Liquidating the estate of a family member can be a stressful task. Often, a loved one has passed away and the estate needs to be settled in a timely fashion, or perhaps an aging parent is downsizing into an assisted living facility.
No matter the reason, estate liquidation services are available to help clients with these transitions. But as with any difficult task, there are many aspects to consider. Choosing an estate sale company is an important decision and should be considered carefully.
Contact Several Estate Sale Companies
A quick internet search will probably lead to many estate liquidation companies in your area. You should contact several and try to compare their services. If possible, try to ask the companies the same questions, so you can easily compare them.
Your first question will probably be about commissions. Estate liquidators generally charge a commission based on total sales, and the commissions can vary widely. Often the commission will vary based on the estate, so you may not get a definite answer. Be a bit wary of ‘bargain basement’ pricing. Just because one company is the least expensive doesn’t mean they are the right one for you. Often a company with more experience may charge a higher fee, but they may be more likely to know how to value an estate with particularly expensive items, like artwork or antique furniture.
You should also ask about insurance. An estate liquidation team should carry insurance like anyone who works in your home, like plumbers and electricians. If not, if someone falls, you could be liable. Also, you should ask about the company’s particular field of expertise. If your estate includes a lot of valuable collectables, you should choose an estate sale company that knows how to appraise it properly, or at least one that will use a qualified appraiser.
And what about taxes? Different states have different requirements, so make sure the estate liquidator that you choose knows the law and follows it by collecting taxes when needed. If not, you could face unseen fees after the sale.
Ask the estate sale company if they or any of their staff are allowed to purchase items from your sale. Any time the people setting the prices on items become the buyers, there is a potential conflict of interest. If they do allow this, ask about how they avoid any ethical dilemma. Be aware of their policy ahead of time so you are not surprised later.
Make sure you understand exactly what services each company provides. Some include ‘clean out’ services after the sale, disposing of items left over after the sale and leaving the house “broom clean,” and ready for a real estate agent to show. Others may charge a premium for these services, sometimes up to $1000 per day.
And finally, do a little digging and check into the estate sale company’s background before you schedule an interview, and certainly before you sign a contract. Check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if there have been complaints, and if there have been, ask the company about them.
Visit an Estate Sale
A great way to evaluate an estate liquidator is to visit one of their estate sales. Without revealing that you are a potential client, go to a sale see how it is run. Before the sale, check to see how the event was advertised. Was the inventory adequately represented? Were there easy to read signs indicating location and hours? What about parking?
Try to go early on the first day to evaluate the crowd. A well attended sale is a good indication that the company has a regular following. How are the customers treated? The sale should be run in a professional manner, with plentiful, friendly, and helpful staff. And what about organization? Merchandise should be clean and well organized, with small, valuable items like jewelry and watches securely protected.
Foot traffic should flow easily through the house, and the pay-out area should be convenient and secure. All items should be clearly marked, and payment options should include credit and debit cards. Any estate sale company that accepts only cash will unnecessarily limit sales. What is the overall feel at the sale? Think about what is important to you and evaluate the estate sales team in action.
Get an Estate Sale Contract
Perhaps the most important aspect of choosing an estate sale company is the contract. Any contract should detail exactly what the company is charging and what services are provided. The contract should spell out when you will get paid, how the sale will be advertised, and when the sale will be held. Both you and the company should have copies of the contract after signing.
Any estate sale company that wants to operate on a handshake should be immediately suspect. The potential for conflict of interest is high with estate liquidators. Some unscrupulous businesses will intentionally over-price items only to buy them at a greatly reduced price at the end of the sale. There is no national standard for certification or licensure for estate sale providers, so you’ll need to be careful. Get a contract, read the fine print, and make sure you understand it completely.
Lastly, if you have any valuable diamond jewelry, antique jewelry, or collectable timepieces it is best to contact a luxury estate buyer like Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers, who deals exclusively in fine jewels and precious metal gift assets—as you will get a higher cash return for these items than you would when trying to sell them via an estate sale.
To receive a free appraisal of your fine jewelry & watches, and an immediate cash offer, please contact Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers today.
Call Us Toll Free: (800) 956-8505
For more detailed information about estate sales, please see our article: How Does an Estate Sale Work?