Estate Sale Pros and Their Clients are in This TOGETHER
(A Two-Part Series)
PART I – Client Responsibilities to the Estate Sale Professional
There’s nothing easy about handling an estate. It’s completely overwhelming for the family left behind, who are often grieving at the same time as trying to find a professional they can trust to guide them through the process of an Estate Sale.
Then there’s all the stuff. A lifetime accumulation needs to be sorted, discarded, donated, kept, or sold. Families often feel like they can do this part on their own, and many do, but the mistakes are numerous because they may not understand the process and all that it entails. This includes the emotional toll the process can take, not to mention the amount of time it requires to complete the task.
When a client researches, interviews, and chooses a professional estate sale company to work with, they may have their own idea of how things should be done. However, if you have hired a professional estate sale company, the professional will take the lead and guide the client through the process with the hope that the client will listen and follow their advice. The estate sales professional knows what needs to be done, how to do it, and the best way to move forward as each estate is unique.
Here are a few tips for potential clients that may be able to ease them through the process if they know what to expect:
1. The client has a responsibility to listen to the guidance and expertise of the estate sale professional; to try and understand personal property values in today’s market; what will and won’t sell, and how much will it sell for? Clients may also need to be educated and understand that “value” is relative. For example, it does not matter what someone paid for an item. An item will ultimately sell for what someone will pay you for it.
2. Follow the estate sale professional’s requests for removal/separation/tagging of items the family is keeping. This will help the estate professional clearly understand what is to stay with the client/family and what is to be sold. Removal or separation of family items into a designated room or area should be done prior to the professional coming to consult, if at all possible.
3. Much has changed. It is important to remember that times are different, styles are different, values are different, generations are different, and the economy is different. What mom paid for something means nothing in the secondary market.
4. Because so much has changed, it is important for the client to understand the Law of Supply and Demand: As we lose our Depression-era generation, their traditional furnishings are flooding the marketplace. That’s too much Supply. Since the Boomers already have a house full and they too are downsizing, we have even more Supply. The Boomers’ children, or Generations X and Y, do not want really desire many of these items. This is a lack of Demand. Too much Supply and not enough Demand forces prices downward. While not always the case, this is accurate and reflective of today’s market. Things will sell, but not for the amount the client believes.
5. The economy is a part culprit too, so please don’t take it out on the estate sale professional. They want to make as much as possible for you and for them. They want to do an outstanding job.
No matter how good the estate sale professional is, all they can do is their very best to maximize proceeds. The client should set their expectations in “neutral,” as not even the best professional can possibly squeeze out another dime if the public is not willing to part with it.
6. The client has a responsibility to research the estate sale company to ensure they are using a company with an excellent reputation, professionalism, and credibility. They should look for positive and recent testimonials and for professional credibility by belonging to professional organizations. What can this estate sale company do that others cannot? Ask for professional references and then call them.
Search BBB, Angie’s List, and other online reviews, BUT a word of caution. It’s easy for anyone to leave a bad review, get easily frustrated and vent on a liquidator, even be angry their sale did not bring in as much as they thought it should, but that doesn’t mean the liquidator deserves a bad online review. It’s just too easy these days to mar someone’s reputation online. If you see several bad reviews, then that will likely be a red flag.
7. The client and the professional should sit down and discuss all aspects of the process, from reviewing the contract in its entirety, discussing questions/concerns, and setting appropriate guidelines, time frames, and expectations. Open communication should always be of paramount importance.
8. The client should honor the contract they enter into and completely understand what they are signing. For example, no items will be removed after the signing of the contract. The client needs to honor that because of the estate sale professional works very hard for their percentage and has a reputation to uphold.
If the client or family members continue to remove items, it takes income away from the professional, which they originally agreed to when they walked through the home and expected to make. Most estate sales professionals will impose a fee if this happens.
How can a client expect the sale to be successful if everything keeps disappearing? Removing items from a sale weakens it and even affects attendance. Please extend professional courtesy to the professional.
9. The client should respectfully offer the estate sale professional space and freedom to conduct their work. Micro-managing is most distracting to the professional who has a mammoth job to accomplish. What took a loved one over 50 years to accumulate, the estate sales professional must handle within a week or so. The client should have trust in the professional they choose.
10. The client should change the locks and/or change the security code for the professional to have access to the house during the preparation and sale, and also to minimize any possible theft during the time of the preparation and sale.
11. Have only one spokesperson, preferably the decision-maker, such as the power of attorney or executor.
12. Make the professional aware of:
• Family disharmony or ownership disputes
• Who has the keys to the home – consider securing them
• Are the facilities/plumbing/electrical in working order?
• All contact information
13. Ethics, kindness, and professional consideration go both ways. The estate sale professional has a tremendous amount of details to handle for each estate, not to mention dealing with the public, staff, pricing, arranging, scheduling, etc.
14. Understand that there are No Guarantees for the sales proceeds. Remember that the professional wants to do the best they can, for they will benefit from the sale financially as well.
15. Client attendance during the preparation and at the actual sale: The professional knows you want to be involved, but the truth is they can accomplish much more and stay focused if you are not underfoot. Family and friends have the best intentions, but they come over, start talking, going down memory lane, etc. This is certainly understandable, but once you hire a professional, let them do their job. They only have a set timeframe in which to finish the work.
All of these points are extremely valid and should be openly discussed so there are no misunderstandings. A relationship built on care, guidance, ethics, and trust is vital for the success of this process.