When someone is downsizing, moving cross country, or handling an estate 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 out of their 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 quick they pay you? There are plenty of horror stories out there and beyond about some pretty unlucky clients. But 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 cleaning services, donate leftover items, provide extensive marketing for your sale, and even give you that lost diamond ring instead of selling it – all for free. During the stressful transitions most people find themselves in when hiring an estate sale company, this kind of honest, client-focused service can mean the difference between a smooth, or a labor-intense shift.
1. The Consultation
It’s difficult for a company to assess whether you have enough for a sale without visiting your property in person. The consultation should be free, but don’t expect it to go beyond the 30-minute mark for most companies unless y’all really hit it off. Committing to several interviews with companies can be time intensive, especially if you’re on a time crunch to get out.
If you’re tech savvy, you could save yourself some time by asking to do a video call from your phone (Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts) to give them an idea of how much you have in your home for sale. You could always send pictures as well. Save yourself the hassle of blocking off large chunks of time and see if you have enough first. Then if you do, and you both feel you might be a good match, schedule an appointment with them to meet in person.
2. 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 today 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 smells, or removing stained mattresses or old box tv sets.
Estate Sales are competing with Amazon, ebay, thrift shops, consignment stores, and antique shops to name a few. A company pricing their items at full retail value are likely scaring away more customers than they’re attracting. They’re competing with an international trillion-dollar company that can ship used items to someone 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.
4. 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 organizing the house before a sale). I can’t speak to every company, but I can highlight a few things we’ll always return to the owner we come across during prep.
Bills and credit cards are always returned – recent family photos or flash drives we can identify as having personally identifiable documents as well. One time we found a wad of $2500 in a case in the basement of a home and we promptly notified the home owner and returned it to them – no splits, no commission. We’ve also come across a large diamond ring the family had told us they were looking for and had clearly communicated we had no intention of selling it before entering the home.
5. Communication is Important
Unless you specify otherwise, you should expect some simple communication from your company while they’re prepping for your sale. This could include verification by text to update you on their progress, some pictures of some personal items found, or something simple just to keep communication open! A sign of a company who cares is when they text you about items they’re not sure you want to sell or answering any extra questions you may have during the process.
For these next few sections it’s important to keep in mind not every company has extensive resources including money or equipment, but there are some basics every professional company should be covering.
Every company should be posting on EstateSales.Net and/or EstateSales.com. Avid, casual, and first-time shoppers will all typically hit these 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, email, and text.
7. The Estate Sale – 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 60% of our transactions were via credit card. It’s fast, secure, and most shoppers have one. If a company isn’t providing their customers with an option for credit, you’re missing out on serious opportunity. Anything is better than a fishing box to collect money.
8. The Estate Sale – Customer Service
Service with a smile! There doesn’t have to be someone at the door greeting everybody (it doesn’t hurt) 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, it also helps them 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.
9. Post Sale – Clean Up
Some companies will pack up and go home after they make their money, but in 2019 that’s just not what any company worth hiring should be doing unless that’s what you want. They should be cleaning up, whether complementary or for a service, and leaving you with an empty home. Also, in a world facing the uphill battle to fight climate change, a company’s willingness to donate usable items, recycle, and properly dispose of waste shouldn’t be an add-on.
Whether sending a check or issuing a direct deposit, any reputable company should be able to send you your money within 3 – 7 business days. 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. They have to wait for credit card processing companies to give them their money, pay their staff, pay relevant business fees, and then make sure the numbers are correct before putting together a final statement and sending you your money.
If you’re in the Johnson County Area and looking for a company using many of these best practices, consider submitting your home easily online with Green Frog. They’ll clean your home, donate unsellable/unsold items, and treat you and your home with respect.
Technology is making us smarter and more efficient every day. New apps, new best marketing practices, better ways to communicate and educate ourselves; so this list isn’t definitive. Let’s just consider it a highlight reel – the best companies understand their industry and know their market. They spend extra time and resources to convey their message cleanly and stay at the top of their game.