The Unscrupulous estate sale

  • By Fred Durnbaugh
  • 24 Oct, 2017

Why you should never have an estate sale

estate sales are a no win scenario
Estate sales are a no win scenario
Why people hire estate sale or tag sale companies over auction companies always amazes me. While there may be some good estate sale companies out there, there are also a majority of unscrupulous estate sale companies out there.
At least 2 to 3 times a month we are contacted by someone who hired an estate sale company only to get ripped off in the end. We have heard about estate sale companies selling items at 90% off to friends and family members so they could sell the items online for a maximum profit. Or estate sale companies that took all the unsold items after the sale claiming they would be donated to charity only to find out the company sold them elsewhere and kept 100% of the sale proceeds. I could go on and on about these con artist estate sale companies but would run out of room in this article.
 Keep in mind estate sale companies are not licensed or regulated by any government entity. As such they have no accountability whatsoever. There are no Estate sale company laws on the books requiring any type of sales tracking or pricing of items or required education or licensing. Estate sale companies are a rare business that has operated for years without any accountability.
 I am always amazed as to why people hire them over an auction company or any other type of quality sales company, yet I am certain why though. Estate sales companies convince sellers that their valuables will be priced correctly and sold for good value. So the customer hires them watches them place high prices (many times overpricing items to keep the customer content) and the customer feels relieved that their family heirlooms will sell for good prices. But beware this is where the trick lies, the estate sale company begins a drive to the bottom of pricing from day one of the 3 day sale. Most contracts of an estate sale company have a clause that allows them to negotiate prices lower each sale day. This is an example of an actual contract clause from a local estate sale company;   
"During the course of the sale, we may negotiate prices with customers and accept a lesser price as we consider appropriate in order to achieve the two objectives stated above. However, you may establish minimum prices for a small number of items , if desired. Please provide us a list two weeks before the estate sale begins of the minimums established for those few items . On the second day of the sale, we will reduce the prices of the items being sold [Notice they don't tell you how much they will reduce the prices] , except on specific items which minimums have been established"
 Notice there are no specific numbers as too how much a price will be lowered, of course not they can set any price they want and sell to family or friends and you literally have no recourse. Never sign a contract with this much vague wording, always demand exact numbers and if they won't give them don't sign. If estate sales are so great then why do they need to lower prices so much in order to get the sale? People are conned every day with these companies and yet they continue to operate.
 The difference in an online auction company such as is total transparency. The discomfort that the customer has with online auction companies is that the items usually start at $1.00 and in the customers eyes they think "everything will sell for $1.00" this is why they sign with the unscrupulous estate sale company rather than the online auction. What the customer must understand is that the items go into competitive bidding and unlike an estate sale company that drives prices down, an auction drives prices up with no ceiling. The seller must focus on the end results of the auction not the start.
 Items priced in an estate sale will never go above the initial tagged price and more often than not are sold for much less than the tagged price. The online auction can be monitored by the seller in real time and the seller can watch as prices are driven up not down.  The biggest advantage to increasing bid dollars is that we advertise nationwide to literally thousands upon thousands of buyers compared to an estate sale company that may at best get a couple hundred buyers walking through on a 3 day weekend.
 We could go on and on with this subject but would run out of blog room. While their are good estate sale companies out there, there are many that take advantage of no regulations, education or licensing requirements as well as no recourse if they rip you off. The only recourse a customer has is to pay $1000 or more to retain an attorney and file a law suit to sue the estate sale company all the while spending thousands in court costs and attorney fees.
 It's not worth it to take that kind of chance with your estate. Hire the licensed and regulated auction company that a simple call to the state licensing board will usually take care of any major issues you may come across with them.

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