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Thursday May 24, 2018

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How to Choose a Good Estate Sale Company

Can you provide some tips on how to choose a good estate sale company who can sell all the leftover items in my mother's house?

The estate sale business has become a huge industry over the past decade. There are roughly 22,000 estate sale companies that currently operate in the U.S., up nearly 60% from just 10 years ago. But not all estate sale companies are alike.

Unlike appraisal, auction and real estate companies, estate sale operators are largely unregulated and are not required to adhere to licensing or standard educational requirements. This leaves the door open for inexperienced, unethical or even illegal operators. Therefore, it is up to you to decipher a good, reputable company from a bad one. Here are some tips to help you choose.

Make a list: Start by asking for recommendations from your friends, a real estate agent or an attorney. There are various estate sale websites that let you search for estate sale companies in your area.

Check their reviews: After you find a few companies, check them out on the Better Business Bureau's website, Angie's List, Yelp and other online review sites to eliminate ones with legitimately negative reviews.

Call some companies: Once you identify some reputable estate sale companies in your area, select a few to interview over the phone. Ask them how long they have been in business and how many estate sales they conduct each month. Also, find out about their staff, the services they provide, if they are insured and bonded and if they charge a flat fee or commission. The national average commission for an estate sale is around 35%, but commissions vary by city and region.

You may also want to ask about visiting their next sale to get a better feel for how they operate. Also, consider requesting a list of their past clients who you can contact as references.

Schedule appointments: Set up two or three face-to-face interviews with the companies you felt most comfortable with after conducting the phone interviews.

During their visit, show the estate liquidator through the property. Point out any items that will not be included in the sale. If you have any items where price is a concern, this would be a good time to discuss it with them. Many estate companies will give you a quote after a walk-through of the home.

You should also ask questions about their pricing, including how they research prices, whether every item is priced, how they track what items sell for, what credit cards they accept and how and where they will promote and market your sale.

Additionally, ask how many days it will take them to set up for the sale, how long the sale will last and whether they will take care of getting any necessary permits.

You should also find out how and when you will be paid and what types of services they will provide when the sale is over. You will want to ask whether they will clean up the house and dispose of the unsold items, and whether there is an extra charge to do so. Also, make sure you get a copy of their contract and review it carefully before you sign it.

For more information on choosing an estate sale company, you may want to visit the National Estate Sales Association's online guide, which includes a "Find the Right Company" feature.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published May 18, 2018
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