There are many pitfalls in trying to find the right person to handle your estate sale. Some of these go beyond the "normal" criteria that you may be evaluating. In another blog post, I will present a list of things that should be considered, but I do want to point out one issue that is much more common in this area than other markets where I have held sales. In most other areas of the country, this practice is not common and is usually frowned upon at the least and viewed as unethical by many including me.
In your discussion with a potential liquidator for your estate, you should ask if they bring in other items to add to your sale. For you, there can only be one acceptable answer and that is "No".
You may hear all kinds of great sounding justifications for "making your sell better" by bringing in "consignment" pieces or just items to add to the appeal to your sale. These justifications can really sound convincing. Just like the city of Troy thought it sounded great to accept the beautiful wooden horse and bringing it past the gates of the city that had held out for ten years in the war with the Greeks. It didn't turn out too well. Instead of benefiting the city, it turned out to be rather detrimental, to say the least.
It is absolutely no different to allow someone to bring in other items to sell at your sale; in your home; in a sense in your sale. You will be told that having more good items in your sale will make more people come; that you just don't have enough in your estate to attract the really good buyers; and similar statements.
In addition, you may be told that these items are consignments from past sales or from people who did not have enough in their estate to have a sale of their own. In some cases, that may be true, but unfortunately, all too often, these items are owned by the liquidator whether they bought it after a previous sale they handled or it may be something they purchased elsewhere with the intention of adding to one of their sales. There are even some who may have gotten it by other means that are less worthy of discussing.
In any case, the premise of making your sale better holds only a small amount of merit. As a professional estate liquidator, it is their job to make the very best of your sale and do what it takes to make your sale successful. Your sale means your items. Other people's items in your sale mean that some of your customers are going to give their money to someone else.
While having a bigger sale may provide more money overall, it does not mean there will be more money for you. If you have a beautiful sideboard in your sale and the liquidator brings in another sideboard to put in your house, in your sale. Whose sideboard are they likely to try to sell the hardest? Yours - where they get 35% of the sales price or theirs - where they get 100%.
There is another aspect of this and that is fraud. If the pieces that are brought into your estate sale and then sold as part of that estate, it is can certainly be considered fraud. Many people buy things from estate sales because they belonged to a friend or someone they knew or, with some sales, a person who is famous, well-known or even notorious. Under those circumstances, adding items and then selling them as belonging to the person's estate could definitely be considered fraud.
This is very different from combining estates, such as when you have two small estates and put them together at one location. Well, it is if you let all of your customers know that it is a combined estate. This is an accepted practice.
In 19 years of estate liquidations, I have established the practice of never bringing in anything to an estate. It fits right in with our pledge that we also never sale anything early to anyone including ourselves. If it was turned over to us to sell, then it will be there when the door opens for the estate sale to begin.
Integrity is everything in this business. There are so many pitfalls that one must be aware. Anyone can say they "do estate sales" and so many, many people do so without anywhere near the amount of experience or integrity that is required.
More in a future blog on how to choose an estate liquidator.