FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. What is an estate sale?
An estate sale is a sale held to dispose of a substantial portion of the personal
property of a person who is deceased, or who must dispose of their personal
property to facilitate a move.
2. Why have an estate sale?
The most common reason for an estate sale is the death of a property owner
and the subsequent need to liquidate that person's personal property. Or an
older person may be moving into a retirement community and might be unable to
take all of their personal property with them. The surviving family members may
have no interest in the bulk of the estate left by the deceased or property owner,
they may simply lack space to keep those belongings or they may be employed
full-time and be unable to spend the time required for a successful estate sale.
Where the survivors of of the deceased cannot agree to the disposition of
tangible property, a court may order those goods to sold in an estate sale
with the proceeds to be divided between the survivors. Such a sale may also
be mandated in the will of the deceased.
3. Why hire an estate sale company?
The presence of a professional company may be necessary because the scope
of the sale process is likely to be overwhelming to the survivors. Furthermore,
an estate sale company often has a large loyal following of dealers, collectors
and public. A specific estate sale company may be familiar to buyers who have
been coming to their sales for years. These buyers trust that the estate sale
professionals at this company will price wisely and fairly, and steer the buyers
toward their special needs and interests. An estate sale professional has the
specialist's knowledge and experience in pricing antique items plus the general
value knowledge of all types of household goods and personal property items.
A professional estate sale company can dispose of items in an unsentimental
manner and can also assist in disposing of items remaining after the sale.
4. What do estate sale companies charge?
Professional estate sale companies typically charge a percentage of the
proceeds, anywhere from 35% - 45%, depending on the the estimated
value of the sale. Some companies charge extra for research, security,
refreshments, etc. But the majority of estate sale companies take these
expenses out of their percentage.
5. Why should I pay an estate sale company for something I can do myself?
Because professional estate sale companies can double, triple or even
quadruple the gross sales outcome by using their organizational skills, contacts,
professional abilities and expert knowledge. They can also give your sale
their complete attention and can finish in a much shorter amount of time.
6. Aren't estate sales just for rich people with lots of valuable antiques?
Many middle class families have collectible items that cost little or nothing
when originally purchased. And most families have inherited pieces and
hand-me-downs from relatives and friends over the years. Estate sales for
the rich are not the norm for estate sale companies. There are many estate
sales where there are few, if any, antiques that still do very well with their net
revenues. The fact is, if an item is needed for day-to-day living, it can be
sold at a profit above donating it, giving it away or throwing it into a landfill.
There is no reason to ignore items of worth simply because they are new
or everyday items.
7. Does the family need to throw out items before an estate sale company comes in?
Absolutely not. Do not throw out or sell anything before contacting an professional
estate sale company. Let the professionals sort, price and merchandise items.
Let them decide what has value to the public. You might be surprised at what will
8. Don't estate sale companies take all the good stuff for themselves before the sale?
An ethical estate sale company does not pre-purchase from their own sales and
would never think of taking the cream of the crop. They cannot do that and keep
loyal customers attending their sales year after year.
9. Aren't sales held by estate sale companies too high priced?
Some sales are improperly priced. However, successful estate sale companies
adjust prices to suit their marketplace. Their employees research values and mark
items so that they will sell. Dealers will buy more if they can make money on
their purchases and this helps the surviving family to empty the house. Also,
professionals understand that non-collectible everyday items can be purchased
at a bargain at discount stores and close-out stores, so they try to mark items
below those store prices.
10. What about family heirlooms and personal items?
Generally, once terms have been agreed upon and a contract has been signed,
nothing of value can be removed from the home. So family members must
remove family heirlooms and not-for-sale items before an estate sale company
comes in to begin their work. Personal items found during sorting and set-up
that are not saleable to the general public would normally be returned to the family.
11. How long does an estate sale take?
Generally, once a contract has been signed, a professional estate sale company
can complete a sale within 1-2 weeks, depending on the amount of sorting and
set-up involved. A larger house with more items for sale simply takes longer.
Actual sale days usually range from 2-3 days. For larger estates a 3-day sale
might be required whereas a smaller estate might require only 2 days.
12. Do I have to be present on sale days?
It is actually better if the client is not present on sale days. It can be very traumatic
to see one's family treasures and mementos being sold. And it is better to look at
the sale proceeds as a whole and not know which item sold for how much. Most
reputable companies will be happy to see you during set-up and immediately after
the close of the sale. However, if you want to be present, discuss it with the
company you hire. They may be happy to accomodate you.
13. Can I require certain prices for items or ask the estate sale company not to
sell an item or items for less than a certain dollar amount?
Most companies will allow you to set a bottom line price on some pieces.
However, it is really better to let the professionals price items. They know
what things will sell for in a certain area and will price accordingly. They
will also research prices in order to get the best possible price on every item.
After all, estate sale companies base their fee on the total sale value, so the
more the client makes the more the company makes.
14. Should I ask for references?
Yes, indeed. An honest estate sale company will be happy to offer
references from satisified customers.
15. Can an estate sale company sell the house?
Only if they have a real estate license. However, we can assist the real
estate agent. During the sale we can show the house and hand out
business cards and flyers. An estate sale can be similar to an open
house given by the real estate agent. I know of two cases where
houses were sold to estate sale customers.
16. Should an estate sale company be licensed or certified in some way?
Some states license estate sale companies and others do not. Some states
license or certify appraisers and others do not. You need to find out what
the rules are in your particular state. Certified appraisers can be useful if
the estate has many antiques and items of high dollar value. But some
certifications can be easily obtained and might not be from the state. Some
internet companies offer "certifications" which are dubious at best. Checking
references from satisfied clients is the best method of checking out companies.
17. Should I wait until the house sells before calling an estate sale company?
Absolutely not. Most estate sale companies are booked weeks or even months
in advance. Call an estate sale company as soon as possible. Give yourself
plenty of time to get everything done. And a clean, open house will have the
advantage of selling better.