Tips for a successful estate sale

(from someone who knows).

I know a little about estate sales but from a consumer’s point of view as I have contracted with 6 different estate sale firms across the USA over the years. From California to Buffalo New York, from Tucson to Redmond Washington, and Palm Beach to Dallas.

My first and most important tip is to make sure and hire a company with lots of experience. I learned this the hard way. Inexperienced people are simply operating on a trial by error basis. Don’t let people ‘practice’ on your belongings. Inexperienced people also do not know the idiosyncrasies in providing comphrensive security. There is much more to security than simply putting one staff member in each room of a home. Security includes being prepared for the unexpected and in this day and age, this is extremely important.

With my first estate sale I hired a nice older couple who clearly were not on the cutting edge of security. They had a trusting nature and didn’t provide any level of security so we had a lot of ‘shrinkage’. I lost a Chanel button collection, a pair of fur gloves, some designer pocket squares, my vintage cheese knife collection, and surely more because they did not keep adequate records. This happened back in the early 90’s when crime was at a much lower level. I can imagine what would happen today under the same circumstances. Don’t let this happen to you.

The second most important thing to watch for is the process that any firm uses. Look for a firm who is steadfast in what they do. If they have been in the business for 20+ years let them do their job, as they know best. Don’t micromanage the process and insist the process go your way. As long as they are experienced, let them do what has worked for them.

Also important is personality. Choose someone who is alert and on the ball. Selecting a sweet older couple was not the best choice and neither was a team of two young girls just starting out. This is not a game, select someone who is professional, who is “all business” and knows the ropes. Selecting someone with a pleasant personality is also needed because you will be interacting with them so weed out the grouches, slow pokes, slow talkers, and alike. High energy and professionalism is what worked best for us.

Follow your gut. If you follow your gut you likely choose well. Interview a few firms and go with your instinct. If you trust them like you trust your sister or brother that is a good sign. Remember these people will be in charge of your belongings so a high level of trust is needed.

Finally, do yourself a favor and ask for references and then check the references. So many times people don’t want to ask for references because they think they will be viewed as not trusting but it is not an insult to ask for references. People also often make the mistake of not checking the references they have been provided. If you’re lucky enough to get a referral from a probate attorney, that is a good sign and you are bound to get an accurate review.

So in short, look for experience, professionalism, and trusting and pleasant demeanor.