Once you have decided that using a professional liquidator is your best option to liquidate your estate or the estate of a loved one, the interview process is the next step to determine which liquidator to hire.
There are plenty of sites out there that will give you endless lists of questions to ask during the interview. And it won’t take you long to realize that most of these lists simply recycle the same set of questions (and answers!) over and over. For example…
How long have you been in business?
How much time do you need to set up the sale?
What are your fees?
You can get these basic questions anywhere. Just search “estate sale questions” and you’ll get dozens of pages. Or go to a liquidator’s website and check out their “FAQ” page.
What I want to give you, though, is a set of questions almost no liquidator wants to list on their “FAQ” page.
Why? Simple: these aren’t the “fluff” questions. They exemplify the potential problems that can occur before, during and after the sale. And they can show you how strong (or how weak) the liquidator may be when problems arise or disputes come up.
1. How do you handle money found in the estate?
We have experienced plenty of cases where we find hidden or lost money: $20 bills hidden under drawer liners, cigar boxes filled with coins, even old film canisters filled with nickels!
But not all money’s the same. A glass jar filled with pennies is quite different from a small stash of 1920’s Standing Liberty quarters. That jar of pennies is worth nothing more than their face value. Those old quarters, even if they are severely worn, have some serious collector value and are definitely worth more than 25 cents each.
When we find money, we separate the collectible from the non-collectible money. The collectible money (if the client wishes) gets included in the items we sell at the estate sale. The non-collectible money gets handed off to the client. In this way, we maximize the profit the client can get from any found currency.
2. What kind of signage do you display inside the house?
Signing within the home itself is important for three main reasons:
- to show what parts of the home are open to your buyers (“directional signage”)
- to show what parts of the home may be hazardous to them (“warning signage”)
- to indicate the policies of the liquidator (“informational signage”).
Directional signage is critical to a successful sale. If buyers don’t get a clear view of where the garage is or how to get to the basement, they may end up never going to these areas…and that means loss of sales!
Warning signage is critical to a safe sale. Signs telling warning people of stairs, low ceilings or broken flooring tell the buyer that there are some hazards in the home they need to watch out for if they enter.
Informational signage is critical to a smooth-running sale. Such signage should clearly indicate the days and hours of the sale, the liquidator’s payment policy (do they take checks or credit cards?), pick-up policy (when do items have to be removed from the estate?) and discount policy (are prices firm? what discounts are available?).
If you are considering hiring a professional liquidator, be sure to ask them what kind of signs they plan on putting up at your estate sale. And be sure to take some time the night before the sale and make sure these signs have been put up.
3. Is there a contract to sign?
To this day, I am still surprised as to how many “professional” liquidators run estate sales without a formal contract first being signed.
But why? Well, a well-written contract is not something you can easily write up on your own or get a copy of off the internet. They can easily run hundreds of dollars to have written up by an attorney. But this is no reason why a professional service provider should not have a formal contract.
So if the liquidator doesn’t have a contract and is willing to make the entire liquidation process a “gentlemen’s agreement” with nothing more than a handshake, I would skip them and look elsewhere. No signed contract means no protection for you, your home or its contents.
If there is a contract, ask the liquidator if you can get a look at it before signing. Don’t be offended, though, if the liquidator won’t let you keep the blank copy.
So after you’ve asked all the canned “fluff” questions, ask these questions of the liquidator if you are seriously interested in using them. Their answers can easily make the difference between a successful estate sale and a sale where you actually lose money…or worse.