Booking an estate liquidator at the last minute has always been a problem in the liquidation business. Folks are selling their homes in record times and buyers are expecting them to vacate in a month instead of the normal 3 month time.
This can be problematic as many of the top liquidators are already booked sometimes as much as 4 months ahead. The setting up a proper estate sale and marketing it correctly can take at least 4 weeks but in some cases even as much as 8 weeks, so when a client calls you and they give a closing date of less than a month away there is great hesitation to take on the sale. A good liquidator will know that a set up can take many hours and when rushed important pricing details and research can be missed.
When folks are looking for a last minute liquidator they are generally left with those liquidators who do less prep - which means less items researched and prices. Those companies that doe 3-4 sales a weekend usually are the ones that do little to no prep. These sales are generally referred to in the industry as picker sales. A picker sale is where customers rummage thru the home and bring the item(s) to the cashier table to get pricing on the item. The sales manager or cashier just throws out a number. This method of pulling prices out of your head can go very wrong as it's impossible to have the time to properly look over the item, research market stats and deal with what will likely be a generally long line.
Most folks contemplate the sale of their home a year or two head. That is good you should be thinking about it that far ahead as there is much to do in order to get your house ready.
The first thing you should do is get an idea of where you are moving to and if and what you plan to take with you to your next home. Some folks already have a finished home they are moving to so they don't need to take much with them. Some folks truly don't know but have a sense of what they want to bring with them. If you truly don't know where you are moving, how much square footage you will have then start looking at the types of places you are thinking of moving to as it will give you a sense of what and how much space you'll have to fill up. Many folks want to change their home style completely so usually the contents of the home they lived in for a long time likely won't fit their new style.
Another thing to think about is do your relatives want any of the items in your home. This is very important to do this a good year ahead as we all know how slow folks are with picking items up. I have seen some clients in such distress as they have tried for a full year to get their children and other relatives to pick up the items they wanted. Unless it's a piece you desperately need, like the couch you sit on every day, I suggest getting rid of the item as soon as the relative is willing to take if off your hands. It's also wise to give all relatives, including your children a deadline for picking the items up.
The next step is to start ridding your home of unneeded, old paperwork - it's a tedious task and one that can take a lot of time so the sooner you do this the better. I also recommend getting rid of any broken, damaged furniture. Very rarely does broken furniture sell and it looks terrible when you are staging your home.
Get to know the rules in your town about discarding household items. Some towns are great where they do waste pickup weekly, but some towns don't offer this service and you have to pay someone to remove your household junk. I recommend getting to know your local junk haulers and make sure they are licensed. Junk haulers are NOT cheap and can cost in the thousands so you want to ensure you are using a legitimate company.
The final step which should be done 6 months ahead - start interviewing realtors AND estate liquidators. A good and respected liquidator is usually booked a month or two (or even more) ahead. The reason I say start early is that you want to meet with at least 3 liquidators to give you a sense of how the different companies work. Some folks solely focus on the cheapest commissions, but remember a few things when a company has such a low commission they are doing one of two things: 1. do little to no advertising, prep or using the proper amount of labor at your sale 2. hitting you with fee's for every little thing, like advertising, labor fees, cleanout fees.
Finally, read the person's contract all the way thru. Ask questions, and do meet with at least 3 liquidators to compare service models.
So what is the moral of the story....the moral of the story is to NOT wait till you are 2 weeks from closing on your home. Do your planning early.