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Questions to ask estate sale companies and red flags to avoid

Finding the right estate sale company is how you pass your loved one’s treasures along to new owners in a respectful and well-organized way. Although this can be a daunting task for you, it is a necessary step to sell the estate home. By hiring a reputable estate sale company, the process can be handled with minimal stress to the family. It can be completed in a reasonable amount of time, save you, the trustee, executor or administrator time and emotional energy, all while making a profit for the estate.

How to prepare for a meeting

Prior to meeting with an estate sale company, don’t throw anything away. Many trustees, executors and administrators feel they need to clean up before they interview an estate sale company. The reality is cleaning is the responsibility of the company, and a good estate sale company will manage all the decedent’s personal property. Items that the trustee, executor or administrator and the family members may value like crystal, china, and furniture tend to not bring in the dollars, it is the small collectibles and vintage items that an estate sale specialist have shared really adds up.

Where to start?

It’s best to spend your energy determining which items you would keep and leave the rest to the estate sale company that you hire. After you and the family members remove your chosen items, begin the task of researching estate sale companies. You can ask your real estate agent or attorney for a referral. Then do a quick Google search and create your list. Focus on estate sale companies that have Internet exposure through their website. That way your sale will have exposure with photos of items for sale. You’ll want to choose a company that has great marketing and a list of people that visit their sales.

The interview process  

Interview estate sale companies over the phone before narrowing down your list to two or three for an on-site consultation. It is best to have the consultation take place at the estate property so that the estate sale company can assess various aspects of the property. A few potential factors that will affect the estate sale beyond the property available are parking, and potential liabilities of the property.

Don’t be afraid to ask many questions during the consultation with the estate sale company. Find out about their insurance coverage, how many staff members they have and if they contract out any of their services. Be sure to request a copy of their contract to review. Note that if anything in the signed contract changes you have the right to a new contract or to walk away.

What else to consider?

Though it isn’t always available, it is a good idea to hire an estate sale company that accepts credit cards. Accepting credit cards is an indicator that the company will conduct themselves professionally and decreases the chance of errors throughout the process.

And, red flags?

Be sure that the estate sale company is not bringing in outside items to sell. This is a huge red flag that you’re dealing with an unprofessional estate sale company for many reasons including:

  • Decreasing the total number of actual estate items sold because buyers may choose items brought in instead.
  • It may decrease the chances of emptying the property, which is the goal of an estate sale,
  • And, the possibility that injury (someone trips on the power cord of a vintage lamp that was brought in) or property damage (scrape marks to flooring from furniture which was moved in) occur from items that didn’t belong to the estate in the first place!

Don’t hire an estate sale company that offers you “free cleanup” with no strings attached. This is often where the estate sale companies mentioned earlier gather their outside items to sell. This can mean that they are simply moving unsold items from one estate sale to another and making a significantly higher profit by cutting out the middleman… the original owners of the items. Instead, be sure that a buyout company or a charitable donation is listed in the contract as the final step for unsold items.