Questions You Should Be Asking Every Estate Sale Company
Please Remember, estate sale companies are not licensed or regulated in this industry. Be sure to do your homework and protect your estate and it’s value by hiring a strong, reputable company.
Information Specifically About The Company Itself
- How many estate sales has your company conducted?
EXPERIENCE! When hiring an estate sale company you want experience. Many companies say they have run thousands of sales. Only a few companies in the country truly have. We are one of them. With offices across the country we run somewhere between 15 to 20 sales per weekend! Average that over the last decade and experience is something we have. We can honestly say we have run thousands of estate sales. This is why out of approximately 5,000 estate sale companies we have consistently every year been awarded a “Top 50” company award out of those 5000 estate sale companies. That puts us in the top 1% in the country and the entire industry. Some companies will tell you that no company has run thousands of sales. They are wrong! We have and we have the experience and the sale history to back it up. Experience is what you want. Experience is what we have!
- Do you have International Society of Appraisers (ISA) members on staff?
Why is this so important? It’s safe to say nobody in this world is an expert at everything. That is why we each build our craft and hone a special skill set over our life spans in our jobs. Whether it’s being a mom or an engineer we all get better and learn more as we go. No one person is going to know everything but having an ISA appraiser on staff means that each sale we do, for each client, has the access to an ISA appraiser.
ISA appraisers have gone through a rigorous coursework, they follow ethical standard operating procedures and failure to obtain continuing education prevents an appraiser from staying atop the industry. Our appraisers are available to assist on valuations on unique, niche and even foreign scripts that may show up on an item that may be in your home. How do you know the valuation being given is the right one? We have these experts or access to a network of experts that can ensure your items are being given the proper valuation. What does that mean? You obtain the appropriate value when items sell when you use Prestige Estate Services.
- Are the employees that work for your estate sale company W-2 employees?
Why is this question so important and relevant? Insurance is a big one. What happens when that once in a lifetime “Oops!” moment happens and someone gets inured on your property? If they are W-2 employees they are covered under the company’s insurance policy and this protects you, the homeowner. A simple liability insurance policy does not cover other entities that are not W-2 employees with the estate sale company.
What happens when you hire a company that doesn’t have W-2 employees and something happens? YOU or your estate, can and would, most likely be held liable for any injury that occurs on your property. Whether it’s your fault or not, in most cases it doesn’t matter. There have been several instances where homeowners thought they were hiring a good standing company, only later to have a lawsuit end up in their lap.
DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE. IT COULD BE THE MOST COSTLY ONE YOU MAKE.
- Does your estate sale company have a Worker’s Compensation Policy (WCP) in place?
Most states require this, however this is another cost of doing business that isn’t cheap for estate sale companies to obtain and many, often go without and are operating illegally without it in many states. If something occurs on your property you should be aware you would be held liable for any injury occurrence that happens on your property. In this day and age there are people looking to make a dollar and have no work ethic. An employee who is not covered under a Worker’s Compensation Policy is a prime candidate to make any kind of erroneous claim that they were injured on your property and a company without a Worker’s Compensation Policy (WCP) in place could be employing this type of individual looking to go after a homeowner for monetary compensation for an injury.
DON’T EXPOSE YOURSELF TO THIS RISK. MAKE SURE THEY HAVE A WCP IN PLACE AND SHOW IT TO YOU
- Does your company have a liability insurance policy?
We talked about an employee getting hurt and how to protect you from this. How about a shopper? Let’s say an old lady walks in from outside on a sunny day with her sunglasses on and comes into the home and doesn’t see the step down from the entry way before she changes from her sunglasses to her regular vision glasses, trips, falls and breaks her arm. Maybe it’s because there wasn’t some posted notification about the step or uneven floor etc. How does this affect you?
In this instance you can be and most likely would be, held liable for the fall from this nice older lady if the estate sale company you selected, was found negligent for not posting a sign about this hazard, if the estate sale company doesn’t have a liability insurance policy.
We too, do our homework on our competitors and I would be sure you ask them to show you this information. Many say they have it but can’t afford to actually buy this type of policy or it’s only a small amount of coverage. When pressed, they fail to be able to present it to you. THIS SHOULD BE A BIG CONCERN
At Prestige Estate Services Inc. we have a $1,000,000.00 liability coverage policy that will protect you and us. Don’t go unprotected and expose you and your estate, to undue risk.
Please be sure to ask to see their policy before signing any agreement.
- Does your estate sale company collect sales tax?
It is required by local and state laws, that all estate sale companies are required collect sales tax. You can otherwise then be held responsible for paying these taxes if the estate sale company you selected did not. Ask if they collect sales tax. Also ask what they do with legal tax-exempt purchases? Do they obtain a resale license and keep a copy of that on file for up to one year. That can be a fast way to an audit which is something you do not want to have occur to you or your estate. Audits are expensive and there is no reason to set off a red flag, as they are costly at $150.00-$250.00 per hour to hire someone to assist you in dealing with this process.
Many companies only charge sales tax on credit card transactions and operate in areas of gray with cash, so they don’t have to claim income tax or sales tax on the cash amount.
Make sure they charge sales tax on all transactions unless legally tax exempt purchase and obtain and hold the purchase amount and copy of resellers license for their records.
Most estate sale companies aren’t even aware of this.
- Does your estate sale company own a store or have a location where you sell things? Will you move any of the remaining items from the sale there?
We do not own a store. This can be a conflict of interest.
We once had a competitor in one of our Florida markets whom would price items really high at her client’s sales, so they wouldn’t sell. Then she would charge the client extra to move them to her store to give them some additional time to sell as a “favor”. She would then raise the commission she would take when they sold. She would state they would discount over time. If they didn’t sell she would then say, “Nobody wants them, I can give you pennies on the dollar for them or you can come pick them up or throw them out, or we can do that for you for free.” Long story short; she never discounted the items, never threw them away. She acquired them by buying them for nothing, or keeping them when they didn’t sell by default and the client didn’t want to come pick them up and then would price them to sell and make her money that way, in addition to theft of property.
See the video from one of her client’s that was taken advantage of here
YOU DON’T WANT TO HIRE AN ESTATE SALE COMPANY WITH CONFLICTS OF INTEREST.
WE ARE IN THE ESTATE SALE BUSINESS.
We do not have anything to gain by buying your items or putting them in a store, as we do not operate a store or type of business. We rarely have anything left at the completion of your estate sale. Our goal is to sell everything for the best price in the time we have to sell it! In situations with high end pieces that are better suited for auction or maybe we didn’t find that buyer that wanted the $25,000.00 antique Regina Music Box in three days. We can help but our commission never changes and it’s rare these items are left after a sale, if the marketing for the sale was done appropriately.
- Do you have references that you conducted a sale for that I could talk to?
Ask for references.
- Does your estate sale company have a contract?
Every company should have a contract. This contract should cover what each side is responsible for and sets these expectations forth in a legal binding document.
Our company receives approximately 1 to 2 calls a month where the company that a person like yourself hired because they gave them the best price or commission. They promised to do a client’s estate sale, then only to later find out with a phone call, that the estate sale company just received a call for a better sale and could no longer do their sale, leaving these clients at the last minute with no options high and dry.
Have a contract. READ the contract. Ask questions about the contract if something isn’t clear. A senior manager of an estate sale company or a higher up/owner should be able to clearly discuss the agreement without any lack of knowledge, hesitation on even the toughest of questions.
The Estate Sale Process
- Make a call to the estate sale company
Estate Sale Companies offer a unique opportunity to discuss their process, time-lines and fees etc. with a free phone call. This is your chance to hear about their estate sale process and schedule a free in-home consultation. There should never be any form of payment for this service and there should be no obligation.
- Talk about dates first.
Estate Sale Companies generally book 2-6 weeks out. If you have a “hard stop” such as a real estate closing, be sure to mention that. Let the company know what your timeline is, or ideal timeline is.
- Ask them to explain their estate sale process.
The company needs to explain how they operate and what the procedures will be going forward if you hire them. Often after this explanation, many, if not most, of your questions should be answered.
- How do you prepare the sale?
Do you pull things out, display them, do you use tables that you provide to set things on? How do you price items? What kind of pricing expectations should I be expecting?
The sale preparation process is one of the most important keys to a successful sale. Without the proper setup, items can be missed, mispriced, not displayed appropriately and worst, never get the chance to sell.
- Do you price everything?
Picture yourself walking into a department store and only some things were priced? Nobody wants to go up to the register and have to ask, “How much is this sweater?” Even is the sweater is $10.00 or it’s a $150.00 sweater. Nobody wants to have to ask the price of an item. It can be a waste of his or her time. It can make them uncomfortable to ask. They may be afraid it’s too much and they just put it back. You should never see a sign that says, “Bring it to the register for pricing.” When people shop, they want to know how much the item is.
- Be sure to ask the estate sale company about sale days, hours of operation, how they discount merchandise.
- Does your company provide a copy of the transactions from the estate sale?
Prestige Estate Services uses an electronic register that tracks each sale, discount, gross sales, taxes collected, net sales and more. This information is imported into our system which is saved and backed up to a server and covers every category of items sold the number of items sold and the amount of all items sold. We also provide a sample of this at the time of the walk-through. You should always receive an accounting breakdown along with your proceeds check.
- How does your company advertise your sales and do you charge any marketing fees?
If you are going to do one thing in the estate sale process that affects the overall sale profitability, marketing is at the top of that list.
Every estate sale needs a few things and one is, shoppers! Without them, nobody wins!
We advertise throughout the process using various forms of social media, our website, conglomerate websites, photographs. Each sale and it’s discounts days will be posted, so that shoppers who may not be able to afford an item on the first day, know the next day it will be discounted and how by how much. You need shoppers but you also need these shoppers coming back throughout the sale process! Repeat and return customers provide approximately 50% of every sale’s gross revenues.
- Does the company have a website?….A professional, easy to navigate website?
While just about everyone now days has a website, is the site professional, easy to navigate, clear information on how to contact the company, a place for people to ask specific sale day questions or about specific inventory at a sale. We do, and we get live updates from these sale inquiries throughout the duration of the sale. This way, when someone wants to know about an item, they can ask the question on the same page as the pictures. We get those “Repeat and Return” customers because of our process and our ability to respond to these inquiries in expedited process which means more sales and more revenues.
- Does your estate sale company provide professional photography services?
High quality photographs of items in the sale can be the difference of someone coming to the sale to shop or deciding to go somewhere else. Without the shopper the estate sale process is impossible for success. Do the photos look nice? They should!
- When and how do buyers pick up their items?
Buyers pick up their purchased items at the time of purchase, or, on any additional sale days. Some companies claim, allowing additional pickup days for items is a advantage but this opens you up to having to drag out the process and the interruption of random people stopping by your home for more days after the sale. All estate sale items should be removed during sale day hours.
- Do you accept all major credit cards at your sales?
We were the first company to accept credit cards. Seems like a no brainer but some still do not accept cards. Be VERY leery of this, as they do this, so they don’t have to claim all of the income on their taxes. What other business practices are they doing if this is their approach? We currently do 61% on average of all transactions through credit cards. Most companies are closer to half of this amount in credit cards.
Why You Ask?
Why would you want to deter people from using their credit cards? Often it is because they want to encourage more cash transactions so they can claim less income?
The Estate Sale Company Has Completed The Sale
- What happens after the estate sale has concluded?
Do you provide any cleanout or haul-away services of unwanted or old broken items or items that are missing parts and didn’t sell?
Some companies will tell you this is a conflict of interest. What it should tell you is, they just want to make some money and leave without being willing to finish the job and do the hard work after the sale is over.
Most people don’t want to be left with another project after the sale is completed. At Prestige Estate Services we can do the hard work for you at a small additional cost. |This way, from beginning to end of the process, you are left with a check in hand and job well done and completed!
- What information and paperwork do you receive after the sale is completed?
You should and will receive documentation that is processed by our accounting department at accounting@PrestigeEstateServices.com. It will come in the form of a pdf (digital document) and a hard copy along with your check that will reflect the categories of items, quantities in each category and the overall gross sales from each respective category. It will show the amount of taxes collected and paid and the breakdown of your commission or amount earned from the sale. There is no currently no way to individualize every item, due to the time it would take and the lack of technology to itemize all items sold in a home. The average sale, sells 100’s and more often, 1000’s of items at a sale.
- How soon does your company provide payment to me from the estate sale?
This isn’t 1950! Any professional estate sale company should be able cut your check within no more than 10 business days. Our policy is within 7 business days from the time services are completed! This way you get paid fast!
- How Do You Get Paid? & How Does The Estate Sale Company Get Paid?
- Does your estate sale company charge for labor?
Some providers charge for labor on every sale. Other on certain level of sales that are very large projects from a hoarder home or massive project that require significant investment of upfront time and costs. Some have a minimum guarantee.
Be sure to ask for a specific example of how this works.
We DO NOT CHARGE for labor or marketing fees on 99% of sales. Only in rare instances of very large projects such as hoarder homes etc.
- Does Your Estate Sale Company Have Minimums?
No. We work on commission only. The way it should be, when you hire a professional estate sale company.
You want the estate sale services provider to be in the same boat you are as a client. Nobody makes money unless the estate sale company does their job well and there is no better way than to be motivated and incentivized to sell the most items possible for the highest prices possible in the time we have to sell it. That happens when everyone has some skin in the game with no guarantees. If you have a company that has minimums, labor fees, other various fees they start getting guarantees no matter how well the sale does. This structure doesn’t motivate the estate sale company to fight for every dollar as they will make their money one way or another.
It should be a commission only structure on 99% of all projects!
In rare cases of massive projects or hoarder situations where our team is on site for multiple weeks or months even, prepping a sale, we may impose a minimum. In these rare instances there may be a minimum but this will be explained and agreed upon by both parties before ever signing an agreement. This happens less than 1% of all the sales we run.
- What is your estate sale company’s commission?
An average commission for any estate sale company is anywhere from 35-50% at current market rates.
Anyone charging less in commission is going to have other “Various” or even “Hidden Fees” such as a labor fee or a marketing fee. You want to hire a company with some real skin in the game so their goal is, to sell as much as they can, for the most money they can, in the limited time they have to sell it.
A true commission structure is how that is setup for success, hard work and is results driven. Be leery of other fees that are not in your best interest and very low percentages where a company is willing to take your sale for 25 or 30% commission. There is a reason they are so low and it’s not because they are the best and you can guarantee they won’t make you as much money. If they could they would be at the standard market rates. Why are they so low? Desperate for business? Hidden fees?
- Should I get hung up on one company over another if one is 5% more or less than another? Should I go with the cheapest company or the most expensive?
You do have a decision to make. Unfortunately we get calls from clients wishing they had hired us and to warn us of other companies after their poor performance. Some individuals have a tendency to consider hiring a company based solely on their commission rates and wanting to hire the cheapest company.
Let’s say Company A is willing to do the sale for 35% commission. Company B is willing to do it for 40%. If your first instinct is pick the 35% because you are going to make more money. STOP and think about it a little bit differently.
Hiring Estate Sale Company A
Company A charges 35% and they do an decent job ringing up $8,000.00 in sales. That means if they don’t have hidden fees you get 65% of that $8,000.00. That means you get a check for $5,200.00…Not bad right?
Hiring Estate Sale Company B
Company B charges 40%. 5% more than Company A but, they do a better job because they spend more money on advertising the sale, more time prepping the sale, appraising items and properly getting the right price on each item. They don’t charge extra fees and they have a well-known name, because of the quality of sales they put on. They also have a following of loyal customers that like their sales in particular and shop their sales first. Or, maybe only shop their sales because the staff if nice and helpful etc. Maybe it’s because the prices are fair. Not too high or too low, so more items sell and Company B rings up $14,000.00 on this same sale because they did a better overall job on all aspects of the estate sale process. That means you get 60% of the total less from a percentage amount than you otherwise could have. But you actually end up making more and you get a check for $8,400.00 instead of $5,200.00 but you went with the more expensive option.
What was the best decision on which estate sale company to hire? Obviously Company B, even though they charged more commission than Company A.
IT’S ABOUT WHO YOU HIRE, not their commissions!
- Is There Any Extra Service Costs I Should Know About?
What costs are there for haul-away, donation, etc.?
Many companies provide various services as add-ons so that the job is completed and the miscellaneous items that are junk or trash are removed when the project is completed, so there is nothing left you have to do. Most companies will charge for haul away and donation services/coordination.
Attending Estate Sales And What To Look For:
- Do they have professional signs that are visible from several directions?
- Is the parking situation being handled effectively?
- What does the checkout process look like? Is it smooth? Clear posted signs on the process. Are the checkers fast and efficient or is it so painfully slow that people are leaving after putting items back due to this slow process?
- Did the estate get staged and fully setup?
- Did all items get priced in some form (tagged individual items, bulk pricing when appropriate or did everything get bulk priced) This is how companies lose value and profit in a sale is not allowing a home to not being fully prepped.
- Is the staff friendly, available, moving around the home during the sale? Are they easily identifiable with professional uniforms etc.? Can you tell the difference between an estate sale company employee and shoppers or are they hard to find or identify? Are they making themselves available for help? Or are they sitting on a chair or couch not paying attention to the sale and it’s customers?
- Does it appear the employees are restaging items, as other items sell during the sale process?
- Is the estate sale company collecting sales tax at checkout and do they charge shoppers for extra fees on using credit cards?
- Is the signage in the home clear, concise, professional, not hand written?
- Take a look at their online marketing. You should see a list of items available for sale in that particular sale on that particular estate sale listing. If you don’t see a list and only see an address of the sale location be concerned.
Why is this important?
When you go to some of the conglomerate sites or even search engines such as safari, internet explorer, google, etc. and type in something like “antique desk for sale” our website, social media pages and listing sites like estatesales.org, estatesales.net etc. those listings will appear. Why? Because the word “antique desk” is noted in the listing. Now a shopper that is online seeking an antique desk, see that ad, sees the sale, realizes it’s this weekend and looks at the picture, loves the antique desk we took pictures of and decides to show up and buy that antique desk. Cha-ching! We just made another sale for you! Why? Because we did our job well and you reap the benefits!
- What is their marketing like? Did they list items for sale or is it just general categories or, just an address and no listing of what is being sold at all?
- Do they have listings on EstateSales.net?
- Do they have the sale listing on EstateSales.org?
- Do they have the sale listing on EstateSale.com?
- Does the estate sale company have a website that is updated, easy to navigate, can shoppers find the sale listing? Can they ask questions on the sale listing page on the estate sale company’s website?
We understand this is a lot of information. We sincerely hope this helps you to better understand estate sale companies in general and ideally, to better understand our, estate sale company and how our process works at Prestige Estate Service. It’s our goal that at every estate sale we process, receives the same prestigious services as the next!
Picking Prestige Estate Services from the beginning, can make this decision process simple and the most profitable.
We encourage you to call us to discuss your estate sale project today and obtain a free in-home walk-through consultation to assess your project.