BEFORE you make the call!
What to know before you start calling estate sale companies
I very often start a call with people saying... "I never did this before", "I'm overwhelmed" or "I don't know where to start". So here is a "first steps" article if you are considering an estate sale, auction or home liquidation. We have options for most every scenario. We offer off site warehouse sales, traditional in house or online estate sales and other options
We are unique in our alternatives that companies don't mention because they don't offer it. I have always made a pledge to tell people about every solution that is best for your needs even if it's not us. That is a promise.
An estate sale is not a glorified garage sale, nor should it be. It is often a very difficult, involved and professionally handled process. There are many potential concerns and pitfalls you could not even imagine of. Running it yourself or with an inexperienced person is never as easy as it looks. Your company of choice should be licensed, insured and charge sales tax. This is not only law but ensures you get a legitimate professional. Unfortunately, anyone can claim they will run your sale. What sets them apart is the adherence to these details.
GO! see a sale, especially for companies you are considering to hire. A little pre-detective work seeing sales and asking people you know can mean thousands of dollars difference. ALL COMPANIES ARE NOT EQUAL. They all have differences that can cost you money or disappointment with results.
After reading this blog go here if you want more information --> What You Should Know BEFORE You Hire an Estate Liquidator or Auction Company.
Before you call -
1. Know your objective. Do you simply need everything out? Are you in a rush? Do you need to make as much money as possible or just need an empty house? Sometimes, it is all of the above. Your company of choice needs to have options to fit YOUR needs not theirs. Often it's not money that drives people but you just need to get things out fast.
It is important to know what you want out of a sale. Share that with companies you speak to. Make sure you have realistic expectations and be prepared that you don't always get full value on things if you need everything out in a quick manor. Selling one item on Ebay and waiting for the right buyer has far different results than selling off an entire house full in a weekend. The estate sale liquidator can not always ask top dollar if they need it out quick. A professional not only understands values but the current market in your area. It is important to know what will sell at a price you can expect realistically. Anyone selling off entire households week after week knows a bit about how to get things out the door. Don't forget that an estate liquidator has many many contacts to get buyers for just about everything.
Often people call to have a sale but because of limitation are not a candidate. That doesn't mean you can not get help. If you just need everything out quick that can be handled even when a traditional sale is not an option. We can clean out properties in a day or two if needed when a sale is not an option.
2. This is probably my most important piece of advice for many. If you are selling the property it is important to speak to a realtor (or ask us for a referral if you need one) Make sure they know you are considering a sale. Estate sale companies and realtors need to work together well. This can be an important relationship. There should never be a "bonus" to either party for helping you out or referring. I have personally been offered "help" in exchange for referrals to a realtor and this to me is a big red flag!. There should not be incentives for either party helping you with these big decisions. Your agent and liquidation company need to have your best interest in mind. Both the estate sale and the real estate sale are very important and one can adversely effect the other. Selling the house is often the most important thing you need to do. A realtor will tell you to leave items on premises ("staged" which we can help with) or to empty to the walls. Another interesting surprise to many sellers is just how hot the local market is. Here in Buffalo, NY many people sell houses and don't need to remodel, or clean out anything. The need to "fix up" to put on the market is typically a thing of the past. Many sales happen quick, with a cash deal and as an added advantage most sales happening lately are "as is". This often surprises people that you will never need to clean out the property or do all that work you were planning. It can be a "take what you want" scenario offered to you and we see this A LOT! This is your best case scenario but you really need a realtor to help with this. We can do a sale and just leave everything else behind avoiding any clean up cost. The "as is" is an edge buyers use to be your best offer. (just like a cash offer always outweighs a mortgage contingent offer) Use it to your advantage and don't pay for the clean out and don't pay the buyer to do it. Sometimes a realtor can get a quick offer and then we can do the sale after so as not to interfere with the real estate end. Also, a big "mess" is not always a deal-breaker for a realtor to sell your house. I see people with a whole big plan to remodel, paint, have an estate sale, clean out trash and repair things without even getting a realtor. Just like an estate sale professional a realtor is an important asset. Selling it yourself? Just like an estate sale, selling your house without a professional can be a "you get what you pay for" scenario. It's not a bad thing but GET THAT SIGN UP! I have seen MANY scenarios where you will get offers before the house ever officially hits the market or before we run a sale or clean it out.
3. Select all the items that you or your family intends to keep. At least separate and decide on this before you call. We can not make a proper determination to take a sale or not unless the rest of the family has gone through yet. When people have not decided yet what is for sale they will often need to reschedule with an estate sale company to see it again when they are ready. The best stuff that family often keeps can make or break a sale. You need the good stuff to get people in the door to buy all the little everyday items.
Also, Many people want to clean up or do donations for items because they think it helps. This might prevent any company from taking on your sale. Estate sale companies will often have to cancel your sale if you remove too much after you signed a contract with them. There are often cancellation fees or mandatory commissions paid for removing items from the sale process. This is usually in the contract you will sign and applies to every estate sale company. It's not a trick. There just can't be people removing the items a company agreed to sell. Too much removed makes it impossible to cover our costs to run the sale and could force a cancellation. Once the sale process starts you would essentially be buying back your items. So decide first. Be sure before you sign a contract. They are your items but once a contract is in place you need to buy them back if you want to keep them. Any good company will set aside important papers, mementos and photos so don't worry about finding every last photo.
4. Call and see multiple companies until you find someone you are really comfortable with.
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5. Determine your non-negotiable end dates. Everyone wants it done "as soon as possible". However, any non-negotiable final date is important to state upfront. You do not need to pick a date for your sale. The company you choose will have to determine where to fit you in to their schedule but you need to know any absolute unmovable deadlines. This also includes open houses, work being done and other important scheduling conflicts. You should never try to plan, open houses, painting, work being done, repairs, people staying at the house or other events during the set-up or selling process. Plan accordingly. Always plan to have the house OFF LIMITS until the estate sale company has completely finished. I can not stress enough the problems I have seen when setting up a sale and in the middle we find out carpeting is being removed or painting is getting done.
Your estate sale is not an afterthought and it needs to be carefully planned outside of other activities to be successful.
4. Call as soon as possible. No sale is going to happen with any company if you have 1 or 2 weeks to clear out your entire house. By this time it's too late! You can hire us or another company to simply clean out what is there. Unlike a simply trash hauler we can clean-out within a few days and take in to consideration what is re-sellable in the final cost. Most sale options are no longer viable with less than a few weeks. Try and allow at least a month (this is still a tight timeline) and remember many good companies are booked for sometimes 2-3 months out. If someone can squeeze you in this week be cautious. There's a reason they are not booked or the sale will be thrown together and not a priority. Just sticking on price tags is not a proper sale. There is a LOT of research and work that goes in to how to stage, advertise and price your items.
In a pinch we often offer a "picker" type option where we can take out a number of sell-able things before closing or a deadline and sell in one of our warehouse (online) sales. (space and time permitting) This is not the best option but a possibility if you have great stuff that needs to go fast. ALSO if your stuff is of value grab a storage unit. We can usually come and run the sale later. Again, not the best option but workable. Many storage companies offer free first month or a free truck rental until you have time to decide what to do. If you have thousands of dollars in items a few hundred for a mover or storage is a worthwhile investment.
5. DO NOT throw items away! Do not take coins to the bank, (rolled coins laying around for a long time often have hidden "gems"), Do not sell stuff off or remove stuff to sell later. Do not take quick cash offers... If someone says "you don't have anything of value" BUT they make a quick cash deal to buy a few things be VERY cautious. This happens often. If someone wants things, they know you have something to resell and are not simply doing you a favor. They also may take enough good stuff that it limits you booking a full sale with someone else. This leaves you with some quick cash but a houseful to deal with anyway. This costs more in the end if you can't do a sale you have to pay or do the work yourself to get your remaining items out. You might be able to sell a piece of furniture quick on Craigslist but how will you sell all the little items left over. SELL everything through a trusted professional or run it yourself but don't try and do both. If someone is expressing interest to buy things just take their info, the offer (for which items) and you can get back to them. Let a professional see what you have to sell first. Several appointments can help you determine your best options by getting multiple people and their input FIRST. These quick deals may seem enticing but you can easily get ripped off. If you "take the estate out of the sale" you will often find no company can afford to put in the time to do a "leftovers" sale. You will need the good stuff to draw people for the random everyday stuff. It is incredibly common for people to call after spending time trying to sell off the "good stuff" only to find that no company will agree to help you with what is left.
Remember a good estate sale gets you more money for what you "sold it on Craigslist for" with less stress too! You are potentially cancelling any chance to run a full sale when you start pre-selling your best items first.
Some last words of wisdom to be mindful of -
small stuff makes the sale
furniture is not a big draw and not the best part of your sale (there's loads online everyday for sale)
Most companies need to see at least $5,000 of sell-able items to cover their cost to run a sale.
You do not need antiques - This is a common misconception.
Everyday items can be a big draw. You just need enough overall to sell. Little things add up! We have sold half used cans of paint.. so what is considered sell-able items can surprise you.
Be ready - with the advice above we are giving this can help tremendously.
All companies need photos of the whole house, video or they will need to make an appointment to see everything to know if they can help you.
There are more sales, and estates than companies to run them. The best companies are booked for months. Don't delay until the last minute.
You will not need to be available or live local to have someone run the sale. Many companies supply a lock box and do everything even if you are not local. That realtor relationship is helpful here to coordinate with your estate sale pro. Just be cautious for companies that do not allow you to be anywhere on site when they are setting up or running a sale. That is different.