One of the things that keeps us so busy is not only a loyal following of shoppers, but also a steady stream of estate sale clients - families are counting on us to find a loving new home for their personal property. I want to share a few expensive mistakes people make when they think about liquidating an estate:
1. Myth: I can get a sale ready myself over a few weekends off. I don't need to spend money on an estate seller.
Reality: Most families underestimate how much work it is to get an entire estate sale ready. You might think everything can be set up in a couple of days, but an organized sale that brings the most money - is going to be full time job, probably for 2 to 5 people. Professional estate sellers have an experienced crew working for usually between 1-5 days to set up an average estate sale. Taking a month or more to get your sale ready will probably leave you frustrated and tired. It can also cost you much more in the end - the more time it takes to get your estate sale ready, the more carrying costs you have. Factor the carrying costs of your real estate as well as your time away from your other tasks and your own home. How much is the monthly burden of the mortgage, taxes, insurance, and maintaining the yard, your travel time and expenses, etc? Does it really make sense to spend more time to try to "save" on professional helpers who can finish in a fraction of the time?
2. Myth: You can price things based on what your family paid for them and get the most value, you know what the things are worth. Your dad said not to sell the model T for less than $23,000 and he knew what they are worth.
Reality: Many clients feel they know the value of what is in their estates, but what I have found is that a professional estate seller knows the current market best. What your dad said something was worth 5-10 years ago probably isn't accurate today. Sadly, sometimes our parents think they have an original antique but they actually have a more common and less valuable reproduction. The pitfall here is that at a family run sale, often you will sell some items for far less than they are worth today, and you could also be left with some big ticket items because in today's market the item your dad said was worth $23,000 is just going for $18,000. A professional knows what shoppers actually spend on second hand goods at an estate sale, their experience can bring you the most by liquidating everything at the current fair market values.
3. Myth: Get rid of all the small things so that you can focus on the big ticket sales. Clients may want to donate clothes and household goods, get rid of Tupperware and cleaning supples, so that shoppers can see and spend on the other more valuable things.
Reality: All the small items in an estate add up. Estate sale shoppers are looking for everything they need for their homes. They won't decide to buy a dining room set just because cleaners or shampoo bottles were not available for sale at your estate. If we sell 150 articles of clothes, shoes and accessories for an average of $5 each - that is $250. Laundry detergent, garden supplies, paint and other cleaners at $1-3 each can add another $250, and some estates with a lot of these items can see figures adding up to thousands just on small everyday useful things.
4. Myth: The percentage or fees are the most important factor in determining who I should sign a contract with.
Reality: Most clients focus on the costs involved, they forget to ask a key question when they interview companies: What do you think the sale will generate? One liquidator might seem like a bargain at a 30% commission. But if they are not spending time staging, cleaning and researching the items they are selling - the sale will not generate maximum proceeds. A seller who takes extra time can generate two or three times the sales. I have had dealers tell me they have purchased similar items from my sales for far less at other sales - but they buy! A sale of a bracelet at $65 instead of at $25 will definatly justify a higher commission. Which is a better choice - getting 70% of a $4,000 estate sale, or getting 50% of an $8,000 estate sale? Also, find out which companies carry insurance and worker's comp coverage - if there is an accident or injury, saving a bit on the fees might have been a very costly mistake.
5. Myth: I need a specialist to handle high end items, Jewlery and art, and I should sell some of the good things myself to family friends before the sale to save on the commissions.
Reality: A true professional estate seller should be able to determine where to best sell even very high end items. They can broker auction contracts for you, and they know which dealers, auctions and customers in your area will get the most for the items you have. Estate sales are competitive, the more things you have to sell, the more people will come to your sale, and the more people see other shoppers in line buying, the more they will feel the urge to hurry up and grab what they wanted. Even if your seller tells you they plan to liquidate a stamp collection with a dealer before the sale - most are going to factor your entire estate's value into the commission. So you might sell some things yourself and avoid a commission on those things ... you can be sure that you are going to be paying higher commission on the rest of the items you are selling now that you cherry picked the estate and sold off the best or most sellable things. And worst of all, some sellers might be too busy with better estates to be able to help you if the best things are gone. In some cases, I have had to tell families that they sold or gave away so much that the rest is just a garage sale or a charitable donation. They could have had a $10,000 sale, but they end up selling $4,000 on their own and not having enough desirable items left to attract buyers needed to generate the other $6,000. Estate sales are competitive, remember, you want the best possible sale!
6. Myth: My family didn't have antiques, we don't have enough to hire a professional.
Reality: All of the everyday things in the estate add up - often our best sales don't even have antiques, they are just normal homes full of good kitchenware, tools and newer furniture in good condition. If you have a smaller sale, and even with a big sale, including the vehicle in your contract can help get a seller interested in also taking care of the personal property at their best rates, that can save you a lot of work and time and will bring in as many shoppers as possible to your estate.
I hope these tips help you with thinking about your estate liquidation. Call me at 661-823-1635 to schedule your free consult!