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1.  What is an estate sale?

An estate sale is held to dispose of a substantial portion of the personal property of a person who is deceased, or who must dispose of their property to facilitate a move.

2.  Why have an estate sale?

The most common reason for an estate sale is the death of a property owner and the need to liquidate that person's personal property.  Or an older person may be moving into a retirement community and unable to take all of their personal property.  Family members may have no interest in the bulk of the estate.  They may lack the space to keep the property or may work full-time and be unable too take the time required for a successful estate sale.  A court may order the property to be sold and the proceeds divided between family members  An estate sale may be mandated by the will of the deceased.  Also, anyone moving into a smaller home may need to sell items that simply won't fit.

3.  Why hire an estate sale company?

A professional estate sale company may be necessary because the scope of the sale process can be overwhelming to family members.  A specific estate sale company is usually known to dealers and collectors.   They may also have a loyal public following of buyers that trust that this company will price wisely and fairly and will steer buyers toward their special needs and interests.  An estate sale professional has the knowledge and experience in pricing antique items plus general value knowledge of all types of household goods and personal property items.  A professional estate sale company can sell items in an unemotional manner and can also assist in disposing of items remaining after the sale.

4.  What do estate sale companies charge?

Professional estate sale companies typically charge a percentage of the proceeds, anywhere from 35%-45%, depending on the estimated value of the estate.  Some companies charge extra for research, security, refreshments, etc.  But the majority of companies pay for these expenses out of their fee.

5.  Why should I pay an estate sale company for something I can do myself?

Because a professional company can double, triple or even quadruple the sale proceeds by using their organizational skills, contacts, professional abilities and expert knowledge.  They can also give your sale their complete attention and can finish in a much shorter time.

6.  Aren't estate sales just for rich people with lots of valuable items?

Many middle class families have collectible items that cost little when originally purchased and may have value today.  And most families have inherited pieces from relatives and friends over the years.  Estate sales for the rich are not the norm for most companies.  Many estate sales have few, if any, antiques and still do very well with their net revenues.  The fact is, if an item is needed for day-to-day living, it can be sold at a profit above donating it, giving it away or throwing it in a landfill.  There is no reason to ignore items of worth simply because they are everyday items.

7.  Does the family need to throw out items before an estate sale company comes in?

Absolutely not.  Do not throw out or sell anything before contacting an estate sale company.  Let the professionals sort. price and merchandise items.  Let them use their experience and knowledge to weed out the unsaleable items.  You will be surprised at what will sell.

8.  Don't estate sale companies take all the good stuff for themselves before the sale?

An ethical company does not pre-purchase from their own sale and would never think of taking the cream of the crop.  They cannot do that and keep loyal customers attending their sales year after year.

9.  Aren't estate sales held by estate sale companies too high-priced?

Some sales are improperly priced.  However, successful companies adjust prices to suit the marketplace.  They research values and mark items to sell.  Dealers will buy more if they can make money on their purchases and this helps the family to empty the home.  

10.  What about family heirlooms and personal items?

Generally, once terms have been agreed upon and a contract signed,  nothing of value may be removed from the home.  So family member should remove family heirlooms and not-for-sale items before an estate sale company comes in to begin their work.  Personal items found during sorting that are not for sell to the general public would normally be returned to the family.

11.  How long does an estate sale take?  

Once a date has been set and a contract has been signed, a professional company should be able to complete a sale within 1-2 weeks, depending on the amount of sorting and set-up required.  A larger house with more items will simply take more time.

12.  Do I have to be present during the sale?

It is actually better is the client is not present on sale days.  It can be traumatic to see one's family treasures and mementos being sold.  And it is better to look at the sale proceeds as a whole and know know which item sold for how much. Most reputable companies will be happy to see you during set-up and immediately after the sale.  But if you wish to be present, discuss it with the company when interviewing.  

13.  Can I require certain prices for some items?

Most companies will allow the client to set a bottom line price on some items.  However, it is better to let them price the items.  They will research items to get the best possible prices.  After all, estate sale companies base their fee on the total sale value, so the more the client makes the more the company makes.

14.  Should I ask for references?

Yes, indeed.  An honest company will be happy to provide references from satisfied clients.

15.  Can an estate sale company sell the house?

Only if they have a real estate license.  They can assist the real estate agent by showing the house and handing out business cards and flyers.  I know of at least two cases where houses were sold to estate sale customers.

16.  Should an estate sale company be licensed or certified in some way?

Some states license estate sale companies and some do not.   You need to find out what the rules are in your state.  Certified appraisers can be useful, but some certifications can be easily obtained and might not be from the state.  Some internet companies offer "certifications" which are dubious at best.  Checking references is the best method of checking out companies.

17.  Should I wait until the house sells before calling an estate sale company?

Absolutely not.  Some companies are booked weeks or even months in advance.  Call an estate sale company as soon as possible.  Give yourself plenty of time to get everything done.  And a clean, open house will have the advantage of selling better.

18.  Do you need to have a lot of things to sell

You will need furniture, appliances, household goods, kitchen wares, decorative items, clothing, books, linens, electronics, tools, etc.  Buyers expect to find a whole house full of items to purchase.  

19.  What happens with everything that is left after the sale?

That is up to the client.  Your estate sale company should be able to offer advice, including names of charities, names of cleaning companies, etc.  Some companies assist with packing everything up for a fee.  

20. What about security?

For a sale with antiques and high value items, a company may hire a security guard.  But for most sales, simple safety precautions work best.  Experienced estate sale companies know the scams and cons and will keep a vigilant eye on every item going out the door.

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