There are so so many estate sellers out there, but they are not all the same.
Many folks go right away to the less expensive companies and spend no time comparing the services that each company offers. That is a big mistake.
There are big variances and as the client you should look carefully at the fine print and the list of services and types of sales the company specializes in.
Below is my Top Ten List of What to Ask an Estate Seller when interviewing them to run your estate liquidation sale:
1. How many years in business have you been doing sales? Having 30+ years in business may make you a formidable candidate, but this same person may not be updated on all of the new ways to promote a sale - they may not be social media savvy. It takes a lot of work to keep modernizing operations - someone who may be at the tail end of their work life may not want to spend the time nor money upgrading their services. So don't discount a newer company as they are likely more eager to please.
2. How many people would you be assigning to my sale? The answer would depend on size of house, how much is for sale and what types of items are for sale. If someone tells you 3-4 ppl and you have a home 3,000 square feet and up I"d be concerned that the company is not providing enough staff to have oversight in all the areas of the home. I've heard from many customers that they went to a large home and there were only 2 ppl running the sale. It's common practice that the lower end companies tend to use minimal staff to run their sales. That is the only way they can charge the smaller commission fees. With less staff, you have less people on the floor selling your items and it's also more likely something will get stolen. How can 2-3 people be everywhere in a large home - the fact is they can't.
3. Are you insured - can I see your insurance certificate (to prove insurance and the liability limits). Stay away from a company that cannot provide you with an insurance certificate. Also, make sure the company is registered with the state. There are no licensing requirements for estate liquidators, but if they are a legit company they would have to be registered with the state.
4. Do you have a website? A company that is willing to spend money to have a web presence is a company who is not going to run off with your proceeds. It's a company who plans to be around for a while.
5. Are your staff trained to sell or are they just there to make sure nothing is stolen. My theory is the more trained staff on the floor, the more people that are there to sell the contents of the sale. If staff is just there to ensure no one steals no one is really overseeing the selling process.
6. What day's and times do you run your sales?
7. Do you price every item? How do you conduct your research and what items do you look up?
8. How do you stage the items? There is a BIG difference to the way a sale is staged. Just look at pictures of current sales. Some companies spend a lot of time on prepping and some don't. Customer's generally like a fully staged home as they find it easier to find items and when contents are displayed properly they are more appealing to the buyer.
9. Do you have references/testimonials? There are many ways to check up on a company. See if they have testimonials on their website, reviews on Google/Angie's List/Square/Yelp. What is their rating with Better Business Bureau?
10. Most importantly - do you connect with the person? Does this person make you feel comfortable as you'll be handing over your keys and all of your belongings and trusting them to sell your household contents. Even with testimonials - your gut instinct is the one you should listen to the most!
If you go thru the above list you will most certainly hire the right company for your sale. Every home is different so you have to ask yourself, do you care how many people are working your sale, do you care if security is provided, do you care if the sale is staged properly. Are you willing to pay a bit more in commission to have the sale done in a professional manner? Maybe it doesn't matter to you.
There are so many choices out there so be sure to interview 2 to 4 companies in order to find the right estate liquidator for your needs.
"Why should I buy pre-owned?" " Why should we buy used furniture?" "I don't want to sit on something others have sat on?" I have heard these questions and comments over and over from friends, family members, general folks who find that I own an estate sale company.
Buying pre-owned means that you are a savvy shopper, that you have a great respect for your wallet and that you realize the prices in stores are inflated, as the stores have to pay rent, utilities, labor costs and taxes. When they price their goods they take all of these expenses into consideration, which they should. Estate sellers don't have those expenses. We conduct our sales at our clients homes. We do have some costs but they are minor compared to a brick and mortar store.
Most folks don't realize that when you go into a store how do you know the couch your buying is new...that it is not a couch that had once been a floor model where possibly thousands of folks have sat on it, touched it or even had bought it and returned it? You don't. You really have no idea if the item you are getting when ordering from a store is a new one. Of course, they won't tell you that it was once a floor model, they'll say it was in their warehouse wrapped up waiting to be bought.
Buying pre-owned furniture and household items you will not only help save the environment by keeping items out of the public dumps, but you'll save your pocketbook. Most items sold at estate sales are sold for an 1/8 or less of it's store value. Many of these items are in good to excellent condition. Some items such as a couch may have not been sat on in years as the item was in a room where the homeowner rarely went.
Shoppers need to change their mindsets about the "ickiness" factor on buying used furniture. Most furniture can be wiped down, professionally cleaned and aired out. Buying items pre-owned does not mean you are buying garbage -- it means you are buying expensive items for an 1/8 of their retail value. It means you are a smart, savvy shopper. I've had clients spend over $14,000 on a rug that we sold for $1,500 that is less than a 25% cost of it's true retail value.
So shop estate sales - see the items in person and take them with you right there and then. No waiting 6 weeks for the item you just pay and go.
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Lighting is essential to every aspect of your home. Lighting can change the mood of a room just as it can change the perceived size of a room. It works together with your room color selections, room size, availability of natural light and furniture selection. It can accentuate the curves of a couch, the quilt you decided to hang on the wall, the exotic Turkish rug you got for a great deal at an estate sale.
Why should you buy lighting at an estate or moving sale - because it's cheaper sometimes up to 75% off of retail prices. I've sold some spectacular lighting at my sales. If these lights were purchased at a store my customers would have paid more than 3x what they paid at my sale. Another reason to buy from estate and moving sales is that you may find lighting that is 50+ years old so they are no longer sold in the stores nor found online. Some of these lights from the 1940's, 50's and 60's are truly spectacular and much sought after by collectors.
When buying lighting from an estate/moving sale be sure to check out the light carefully. Since it's pre-owned, make sure you take note on whether it is electrified, if the wiring is frayed, if crystals are missing, if the lamp shade is torn (check inside too), if a piece of the porcelain is broken. All of these things should be checked carefully and if you find anything wrong and you are willing to either live with the problem or you know someone to fix it offer a lower price than what the lamp is selling for. Asking for a discount is normal so don't be shy - the estate seller should be willing to negotiate. If seller is not willing to negotiate, because maybe it's the beginning of the sale, be sure to put in a formal bid. Most estate sellers will accept the highest bidder if they did not get their asking price. It's not insulting to us as we are hired to sell and sell everything!
One of the biggest issues estate sellers and consignment shops have to deal with is the customer who has unrealistic expectations of the value of their stuff and by stuff I mean everything. From their grandma's Limoges dishes to their ginormous wall units. What people forget is that as soon as their furniture leaves the showroom floor the value of their item drops by as much as 50%. With each passing year and with the normal wear and tear an item will take the value drops again and again.
Homeowners also tend to forget that the item they purchased many years ago just may not be in style any longer. The good news is if you can wait 50 years styles tend to reemerge and become hot again. And some items become are MORE valuable than the original price paid (dolls, artwork, clocks, vintage furniture, etc...), but remember that is not the norm. Most items depreciate with time. Most consignors and estate sellers start the pricing of an item at 50% of retail. From there if the item does not sell at that price, the price will go down in 10% increments, if it's an estate sale it will normally be dropped to half off the original selling price. Consignee's and folks hiring estate sale companies need to remember that estate sellers and consignor stores would LOVE to sell your items for TOP dollar, but if no one is buying you have to drop the price to a number the market will bear. I"ve seen a dining set sit and then boom once we drop the price to a certain price level its purchased right away with usually two or three customers in line waiting to buy it if the original purchaser falls thru. So when going to sell your preowned items just know that yoru estate seller or consignor is always going to go for the top price, but that in most cases your original price will need to be reduced! Remember to buy pre-owned-- you not only save the planet by ryou get high quality furniture at a fraction of the original price.
What is it about mid-century furniture that makes folks go gaga? Is it the lines, the deep seated daybed couches, the small pegged legs, the tartan fabric, the sculptured brass handles - what is it? When I run my sales, I know right away that whenever I have mid-century pieces - - I'll have customers coming out of every corner of the universe to buy something mid-century. I even once sold a fairly simple wall shelving unit that took the buyer over an hour to get it off the wall. (He really wanted those shelves!)
One idea for the madness around mid-century is that folks that bought their homes in the 1950's and 1960's are retiring and moving into smaller homes. These folks would now be in their 70s and 80s. They are parting ways with entire households of mid-century furniture. They want to go in a different direction than what they had in their home all these year's. Interestingly, lot's of these folks have gotten into the modern furniture movement. This life transition for these folks has caused the mid-century floodgates to open up and to allow all those in their 20's, 30's and 40's to experience the beauty and simpleness of mid-century furniture.
Many folks go back to mid-century for nostalgic reasons. Lot's of us grew up with the Brady Brunch and their house was a perfect example of mid-century style. Who didn't love their living room set or their round groovy kitchen table and their den with the low, daybed couches where all their family meetings took place.
At this point I don't see a slow down in the mid-century market, at least let's hope so, because I don't think I can bare dealing with the 1980's and all that formica. Yikes!
So what is it with these American Girl Dolls that has adults salivating at the mere mention of them going on sale? At a recent sale of ours in Montclair we had about 6 American Girl Dolls for sale and about 50 customers waiting in line to buy them. Sadly, for the other 48 customers the first two customers snatched up everything including the extra clothing so there was nothing left for them to buy.
I had no idea there was such a hot market for the AG dolls. So I started thinking what makes these dolls, as opposed to other dolls, so popular? Is it because these dolls have great play value? Is it because they are tall enough to be the size of a real baby? Is it because the doll accessories for these dolls are amazing? Yes, yes and yes to all of the above. The accessories for these dolls are too die for -- here is just a brief list of a few of the available accessories: Tea Tin Lunchbox for Samantha, an entire set of Nature Paraphernalia including a mini flower press and magnifying glass, for the Addy doll there is a puppet show or a gardening set, a pioneer school lunch, or a fishing set with mini bait for Kirsten, plus doll furniture is available for each doll, and let's not mention the great wardrobe each doll gets.
Moms and daughters alike discuss in detail about the different costumes they will make for their "babies". Many patterns are available to make outfits for the 18" play dolls and there are also many web sites who offer additional, handmade clothing for the American Girls and other 18" dolls (including Magic Attic, Heidi Ott, Gotz, and others).
To accentuate the cultish following of this doll the American Girl company produces a monthly magazine title "American Girl Magazine" with articles on the dolls and their owners.
So where do these dolls come from?
These 18" dolls went on sale in 1986 by the Pleasant Company. The dolls were created to emulate 9-11 year old girls of a variety of ethnicities. The dolls are sold with books that are from the viewpoint of the girls.
Originally the stories focused on various periods of American history, but were expanded in 1995 to include characters and stories from present day life. A variety of related clothing and accessories also became available. In 1998, the Pleasant Company became a subsidiary of Mattel.
Finally, another reason to love the AG dolls is that they are educational. There are six books about each doll full of historical information. Everything about the dolls, from their wardrobe to their furniture, is historically accurate.
The dolls are also sturdy, and, although not cheap, the dolls are less expensive than many high-end dolls from manufacturers such as Madame Alexander. For instance, Josefina with her basic outfit and paperback book costs $82. Additional books, outfits, costumes and furniture can then be slowly added. Or, for the big splurge, "collections" of dolls plus various outfits, accessories and furniture organized around the historical stories can be purchased for several hundred dollars.
These dolls are here to stay and I can only believe that they will continue to rise in value, especially the first generation of them.
Jill (aka Big Mama)
Buying at an estate sale is not very hard, but I suggest you go to a few just to get the feel and vibe of how sales are run. You need to learn about pricing and about style. What is your personal taste? Do you like modern, mid-century modern, antique, french country, shabby chic, Italian, Swedish, Moroccan - you name it all these different styles of furniture can be found right in your own neck of the woods.
I always tell my customers not to judge a book by it's cover - look inside. Some of my customers with the tiniest of homes have the most glorious collections of dolls or of rare books. Some of my customers are sitting on hot, pricey furniture pieces and artwork of which they had just piled up in a spare bedroom. So just go in no matter what the house looks on the outside
Some of the less expensive items you can buy at an estate sale are games, kitchenware, toy's, clothes and low end furniture. Items like designer furniture, chandeliers, sterling silver are the more pricier items to buy at an estate sale. Even with the higher price you will still get a HUGE discount off retail prices. You can buy a designer couch for less than half of what the stores are selling the exact same couch for. You can also buy a dining table for as low as $400 and it's all wood, has style and comes with chairs. At a retail store this same table would go for double or triple or worse be made of cheap materials and you end up having to replace in anyway in less than 5 years.
The best way to shop at a sale is come prepared. Have your cash with you and have an idea of what you are looking for and how much you want to spend. Bargaining is fun and once you do it a few times you'll get good at it. Be fair though, remember the estate sellers job is too get the best price for the item for their client.
Another recommendation for shopping at estate sales is to get on the mailing list of any estate sale company of whom you enjoy their sales. I know we give our "fans' a special hour of shopping before we open the doors to the public.
You never know what you'll find at an estate sale - just go - don't be shy - look around and ask questions of the staff if you need something answered.
Owner of Bargain Hunter Mama Estate Sales
Happy Holiday's to all of you. It's been an incredible year and we want to thank you for being such devoted Bargain Hunter Mama fans. We've had an incredible year -- we not only quadrupled our number of estate sales we run from the prior year, but we launched a newsletter and now have an online shop.
Our goal is for our company to be the go to place where you can find the unique and the special - items you can't find anywhere else. If there is something you'd like to purchase or are on the hunt for let us know and we'll find it for you.
Don't forget we are having a 25% OFF ALL items on the website from 12/15/12-12/31/12. ....