I'm reposting a blog I wrote several years ago about hiring a liquidator as it's still a very important topic. Happy New Year and see you at our next sale!
There are so so many estate sellers out there, but they are not all the same. Estate sale liquidation is not a licensed industry so you can get a wide variety of liquidators offering their services.
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 assign to work in my home during the actual sale? The answer would depend on size of house, how many items are for sale and what types of items are for sale. Ahouse full of high end luxury clothing or small items like jewelry need's extra staffing and possibly a security detail manning the door.
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. Running a website and keeping it fresh and updated costs money. If the liquidators website looks rundown and dated that is likely what your sale will look.
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.