Estate Sales: Do-It-Yourself vs. Hiring a Professional Estate Liquidation Company

We recently had the opportunity to have an email-based conversation with a potential client.  The question at hand was: “Should a family attempt to organize and run their own sale, or is it best to hire a professional?”

Later in this post I will share that email exchange, but first let’s consider the driving reasons behind this question.

First, the idea behind Do-It-Yourself projects of any kind are, to some degree, based on the notion that it will cost less.  Or, in the case of Estate Liquidating, the idea is that more money will be netted by the family if no commission fees are being paid out to a professional.  In my experience, as both a previous Do-It-Myself-er, and as a current Professional Estate Liquidator, I believe this is a false premise.  Professionals have knowledge, connections, and skills that a layman won’t have – and a skilled professional in this field will most often net enough money to more than cover the commission paid to them.

Second, selling one’s own items can be a very emotionally draining experience.  We all have emotional attachments to things in our homes – items received as a gift, or items which are tied to a special memory, or simply the idea of no longer having “that thing that I might need someday” – there is separation anxiety to wrestle through when parting with furniture, household items, and even decorator items and trinkets.  Sentiment can cloud the judgement of family members concerning the real-world value of any given item.  A professional will be sensitive to those emotional ties had by the family (and in many cases, help the family decide if a particular piece may be too important to the family to sell – no amount of money can pay for the sentimental value of a treasured possession), but also be able to properly evaluate the item(s) in order to connect the item(s) with an appropriate buyer. 

Finally, liquidating an Estate often involves the cooperation of several siblings and other family members.  In the best of circumstances it might be difficult to come to a consensus on the details of when, where, how, and for what dollar amount to sell things.  Grief or stress WILL exacerbate these emotions and make even small decisions appear to be paramount; and in my experience, cause family discord which can mostly be avoided by having a professional company involved.  A skilled professional will attend to the concerns of all the parties involved, while working toward the intended goal of a timely and financially successful Estate Sale.

As the old saying goes, “A physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.”—Sir William Osler.  For all the reasons listed above, this understandably goes for Estate Liquidation as well. 

The email exchange below will spell out some of what most families are wrestling with as they approach a decision over how best to handle a Moving or Estate Sale.

Q: Can people “bargain” on a price of an item at an estate sale or do they just accept the tagged price?

A: In the Estate Sale format people often do bargain, and unless the company has posted a sign that their prices are “firm”, and therefore, not negotiable, bargaining is a common and even somewhat expected practice.

Q: Do you (the professional company) price the item in an estate sale or does the owner price them or do you do it together?

A: Generally speaking, the owner has hired the Estate Liquidation company for their expertise and professionalism, and therefore trust the company to do the pricing, marketing, and bargaining. Pot Of Gold Estate Liquidations, LLC believes in open communication, and welcomes general input and any historical information from the family, but harmony and timeliness of the running of the sale is best served when the family allows us to work in freedom and trust.  These are pretty specific questions you are asking…do you have an Estate Sale you need us to organize for you?

Q: Yes, we will probably want to have an Estate Sale early in November, 2010, but we are selling some things now.

A: Please allow me to offer you some things to consider:

If you are selling items before you hire a professional you run several risks. 

 #1) You are likely not getting the best price for the items you are selling, and may even make less than you would net after paying the professional’s seller fees.  It is not uncommon for people who aren’t in the business, and who don’t have the connections and knowledge of second-hand market pricing, to inadvertently sell all the high-dollar items of value for less than they could have netted, and then be left with only unsellable items.

 #2) A full home, which appears as a genuine ”selling of all items in a person’s estate” will attract more people, and will cause each item in the home to, therefore, command a higher price than will a small amount of items in a home that looks “picked over”. 

 #3) An Estate Liquidator of our caliber will not take “left-over” sales.  And in our experience, the companies who will, are likely to gain you only “Garage Sale” or “Moving Sale” prices, rather than “Estate Sale” prices.

Again, I hope I have been of help. 

–Cheryl Todd