? (Many estate sale companies prefer owners not be present during the sale, which is common. NO estate sale company should prohibit owners from stopping by briefly to witness how the sale is being conducted. In fact, they should encourage it so you can have peace of mind your sale is being run professionally, and in turn be able to comfortably leave them a good referral based on the conduct of the sale.)

Do you allow employees to purchase items from the sale?

Do you have certified appraisers on staff? What is their experience and with whom are they certified?

Do you charge sales tax? (Licensed businesses are required to charge sales tax).

Do you accept payments by credit cards or checks? (If a company is reluctant to incur any type of electronic funds tracking, it may be a red flag.)

What type of sales details are provided upon completion of the sale? Do I get an itemized list of what sold and for how much, or just a check of the total sale, less commissions and fees?

What happens to the items that do not sell?

Do you offer a clean-out service?

How long after the sale until I receive payment?

Don’t throw it away, give it away, or donate it – yet!

When confronted with the need or desire to liquidate items, many individuals believe the first step is to donate, give away, and/or throw away the items that don’t have value. STOP! Big mistake. We strongly urge you to please not dispose of anything until you consult with us about the items you’re considering clearing. Don’t throw those dollars away. You’d be surprised at what sells!

Hand throwing money away

Don'ts For Your Estate Sale

Thinking of hiring an estate sale company to liquidate your parent’s life-long accumulation of stuff? Founder and owner of ezDownsizing.com, Bryan McDaniel, says there are 10 things you want to be sure not to do.

Don't Throw Anything Away and Don't Donate Anything - Yet!

Too many times estate sale consultants will show up to find the closets and dressers empty. For whatever reason, the family feels compelled to quickly donate the clothes, shoes, linens, coats, jackets, etc., in an attempt to declutter. Roll-away dumpsters sit in front of homes full of salable items the family considered trash. Give the experts an opportunity to sort through and attempt to sell the items first. After the sale over is the perfect time to donate/dispose of what remains.

Don't Have a Yard Sale Before You Contact an Estate Sale Company

Estate sale consultants cringe when they get a call to sell the ‘big stuff’ because the smaller items were sold by the family at a yard sale. A successful estate sale is dependent upon a wide variety of items available for sale. The furniture is not the big seller at an estate sale, it is all the smaller items that add up and will typically account for 75% to 90% of the value of the sale. Also, if buyers are aware a sale had already been conducted at the residence, they will look for another place to shop that hasn’t already been ‘picked’. Leave the contents intact for a successful estate sale.

Don't Strip the Sale of the Valuable and Interesting Items

Heirlooms and sentimental items should remain with the family and close personal friends. Do not remove all the tools, jewelry, antiques, collectibles and designer purses. Savvy estate sale shoppers look at photos and descriptions of items being offered and decide to shop those sales based on the quality of items available. Most estate sale companies charge a percentage of the sale proceeds or a minimum (typically from $3000.00 to $5000.00), whichever is greater. You don’t want a company to sell only the ‘less than valuable items’ and at the conclusion of the sale end up owing them $2000.00 because the minimum was not met. A reputable company would not accept the sale if they did not believe they’d make their minimum and leave something in it for the seller. There are inexperienced companies who may believe based on the quantity of items remaining, they will do justice by the client and themselves. Without having quality items to draw buyers, regardless of the volume of lower dollar items, the potential for a successful sale is limited.

Don't Interview Only One Estate Sale Company

There is an endless list of estate sale companies who would like to conduct your sale. If you’re able, attend estate sales being conducted by prospective agencies and observe how they conduct business. Interact with them as a shopper and get a feel for their professionalism in representing the seller without alienating buyers. They don’t need to know you’re shopping for a company initially. If you like what you see, ask for a card or to speak with an onsite manager about a potential sale. Plan on meeting with and interviewing at least three companies, who should all offer a free in-home consultation. Have a list of the same questions prepared for each company and take notes. Despite your satisfaction with the first one you speak with, be sure to meet with the other two. You may end up going with number one in the end, but you’re in a better position to justify the reasoning to not only yourself, but perhaps those who may have a stake in the estate.

Don't Select the Estate Sale Company Based Solely on Their Price

Estate sale company commission rates typically range from 25% up to 40% and can go as high as 50% in unusual circumstances. Rather than the seller being concerned with the commission rate, the primary factor should be the return rate, or what they will they realize at the conclusion of the sale. If every company was capable of generating exactly $30,000.00 for the same items, then the 25% rate would be the most advantageous to the seller. If, however, the amount realized varied between $20,000.00 for the 25% rate and $35,000.00 for the 40% rate, the return to the seller would be $15,000.00 and $21,000.00, respectively. Choose your estate sale company based on what they can return to you, rather than what type of discount they are willing to provide to secure the sale.

Don't Neglect to Ask for and Follow-up on References

Call and speak to individuals who have dealt with the company in recent months. If a company boasts of doing 100 sales a year and provides references from 18 months ago, there are 150 sales they’ve conducted since then and there should be at least a few who have had a favorable experience they’d be willing to share. Don’t settle for ‘stale’ references. Previous employees may have left, and new employees may be working the current sales. Even if you’re very comfortable with the company, you owe it to yourself and potential stake holders, to follow-up on the references. ‘Trust but verify,’ is a great policy.

Don't Fail to Carefully Review the Contract

It’s not a terrible idea ask companies to email you a copy of their contract in advance of meeting with them for a consultation. Reviewing the contract provides you an opportunity carefully look it over and share it amongst attorney’s or stake holders. Gather questions from those reviewing it and be prepared to address them with the consultant when they arrive. If a company claims to be licensed, bonded and insured, ensure the relative information is included on the contract should you need to draw from it.

Don't Remove Items From the Sale You Had Previously Agreed Would Be Available

Estate sale companies accept sales based on the quality and quantity of items being offered. Many estate sale company contracts will have a clause that if items are removed, the company may charge the seller a commission based on the appraised value. Because the estate sale company is typically the one doing the appraising, it rarely works out to the seller’s advantage. Also, if the company advertised the item for sale and it is not available to the individual who may have waited since midnight the day prior to be first in line, it not only upsets the would-be buyer, but impacts the company’s reputation. If there is any doubt the item may not be available for sale (perhaps Aunt Jenny may or may not want the set of four vintage Pyrex mixing bowls), be sure to let the company know up front so they can avoid advertising them.

Don't Assist the Company With Your Pricing Recommendations

Unless you have a great deal of experience with selling used household items, do not suggest to the company what you believe the 1980’s plaid upholstered sofa is worth. In addition to having professional appraisers on staff, estate sale companies rely on trends, online resources and references, and previous sales’ results when pricing items. Shoppers show up with cell phones in hand to ‘price check’ everything from the lawn mower to the unopened bottle of window cleaner. If you’re aware of a piece of inconspicuous Baccarat crystal or a unique or unusual item, please point it out to the estate sale company so they can research it and assign it a value. If you absolutely require a minimum on an item, let the estate sale company know during the consultation so they can determine if it’s achievable and whether or not to include the item in the sale.

Do Not Plan to Assist With nor Be Present During the Sale

Companies do not want the clients at the sale for the sake of the client. There is an emotional toll seeing memories bartered and carried off. Shoppers are insensitive about ‘used stuff’ and seek to get better deals by typically pointing out perceived flaws – in everything. Companies also sense a lack of trust if owners feel the need to ‘supervise’ the sale. If you don’t trust the individuals conducting the sale, you’ve chosen the wrong company. Most estate sale companies welcome you to briefly stop by during the sale and observe how they operate. They are anxious to demonstrate to you their professionalism and provide you with a level of comfort that you picked the correct estate sale company. They also would like a positive referral from you and without you witnessing them in action, you’re limited in the scope of feedback you’re able to provide.

The necessity to conduct an estate sale rarely results from unfortunate circumstances. It is also a thankless job for the individual responsible for ensuring the property is liquidated both cost-effectively and efficiently. Remove your burden by involving as many stake-holders as practical in selecting what appears to be the most qualified company, and stand back and let them do what you’re paying them to do.

Still Have Questions?