What to Expect from a Great Estate Sale Company
A list of the top 10 things any reputable estate sale company should provide for you.
When someone is downsizing, moving, or handling the estate of a loved one and needs to sell their items for the most value as quickly as possible, they can hire an estate sale company to price and manage a sale in the home to the financial benefit of both parties. Commission rates vary by company, depending on multiple factors including: amount and quality of items, location, experience, staffing and season.
Every company will sell as much as possible for you, but what about the condition of the home during the sale, the unsold items, or how they pay you? There are plenty of horror stories out there and beyond about some pretty unlucky clients. But with this new age of technology and social media bringing connectivity and near-infinite knowledge to our fingertips, there’s no excuse for companies to be falling anywhere short of being “full-service”.
Rather than talk about how to prepare for an estate sale or a final checklist before signing the contract, I wanna hit on the services the “Best-of-the-Best” have to offer. Some companies will offer complementary light cleaning services, donate/liquidate leftover items, provide extensive marketing for your sale, and even give you that lost diamond ring or rolex watch instead of selling it - all for free. Who else can you work with that will come clean out your house, not charge you anything up-front, and give you a check at the end? During the stressful transition most people find themselves in while hiring an estate sale company, this kind of honest, client-focused service can mean the difference between a smooth or a labor-intense shift.
It’s difficult for a company to assess whether you have enough for a sale with them without visiting your property in person. (Each company will have different guidelines and minimums they require.) The initial consultation should be free and the company should explain how everything works as well as their commissions.
Prepping for the Sale
Who wants to shop in a store that smells bad or has fresh stains on the floor? Sometimes you can’t get around the bad smells in an old home, but a company’s ability to spruce up the homes they’re running a sale out of has an impact on their customers’ shopping experience. An Estate Sale company should be committed to helping clean up the scene, especially since the golden rule is “Don’t throw anything away”. Don’t be offended if they ask you to take care of special circumstances before they arrive though, like removing black mold, cleaning up nasty messes or removing stained/soiled mattresses or old box TV sets.
Estate Sales are competing with Amazon, eBay, thrift shops, consignment stores, flea markets and antique shops, to name a few. A company pricing their items at full retail value is likely to scare away more customers than they’re attracting. They’re competing with an international trillion-dollar company that can ship used items to someone’s home for free in 1-2 days. If they’re not doing their research with great online tools and staying on top of current second-hand shopping trends, they’re likely losing easy money, which means your pockets are going to be lighter as well. Remember, a reputable company is watching activity during the sales and should be applying that knowledge to the pricing of items. They see what customers are buying and hear lots of feedback which should guide them to provide the best possible shopping experience.
Finding Personal Items
There’s a fine line for most companies about what to sell and what to return to the owner during the prepping process (the time when they’re in the home organizing the house before the sale takes place). I can’t speak to every company, but I can highlight a few things we’ll always return to the owner when we come across personal/sentimental items during prep. Bill’s and credit cards, as well as anything with any personal markings, are always placed in a safe place for the family to retrieve after the completion of the sale. This also includes any camera memory cards, flash drives, books with inscriptions, personal photos and any mail laying around that looks sentimental or important. One time a team member found a dirty envelope in the rafters of the basement. It was filled with $2,500 cash. We kept it in our safe until the sale was complete and returned it to the family with no split or commission. That is not our money and it wouldn’t be ethical to handle it in any other way.
Communication is Important
Unless you specify otherwise, you should expect some simple communication from your company while they’re prepping for your sale. A sign of a company who cares is when they text you about items they’re not sure should be sold or answering any additional questions you may have during the preparation process. We set up a group text with all family members involved to keep everybody “in the know”.
Every company should be posting on estatesales.net and/or estatesales.com. Avid, casual, and first-time shoppers will all typically hit these sites up to plan their estate shopping adventures. Every company should also deploy strategic use of yard signs as well as obey their local laws about doing so. Posting on Craigslist is helpful, and some even post on social media or promote with even more extensive tools including video, blogs, emails and texts.
Using modern technology
Using smart technology for checkout and customer interactions is a must. From reminding them about the sale to checking them out, the smarter the technology the better. This last year, over 70% of our transactions were via credit/debit card. It’s fast, secure, and most shoppers have one. If a company is not providing their customers with an option for credit, you’re missing out on a serious opportunity. Anything is better than a fishing tackle box to collect money.
Service with a smile! There doesn’t have to be someone at the door greeting everybody (although this our company practice) but whether or not the staff comes off approachable or even kind can have an immediate impact on whether or not a customer will stick around to shop. If a customer can utilize “hold shelves” to store their intended purchases until they’re ready to check out, they will shop longer and ultimately spend more money. Additionally, if the check out person is collecting emails, that’s a sign they’re looking to continually grow their business rather than just make as much money as they can today.
Cleaning up post-sale
Some companies just pack up their equipment and go home after the sale ends, but in 2021 that’s just not what any company worth hiring should be doing unless that is your choice. They should be cleaning up (there could be an additional fee) and leaving you with an empty home whether they do a donation or liquidation pickup, again, if this is your choice.
Easy, fast payout
Whether sending a check or issuing a direct deposit, any company should be able to set clear expectations for when you should expect a final payment. Any company following the best practices outlined here will have a lot of work on their plate, so it’s irresponsible to expect a deposit the day after a sale finishes. We allow returns on electronics and anything that “plugs in” for 2 weeks after the completion of the sale so the check goes out after all of those deductions can be made. Keep in mind, a reputable company will be working at their next sale as soon as yours has completed.
If you’re in the Johnson County area and looking for a reputable company using ALL of these best practices, consider contacting Green Frog Estate Sales. We will turn your home into a beautiful boutique, clean up and protect your home, and mail you a check when we finish! What more could you ask for??