Finding The Right Estate Sale Company

By Mark Blondy CEO ESA. With excerpts from Martin and Valetta Codina's amazing web site.

Over the years I have been interviewed to conduct estate sales by over a thousand families. Each homeowner, trustee or executor has similar questions and concerns that they want to address. There is no such thing as a bad question. When you are about to put your faith into someone to sell a lifetime of family possessions, you want to get all the information up front so that you can be clear and confident on what to expect and that you are getting a fair deal.

Here I have listed some great questions to ask potential liquidation companies and I have posted the answers that our company has in place for all of our customers to see.

Before you interview an estate sale company there are a few things to sort out

If you have family you wish to involve in the process, let them know you are planning to have a sale. It is a good idea to set a deadline for the family member to pick out an heirloom. Your time is valuable and you have a job to do. Waiting for a relative to find a convenient time in their schedule should not hold you back. There are equitable ways to divide up belongings. Some family will not be available to assist you, and that's just how it is. They say, you cant pick your family!

Now is the time to sort and keep from the estate what is important to you, either emotionally or because it is stipulated in the will. Once an item is sold at the sale, it will be difficult or next to impossible to get it back!

Do not throw anything thing away. We sell half boxes of envelopes and partial Windex bottles. Let the estate sale company decide what will sell. It adds to the bottom line!

Estate Sale Company: The Phone Interview

On the phone you will get a flavor of whom you are dealing with. After which, you may choose to set up a meeting in person. The following are questions we typically receive - our answers are in blue

What are your fees? Remember experience speaks for itself. You get what you pay for!!!
Our fees are based on the amount of work that needs to be done to properly complete the job at hand, the layout of the home and the type of merchandise you have. Generally between 25-35%. We will also work for a flat fee on smaller households.
How long does it take to set up a sale?
We like to have 2 weeks for research and advertising however, in a pinch, we have managed to set up sooner.
How do you stage the contents of my home?
Our expert staging crew will come in and go room by room and displaying everything and work miracles!!
Do you belong to any associations?
We are the founding members of Estate Sale Association of America.
How long have you been in the Estate Sales business?
Since 1996.
What makes you stand out from other liquidation companies?
Impeccability. Our many years of experience, attention to detail and our listening of your goals, insures you will accomplish all of your transitional needs. Our email contacts have grown to over 10,000 people and we have amazing crews. Our marketing and advertising people make awareness top priority. Over 500 people attend our sales consistently. Security is a priority. We place hidden cameras and motion alarms throughout the home to deter theft.
How many Estate Sales a month does your company conduct?
1-3 families per month qualify for our services.
Tell me about your most successful sale.
We set up a 10,000 square foot home that had very limited parking. We managed a shuttle bus and brought the customers in to shop. We also cleared and cleaned the home within 24 hours of the sale ending so our client could close the next day! Mission Accomplished !!!
Are you bonded, insured?
Yes, we are bonded. Home owners insurance covers any loss or injury on the property. Do you remove any leftover items? Is there a charge for this? We will clear the home of leftovers upon request. Since we sell approximately 80-90% of the contents, not much is left however, any unsold items remain your property. There is an hourly charge for this service.
Do you remove any leftover items?
Is there a charge for this? We will clear the home of leftovers upon request. Since we sell approximately 80-90% of the contents, not much is left however, any unsold items remain your property. There is an hourly charge for this service.

You want to find an Estate Sale company that you like, and trust.
One that has a history of providing their clients with excellent service.

The Interview

How do they present themselves? Is care taken in grooming? Are they courteous and patient while answering your questions?
You will encounter a professionally dressed and groomed representative at all times who will listen to your goals and create a plan that will have your goals realized within the allotted time frame.
How long will the Estate Sale process take?
Approximately 2 weeks. Although we have the ability to conduct a sale in less time if needed.
Do they seem to know what they are talking about?
We wrote the book on the estate sale process and continue to educate estate sale companies and newcomers into the business!
What security do they provide?
What is your crowd control policy? We have roaming staff members throughout the home at all times. We control entry to a manageable group to prevent overcrowding and breakage. Security is a priority. We place hidden cameras and motion alarms throughout the home to deter theft.
Do you have furniture moving personnel?
Yes, We have a professional furniture moving service on call at all times. Your home will never incur any damage and the furniture will arrive at it's new destination safe and sound.
How big a crew do they need to staff your estate sale?
We will provide adequate staff for the size of the home. Whatever size home you have.
What do we do with the expensive possessions? Do they send them to an auction, or sell them through an estate sale?
We will inform you of items that we feel we should sell at another venue on your behalf. We have the ability to maximize the return on collectibles & items of significant value such as art and jewelry.

Do some preliminary research before the estate liquidator arrives. Locate several valuable items and remember to point them out during their visit. Notice how they are being. Are they enthusiastic, clear, and respectful?

The Interview continued...

How do you keep track of items that are sold?
At the end of the sale you will receive a list of items sold in a receipt book form or a cash register tape with your totals.
When and how will I be paid?
We pay out with 48 business hours from the end of your sale.
What forms of payment to you accept?
Cash, and ALL Major Credit Cards
Do you have references from past clients that I may call?
Yes, An educated client is our best client. Please call our past clients. Reference list is available via email or snail mail.
What happens to the leftovers?
Do you donate to charity, if so, do you provide a written valuation and a receipt? We will clear the home of leftovers as part of our service. There is a charge for this service. The items in the home remain your property if you want to keep what is leftover. We also assist with donation services with inventory and tax receipts. We always prefer to give useful items to those in need. For non donation items, we have relationships with several consignment partners in the area. We also may be able to place specific items in future estate sales.
What is the extent of your clean up after the sale?
Are there any fees for this service? We provide complete clean up or whatever is required. You wont even know we were there. Some services, such as janitorial cleaning are available on an hourly basis.

If they seem unclear in their answers or if they are impatient, this may be a red flag.

More Estate Sale company questions:

Do they or the staff buy items from the estate?
Yes, Our staff has needs too. And pay the same price as the shoppers after the sale has ended. No commissions are taken on staff purchased sales.
How will I know that you have purchased items from the estate?
All items purchased are written down in an itemized receipt book that is given to you at the end of the sale.
How do you determine what to price items?
All items are priced by the team leader before the sale begins. The team leader has all the tools necessary to properly evaluate and fairly price each item in your home.
What if you find cash, gold or other personal effects in the house?
Valuables like these are saved for the homeowner's approval to sell.
Do you conduct preview sales?
We offer preview sales for family only. Not dealers.
How do you advertise your Estate Sales?
We have an extensive advertising campaign utilizing over 10,000 contacts on our email list and social networking sites.
Do you bring in items from other sales?
If so, what is your system for accounting for those items? Yes, sometimes. Because we offer consignment to all clients after the sale, we may add items from previous sales to your sale as long as it doesn't compete with a similar item in your home. These items are clearly marked and written in a separate receipt book.
How long will the Estate Sale process take from start to finish?
Our process usually takes 2 weeks from start to finish. Depending on the size of the job.
How did you get in the estate liquidation business?
Back in the 1980's, I was a lunchbox and vintage toy collector. I used to go to estate sales looking for items to add to my collection. My collecting days are over. I now enjoy assisting others in accomplishing their down sizing goals.

Ask around, your friends, family and colleagues may shed some light on questions they would ask an Estate Sale company.

I hope you found this guide to be helpful. Please feel free to call me for further consultation or to add questions you found to be relevant.