Estate Sale Pros and Their Clients are in This TOGETHER
(A Two-Part Series)
PART II – Estate Sale Professional’s Responsibilities to The Client
For an estate sale professional, nothing is easy about being the captain of the ship. They not only handle the personal possessions in each unique estate situation, but also their clients and different levels of familial function (or dysfunction), employees, local resources, attendees, advertising, pricing, organizing, setting up, cleaning, de-cluttering, discarding, and much more.
Estate sales professionals can offer so much help and can greatly minimize family strife during challenging times. Their work not only deals with tangible assets but also unseen issues with multiple levels of complexity:
Conflicting personalities with differences of opinion
Differing ideas of value
Other people’s perceptions
Lack of understanding for the process
This is just a snapshot of what professional estate liquidators do on a daily basis.
Other mind-boggling challenges include:
A changing market
Debunking over-inflated prices from TV shows
Debunking expectations based on incorrect client research or family lore
Controlling and setting policies and procedures for sale attendees
Parking/flow of traffic during the sale
Working under time constraints
Precision balancing of the estate sale
Arranging for charity pick up
Preparing for a pack-up/cleanout, etc.
All of this is done by the professional to keep the sale running smoothly and safely.
Estate professionals can’t control the following, but have to manage these challenges too:
Attendance (despite professional advertising),
Mishandling of items by potential buyers (despite posted signs, protection with lock and key, and workers to guard items),
It cannot guarantee the monetary outcome for the client.
Estate sales professionals are the glue that holds everything and everyone together while managing the sale process.
The relationship between an estate liquidator and their client should be synergistic and reciprocal. The client needs clear and concise guidance from the estate sale professional, and the estate sale professional needs cooperation, information, and trust from the client. Trouble begins when communication is not clear, questions go answered, and a lack of trust begins to fester from either side or both sides.
Here are the key ways the professional can encourage a positive experience for their client:
1. Find the right estate sale professional for the job. You need an honest, ethical, credible, direct, caring estate sales professional who can guide you through the estate sale process from beginning to end. They should be able to provide professional references, earned certifications, memberships in professional organizations, etc. which you can verify.
2. They will understand the scope of work. The professional will evaluate the scope of work for your particular estate situation. They will either offer all those services or at least know other trustworthy resources they can refer to, if necessary. Remember that the lifetime of accumulation that needs to be dealt with did not occur overnight. Likewise, they will need time and space to do their work.
It is imperative you find a professional who can disassemble the estate in the right order, doing their due diligence and achieving the best results for both you and them.
3. They will maximize proceeds. Find a professional who can not only maximize proceeds for the estate items, but also organize and display properly for maximum visibility and appeal, create a safe estate sale environment by removing tripping hazards, placing signs, etc., arrange security if they feel it is needed, and priced according to their research (not what someone on eBay is asking).
A professional liquidator will also know resources for higher-end items or specialty items. If they don’t know, they can research, talk with other colleagues, and let you know the best way to proceed. The professional may remove certain items from a sale and send them to an appropriate auction house to maximize the proceeds. They may even broker the piece(s) for you.
4. Pricing and researching items – An estate sale professional will research your items they are not familiar with and look up sales comparables of similar or identical items and what they have SOLD FOR.
They deal with realized prices, not “asking prices.” Anyone can ask for the moon for an item. But if that price is unrealistic, then the item remains unsold which doesn’t help anyone. The professional will know what these items sell for in your region.
If you have questions about pricing, simply ask how they arrived at that price. Professional researches constantly and can demonstrate why they price the way they do. Since the objective is to “move” (sell) the contents of an estate, which is the original reason you needed the professional’s help, you have to be able to let go.
5. Marketing. Your professional should be capable of strategic marketing; they will utilize social media, as well as their own client email lists, EstateSales.Net, EstateSales.Org, other online sources, local publications, etc. They may even know of private buyers/collectors who are looking for certain items.
6. The staff you can trust. Your professional employs a courteous and professional staff, who knows how to help the liquidator. If the liquidator trusts them, you should too.
7. The Contract. Signing a contract is a big deal. Make sure that both parties sit down face to face and discuss the vital specifics, eliminating any surprises.
A professional liquidator will go over each aspect of the contract and client expectations. They should clearly review the order of their process and answer any questions.
Once the contract is signed, you, as a client, should not remove, sell, give away, or allow family members to take any items. To remove items from the estate is discourteous to the professional. They took the sale based on what they saw during the walk-through of your home. They also probably turned away other sales to do this one.
The estate sale professional has the right to know that all the items they expect to sell will remain there in the home and not be removed or disappear. If items are removed from the estate after the signing of the contract, the estate sale professional will most likely take their commission from the items that are missing, and may also assign a fee to cover their time in the estate since they have lost income.
8. Timely Communication. You should be kept apprised of the estate sales process step-by-step. Your phone calls or emails should be returned, your questions should be answered, and your concerns should be addressed.
Please remember that estate sale professionals are in estates all day and cannot return your calls immediately, but should return your call by the end of the business day or the next day. A professional may say, “On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we will be sorting/organizing, setting up tables, and pricing. On Thursday, we will do this. The sale will run Friday and Saturday.”
Some professionals, if working with long-distance executors/heirs, will email or text photographs to show their clients what they have done, and keep them in the loop even though they are not present.
9. Client Attendance during the sale set up or at the actual sale. A professional knows you want to be involved, but the truth is they can accomplish much more and stay focused if you are not present.
Family and friends have the best of intentions, but they come over, start talking, going down memory lane, etc. This is certainly understandable, but once you hire an estate professional, let them do their job; they are working within a specific timeframe and must remain focused on each detail.
10. Expect respect and give respect. Once contracted, the professional will schedule and go to work preparing the estate for the sale. Some of the work requires the organization to be done from their own office making phone calls, scheduling, etc. A professional should treat each current estate with respect, even if they are working on another estate the same week or in close proximity. Yet, professionals love working with clients who offer them the same kindness and respect.
11. What you should know about liquidators. Preparing for and conducting one estate sale requires tremendous brain and muscle power. Think about it. They reorganize a lifetime of accumulation in just a few days.
It takes organizational skills that come only with experience, and the liquidator is literally doing a dozen things at one time. Their staff takes direction well, but it is the liquidator that holds, creates, and controls the mind-boggling “To-Do” list that would make anyone’s knees buckle. They have to remind themselves to “eat their Wheaties” because it will take the strength of a champion to deal with the public and all of their woes and complaints.
The professionals, who do this kind of work, love it and thrive on it. All they want in return is a little appreciation for all the work they do.
12. Decide ahead of time what to do with estate sale leftovers. Sometimes items will be left over after an estate sale. Decide ahead of time, when you contract with the estate professional, what your preference is for those items. Some liquidators will pack these items up for an additional fee, arrange for charity, etc. Other times, clients want to keep or go through the leftover items.
13. An estate professional will help with guidance. A professional estate liquidator will assist you and your family on numerous levels. Don’t throw anything away until they get there, even if you think it’s junk. A good liquidator will educate you, so you can make sound decisions.
Should any problem or challenges arise, it is up to both parties to communicate clearly in order to arrive at peaceful resolutions.
This article is just a fragment of what estate sales professionals do on a daily basis for their clients. Their efforts are Herculean. The most important thing for the client is to hire an estate liquidator you trust and feel good about.