Do Your Research Before Having An Estate Sale

Whether you’re downsizing your own home or expecting to take care of an older loved one’s estate, selling possessions can be both emotionally and physically taxing. Many people turn to estate sale companies (also called estate appraisers or liquidators) to orchestrate the process.

If you take this route, educate yourself in advance. The business of estate sales and liquidators is unregulated, meaning they are not required to have certification or licensure. As with any field, there are good operators and bad operators. Reputable and professional companies bring expertise that can make the process efficient and more lucrative than it would be if you were to host a sale yourself. The bad operators may see an opportunity to take advantage of a bereaved family member who doesn’t know the true value of their loved one’s belongings, or is too overwhelmed to check a contract’s details. Here are some important considerations.

Old metal tableware collectibles at a garage sale.
  • Consider getting your own appraisals first on items that you believe may be valuable. Specialists such as jewelers and antique dealers can either help or give you a referral.
  • Take some time to do research before hiring an estate company. Do you know anyone who’s used one? Can you find online reviews on Google or Yelp? Are they an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau? This digging can save you headaches and heartaches down the road. Here is one of many cautionary tales.
  • Another good sign is membership in a professional association, such as the National Estate Sales Association, American Society of Estate Liquidators, and the National Association of Specialty and Senior Move Managers. These organizations have codes of ethics that members are expected to abide by, and they provide consumer education on their websites.
  • Once you select a company, ensure that they have a written contract that spells out details such as the timeline, what will happen with items that remain after the sale, and their fee structure. Will they take a percentage of gross sales? Are there “expenses” that will be charged back to the client, like paying additional staff to work the sale, advertising costs, etc.? There are different ways for estate sale agents to get compensated; you should understand those models for payment in advance. 
  • Prepare yourself for the fact that some items you or your loved one thought were valuable may not be. On the other hand, there may also be some hidden treasures, such as old sports memorabilia, that will go for more than you thought. It may make sense to take certain items to a specialty buyer to get top dollar. 

As with most things related to estate planning and end-of-life preparations, advance research and planning will help things go smoothly and help you avoid negative outcomes. These associations also offer some tips for the process:

At Windward Life Care, we’re here to help you with this and other types of advance planning. Let us know how we can help.