There are many reasons that you would hire an Estate Sale company. Downsizing, a divorce or death or that it is just the easiest route to take. It is a very efficient way to handle the discarding of a whole house worth of goods. An estate sale is far bigger than a regular garage sale so you are selling furniture, clothing, knick knacks, paintings and kitchenware. Hiring a professional can ease the pain of going through every single thing, pricing it and arranging items for a sale. An Estate Sale can come in and organize, categorize and sell everything in a short period of time and give you the profit. But, before you hire just any professional in the Estate Sale business, you will need to know and understand how things work and what to look for.
First, you will need to know exactly what the company will do for you before the sale even begins. What services do they provide according to their contract. Do you just point them in the direction of all of the things to get rid of and let them deal with it all? Ask if they sort the items; clean and wash clothing; price everything and then set it all up. Do they bring in their own tables for display or do you have to provide those? Do they design ads and then place them in papers and other types of media? Are these paid for up front by you or is this a part of their contractual services? Who gets and then pays for any permits that may be needed? How many people will they have on location on the day of the sale and who pays for them or again, is this a part of the contract? When it is all over, do they clean up the property and remove all unsold items and what happens to those unsold things?
Once you get some of those basic questions answered, then you can get to the big question. How much do you charge? You will need to find out if the price is based upon the percentage of sales or if it is a flat rate. Then again, it could be a flat rate plus a percentage of the sales. Sometimes, Estate Sale companies will have a minimum base charge and then a percentage of sales. You may have to take a minute to figure which of these will work best for you. Once you know the price or fees, then you need to get into the nitty gritty of the prices for setup and breakdown and the advertising and permits, extra charges for cleaning and getting rid of the unsold items and all other details that you may be concerned about. Then ask what is the deposit.
You will probably need to ask about how they price the merchandise. It is a very important part of their service and Estate Sale companies know the going prices on items. Whatever price they set will also include the percentage that they will receive as a commission. Also ask if anyone at the company is a professional appraiser. Ask about their expertise in antiques or furniture or books and other items you consider having a high value in your merchandise. How do they research and do they sell on ebay or other online sites?
The next set of questions need to be about their insurance coverage. It is essential that they have coverage because you want to be assured that you and your belongings are safe. Ask if they are covered if the house is robbed while they have possession during the setup, sale and breakdown. You want to know if they are covered if someone walks off with a piece of merchandise or if someone slips and falls during the sale. You want to make sure that if someone breaks a glass and cuts themselves or if someone working the sale gets hurt that everyone will be taken care of by the companies insurance. You should also ask about any damages done to the house or cars while the shoppers are loading their purchases. You want to be covered if a hutch falls off the back of a truck and breaks someone’s foot. Think of every disaster that could possibly happen and ask if the Estate company is covered.
You want to insist that the company is bonded with a surety bond to protect you from losses if the company doesn’t hold to their contract and performs badly. Ask for references right from the start and look up the company name online. You can find reviews from previous clients that can help you decide if this is the right company to use. If they are reputable, they usually have a package with reference letters inside along with contact numbers. Make sure to make the reference call!
Remember that you are essentially letting this company to come in and take over the premises so you need to be fully aware of what they are going to do for security. What precautions do they have in place for the merchandise. Do they use a special security staff during the sale to make sure that no one is shoplifting. Do they have someone in place to take care of the parking problems? If the sale is happening inside a home, is there someone who is going to handle the front door so that only so many people can come in at a time?
While you are in the interview process, ask for a list of the companies upcoming sales and then attend them. Go as soon as they open the sale so that you see what kind of crowds they have attracted with the advertising. Take note of the security and the flow of shoppers. See if people are buying which means that prices are set just right. Do they have items displayed well and does the set up make sense? Are the items cleaned and organized?
You will need to know at what point in the Estate Sale that the company starts discounting. Many companies will only discount on the final day. It is at that point that people can then make an offer on a piece that hasn’t sold or haggle over the price. Ask the company if they will call you when someone wants a lower price on an item before the last day. Sometimes companies schedule percentages off at intervals on the last day of the sale. This will cut out the negotiating earlier in the sale and gets a customer to come back to buy the item on the last day.
Another question that should come up is if the company allows any early sales to your special invited guests and family and perhaps even those staffing the sale. Many companies will only allow their staff to buy on the very last day after all is said and done and many times they have to buy only at the original price. The company does not want you to get the idea that they are setting the price for their benefit. Make it very clear that you do not want merchandise hidden away or special prices to be made for those associated with the company. Do they allow dealers to come in and buy the whole lot? Do dealers get an early peek? Are they associated with a dealer and are they pricing things at dealer prices. Even though you are trying to get rid of everything, you still want to make the best money you can so you need to be very aware of the many ways there are for you to not get top dollar!
Now you can get into the actual Estate Sale taking place. Formalize the date of the event. The Estate Sale company is going to have to make sure that they have the staff scheduled for both the setup and the sale and the breakdown before they can confirm a date. It is best to talk about a sale happening with a month to three month lead time. If a company can not fit you in within 90 days, you may have to book someone else. You have to know all of the details about what happens before a sale and how long it will take to set one up. Preparation time will depend on how much there is to go through and sort. And then there is the pricing process and the staging. If they are doing a sale in a house that you are living in, this schedule is going to need to fit around your life. If the sale is taking place at an unoccupied home, then you will need to know exactly what kind of access to you and the company have during this process.
You will want to have it made clear to all parties what is expected of each. What is required by you in order to get things rolling? What happens to you during the sale? And what is your responsibility after the sale is over. Is it up to you to move the merchandise that is not for sale out of the sale area or will the company take care of it? Are you responsible for moving merchandise from attics, basements, and outbuildings into the main part of the house before set up happens? Who cleans the merchandise before the sale? Do they need you available during the whole process so that they can ask you questions or can you just leave everything up to the company?
Advertising is very important, you have to know the who what when where and why of the advertising plan. How is the company going to advertise if that is one of the services they offer? Will it be announced in the newspaper, shopper, online, on swip swap sites or on their own website? Do they have an email list and do they put it on their social media sites?How Will You Advertise My Estate Sale? Will the ads have pictures attached?
What happens if you suddenly decide that you don’t want to sell a particular item and remove it from the sale? Some companies will attach a penalty if you pull an item for the merchandise. Before you sign a contract, go through everything that you have for sale and make triple sure that you don’t really want to keep it. Estate Sale companies are in business to make a profit and anything that you remove from the sale, lessens that margin.
Ask if there is an inventory sheet that every item will be listed on and if so, who does the final check at the end of the sale? Because this is an additional process at the checkout counter, the company may not have an active during sale inventory sheet and it will have to be done when inventory is take with whatever is left at the end. Do you want this done? If so, it may cost you one more persons hourly wage. Or you can offer to do it yourself before the packing up begins.
Besides getting rid of a whole lot of stuff, an Estate Sale is so that you can make some money. You will need to ask when and how you get paid. Some companies pay at the end of each day, others will pay after everything is done and over and the employees and staff have been paid. And, you need to know what form the payment is going to come in.
Sometimes, it is not a good thing to hang around when someone else is selling your stuff or the stuff of someone you are close to. It can get rather emotional. Ask the Estate Sale company if you can hang around or would they rather you leave. That will settle any decisions.
When the sale day draws to a close, then what happens? Have it very firmly written into the contract what the closing duties are. Who packs everything up and where does it all go? What condition should everything be when the company hands over the keys. And, how should things be packed up if the company is going to do it? If the remains are not going with the company, do you want things packed in garbage bags, boxes, set out on the street for garbage pick up or neatly stacked for you to put back up in the attic. This should all be very clearly understood.
When you have found an Estate Sale company that will work with you and you are satisfied with, make sure that all the details are in writing and clearly understood. You will definitely want that contract to cover both you and them in case something goes wrong. If there is no contract offered, it is best to move on to the next company.
Estate Sale companies can be a saving grace when you are trying to liquidate a lot of stuff. The can organize, sell and cleanup in such a way that it makes your life very simple and easy.