Many people over the years have asked me how to hire an estate sale company and what to look for when hiring one. It has been easy over the years to give people four or five questions to ask and a couple of items to look for, however this question has gotten much more difficult over the past year or two. These are things that families and estates need to be aware of when hiring an estate sale company.
The first thing that every family needs to be aware of, is that this industry is not regulated. There is no licensing or certification for an estate sale liquidator. Anyone can open an estate sale company with no experience at all. Everyone must have a beginning in any business, but do you want to hire a company with no experience, or very little experience, for an estate sale when you only get one chance? When asking people about their experience, many people will twist the facts. For example, if they have 4 staff associates and 3 of the staff associates have had antique booths at a flea market for 5 years, the company will state that they have estate sale experience of 15 years, adding these all of these years together. There is another company that has been solely doing estate sales for 5 years and really understands the ins and out of the business and this company will not be hired because this brand new company is stating that they have 15 years of experience. I recommend hiring someone with 5 years of experience, but you must do your due diligence in making sure that they truly do.
Secondly, never hire the cheapest company or a company that is undercutting the competition. In order to conduct an estate sale the right way takes a great deal of time and a lot more effort. Most families when hiring an estate sale company are looking to make money, but when you automatically hire the cheapest, you could be tempting your fate. When a company is the cheapest or is undercutting, you will always loose out as they will be undercutting your sale, whether it is in the marketing, the photography, the staging and set up, they will find a way to recoup the money that they have lost. Estate sale averages are different in different regions and vary dramatically based on quantity and quality. It is not usual for an estate sale company to now to charge for labor, especially for vintage and antique estate sales since the market has had a tremendous downswing in the past several years, making it very difficult to sell these items. I always tell friends hiring companies, do you want 30% of $4,000 or 40% of $8,000. In reality, hiring the cheapest will leave money on the table and will create more work for the homeowner.
Finally, always beware of the car salesmen and pushy estate sale conductor. I believe that many people see this business as quick way to make money. Our company constantly hears customers at sales saying, "this looks so easy, we should do this". I believe that they see money and do not realize the amount of work that truly needs to be done. There are many business that have popped up over the past couple of years and that do not have the best interest of the client in mind. This business is the type that will come in and do the least amount of work that they can and it is quantity of sales and money that interests them the most. A company that falls into this category is going to come to the estate, bring a couple of tables, if any at all, do a minimal amount of set up and minimal pricing, will have a nominal amount of marketing, and will only have two or three people working the sale. They will promise with exaggerations, inflate the total sales outcome, and mislead in many ways. When calling an estate sale company's references, ask the previous client if the referenced estate sale company fulfilled all of the procedures and promises that they guaranteed at the consultation, as well as all of items in their agreements. Many times the estate sale companies do not fulfill the promises made at the consulation.