Looking to host your own estate sale? If so, you might be wondering if it’s better to do it yourself or hire an estate liquidator. We suggest hiring an estate liquidator.
Estate liquidators bring together all the moving parts of an estate sale. They are qualified professionals whose expertise in the industry enables them to efficiently manage all of an estate sale’s tasks. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about estate liquidators, including what they do, how they get paid, and how to find one to manage your next estate sale.
How Estate Sales Work
If you’re thinking of having an estate sale, we suggest you visit one first to get an idea of what to expect. Typically, estate liquidators organize and conduct their sales in a similar fashion. Estate sales usually follow the same general format:
- Held inside the home and across the property
- Take place over two to three days
- Involve the sale of someone’s (typically a family member’s) personal possessions
- Include many individually priced and displayed items
- Open to the public
- Involve quick disposal of unsold items
- A realtor may list the home after the estate sale
Why Have an Estate Sale?
Much of the time, a loved one has passed away, and family members are selling the person’s possessions so a real estate agent can list the home. Will or trust protocols may also dictate that the person’s possessions are sold. Estate liquidation sales are a cost-effective way to sell the entire contents of a loved one’s estate.
Bankruptcy, divorce resolution, and job relocation requirements are other factors behind an estate sale. In other instances, the homeowner may be retiring, moving away, or entering an assisted living facility. Or, they may simply be downsizing to a smaller house with fewer maintenance needs.
Why Hire an Estate Liquidator?
Estate sales are much harder to host than garage sales. Clients contact estate liquidators for varied reasons, but the biggest reason is because of the liquidator’s expertise. Estate liquidators have the industry knowledge to manage this complex sale.
Estate sale liquidators have the connections to appraise a diverse collection of items. The liquidator displays them throughout the house to intrigue shoppers’ interest and stimulate them to make a purchase.
To provide good customer service, the estate liquidator lines up additional sales associates, and may recruit security guards if the sale contains especially valuable items. The liquidator advertises the sale in varied media, and often reaches a multitude of shoppers from their professional networks. This enables them to sell a large volume of items very quickly.
During the estate sale, the estate liquidator addresses all issues that may arise. After the sale concludes, they arrange for pick up of large paid-for items, and may ship other items to the purchasers. Finally, the estate liquidator ensures that all unsold items are removed from the home.
What Does an Estate Liquidator Do?
An estate liquidator (or estate liquidation company) manages the estate sale. A professional estate sale company provides numerous estate liquidation services.
These services include pre-sale, sale-day, and post-sale tasks.
Before the liquidation sale, the estate liquidator carefully sorts through your loved one’s furnishings and household items. They use their expertise to appraise and price each estate sale item. When assigning prices to estate sale treasures, the liquidator often performs Google searches and views eBay online auction “sold” listings. The liquidator may contact local auction houses about fine art and rare items that may command better prices at auction.
As part of their estate sale services, the estate liquidator advertises the sale to promote a good turnout. The estate sale company will likely place newspaper classified ads, promote the sale on their social channels, and send email notifications to their subscribers. They will also set up prominent street signs to attract adventurous shoppers.
In addition to advertisements, a good estate liquidation company lists upcoming sales on their website. EstateSales.org and EstateSales.net are two of the most-visited estate sale websites. They maintain searchable databases that list sales from New York to California.
Before the estate liquidation begins, liquidators give each sale item a price tag. An estate sale is often called a “tag sale” or a “moving sale” because almost everything across the estate has a price tag. The estate liquidator also attractively displays the home’s entire contents before opening the doors to potential buyers.
On the day of the sale, the estate sale liquidator monitors all aspects of the event. Besides managing traffic throughout the premises, the liquidator oversees an onsite staff that includes sales associates and perhaps security personnel. If you’re planning to have your estate sale during the Coronavirus pandemic, the estate liquidator also ensures that COVID-19 precautions are in place.
The estate sale company’s team answers shoppers’ questions about sale items. When customers are ready to pay for their treasures, staff members handle payment. This includes calculating sales tax, using a cash box, and processing their credit cards at checkout (if credit cards are accepted).
Not all items are sold during an estate sale. As part of an estate liquidator’s job, they must dispose of the remaining items. Whether they donate them to charity, take them to upcoming estate sales, or deposit them in the dumpster, everything must go. Next, the estate liquidator often performs a house cleanout. The cleanout is typically included in the estate sale fees, but it may be an add-on service.
When resolving large, paid-for “sold” items, the estate liquidator may allow for next-day pick up. Staff members may also ship paid-for items to other locations. To conclude the sale, the estate liquidator will present the seller with a “sold Items” list. Later on, the seller will receive the sale’s proceeds minus the estate sale liquidator’s service fees.
What an Estate Liquidator is Not
An estate liquidator often has a strong background in the liquidation industry. Estate liquidators may own antique shops, or they may work as licensed auctioneers. Accredited appraisers may also make good estate liquidators.
However, estate liquidators are not attorneys, and they cannot provide advice on the legal aspects of estate liquidation sales. Likewise, they’re not referees who can mediate disputes between multiple shoppers who want the same collectibles.
Finally, remember that family members may be dealing with unsettling personal issues as they prepare to liquidate a loved one’s belongings. Although estate liquidators may be sympathetic to the situation, they are not trained therapists, and they are not equipped to handle emotional issues.
How Are Estate Liquidators Paid?
As a seller, you do not pay the estate sale company directly. Instead, estate liquidators receive a portion of the sale’s gross proceeds. Typical estate sale service fees, or commissions, range from 30 to 40 percent. Naturally, the estate liquidator and the seller both benefit when items bring the highest possible prices.
Three Estate Sale Commission Structures
Estate liquidators use one of three methods to assign an estate sale commission percentage. Most commonly, they personally evaluate the estate to determine how much work is involved in preparing for and conducting the sale. For example, a well-organized home won’t require as much pre-sale prep work as a house full of clutter.
At the same time, the liquidator evaluates the return they’ll likely get for their time investment. The estate liquidator considers both factors before arriving at a commission percentage.
Other estate liquidators use a sliding scale commission structure. A higher-grossing sale incurs a lower commission percentage, and vice versa.
A small number of estate liquidators use a set commission percentage for all of their estate sales. This percentage applies regardless of the size or complexity of the sale. Although this method doesn’t require any guesswork, it also doesn’t compensate the liquidator for estate sales that require lots of extra work.
Most estate sale companies provide additional sale-related services for an extra fee. Examples include post-sale house clean-up (if not included in the service fee), trash removal, and disposal of large unsold items such as pianos. When interviewing estate liquidators, obtain clarification on any additional sale-related fees. Ask how much the liquidator’s most recent clients have paid for specific services.
How to Find an Estate Liquidator
Finding the right estate liquidator should be relatively easy. First, ask your family, friends, and colleagues for referrals from their own estate sales. Referrals from satisfied clients are like gold, as they’re based on favorable outcomes.
Next, search the EstateSales.org and EstateSales.net databases for local estate sale companies. Once you reach out, expect to receive return calls or emails very quickly. Invite promising candidates to an interview at the home where the estate sale will take place. During the interview, present the sale items and discuss your sale logistics.
Evaluating an Estate Liquidator
Evaluating an estate liquidator is a multipart process requiring some detective work. First, ask for three client references from the liquidator’s recent estate sales.
Contact the references to see how the estate sales went. Next, if time permits, visit several of the liquidator’s sales and gauge their overall performance.
It’s important to realize that the estate liquidation industry does not have any regulatory standards. However, the American Society of Estate Liquidators (ASEL) has implemented its own ethics guidelines. If an estate liquidator has been accepted as an ASEL member, they have agreed to comply with numerous ethics standards governing their business conduct. Ask if your estate liquidator is a member of the ASEL, and review the ASEL’s guidelines.
Next, examine the estate liquidator’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) reviews, along with clients’ opinions from popular online review sites. Determine whether the candidate has industry certifications or has completed relevant classes that will help them to better do their jobs.
Finding the Right Estate Liquidator is Key
Although choosing the right estate liquidator takes some work, it’s certainly a worthwhile effort. When you find someone who respects your loved one’s possessions while efficiently running the estate sale, you have all the ingredients for a successful event.