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How to Choose an Estate Liquidator

Updated: Apr 23, 2022

You're an heir recently assigned the arduous task of liquidating an estate. Suddenly, you've got a gaggle of other heirs, possibly an attorney, neighbors and friends coming at you from a multitude of directions.

The heirs each want that special collectible they remember, the attorney wants an appraisal report, neighbors and friends want to give advice and rummage through the contents of the home.

You need to take care of an entire lifetime of accumulated belongings in 30 days, give or take a week. Your first instinct may be to jump in one of those trunks you've found in the attic and not come out until this is all over! But, with the right estate liquidator you can process what took them an entire lifetime to collect and store in this home, and actually find the job rewarding.

When you realize that properly handling the distribution this estate is something to be proud of and that you've tasked with a high honor, you're anxiety will take a back seat.

Brushing the cobwebs from the trunk that you couldn't half fit in anyway, you've made up your mind that your in, all in! Now what?

You'll need to find a good estate liquidator. Period. Unless you're a professional, you don't want to go lone-wolf here! Sure, you'll have friends will tell you to put it all on eBay (very time consuming) or Craigslist (are you ready to deal with the scammers?) or even Facebook Marketplace (rife with no-shows).

Don't get me wrong, any of the above mentioned markets CAN be a good option, for experienced sellers or someone with a lot of free time. Is that you? I didn't think so.

How to pick an estate liquidator?

How do you find a trustworthy company that can help you with this, and in a proper way that will satisfy your legal obligations, the real estate needs, honor the memory of the deceased and give you relief?

  • Be lazy. Start with Google Reviews. 99% of the people that use a service, never leave a review, so the ones that do, really feel they have something to say. But take these reviews with a grain of salt, and average them out. One good or bad review by itself can't tell you much. However if you read 5 or more reviews basically saying the same thing, that's good initial information.

  • Due diligence. Interview one or two auctioneers, antique dealers or estate clean-out companies etc. Which of these do you need? (It's a great idea to work with someone bonded and insured, and in some cases the court may require it)

  1. If you have a house with many items you think are valuable, contact auctioneers, estate liquidators and in some rare cases, a certified appraiser.

  2. If you have a few nice antiques and collectibles, and a lot of bric-a-brac, call an antique dealer to sell the better items, then a cleanout company.

  3. If you don't know what you have, call an auctioneer.

  • Take Your Pick - Want to be sure your getting the best deal from the professional you called? Make their job easy by picking out what you want to keep or give away BEFORE they come to look at the estate. Generally, auctioneers and liquidators are extremely busy people because they're dealing with large jobs. Asking them to come back a second time before you make a decision, stalling, telling them that 25% of the items they just took the time scrutinize may not be available just yet, are all sure-fire ways to get the poorest offers. Because they don't know what they'll come up against in the bid for the job and the job itself due to your uncertainty, they're going to lowball their cash offer. If you are asking them to sell for you on consignment, you are going to pay the highest rate.

  • Don't Waste Time Trying to Help the Professionals do Their Job Too often I'll visit a home in which the client has taken a week or more to "organize" the contents so that it's easier for me to look at. This is unnecessary except in extreme hoarding cases. You're asking for problems if you're squandering time at the detriment of making the following important decisions:

  • What to sell

  • What are the financial goals

  • Picking a date by which house needs to be cleared

  • Do you want one person to oversee the whole process (usually the best option) or several

  • Will you allow the professional to sell from the home (this could increase your bottom line) or have them take it off site only.

Ask Questions and Decide:

Don't be afraid to ask questions of the professional you're considering. After all, it's a job interview. But you should be ready to decide as soon as you've found someone you want to work with. These days, auctioneers, appraisers and liquidators have a large amount of work flying at them and their sale dates get booked quickly. Taking too long to decide could mean you get left behind.

Good Luck!

I hope you find that one of the most difficult jobs you've ever been assigned, turns out to be one of the most rewarding adventures in your life!

Walt Kolenda

Questions? Contact me directly, I'd be happy to help.

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