1. Learn about the range of services they provide. Generally the services they offer are listed on their website and vary quite widely. This will enable you to ask specific questions to ensure they offer the service you need.
2. Call more than 2 companies and talk with them to get a sense of whether you would like to make an appointment to meet with them and discuss your needs in greater depth.
3. What is the real cost? The charge for the service is generally given as a percentage. You will want to use the service that has the experience and reputation to draw more of the right buyers, will set the prices correctly for today’s market and will provide the buyers with a pleasant experience resulting in more sales. Don’t let the percentage charged be the only criteria – a lower percentage charged at a poorly organized and run sale does not usually make more money.
4. VERY IMPORTANT – Visit a sale! The best way to get a feel for a company is to watch them in action. Go to a sale but don’t introduce yourself or discuss your needs. Look and see how it is set up:
- Are the items clean and respectfully displayed?
- Do all the items have price tags on them?
- Are they too quick to drop their price on an item – a sign that items are knowingly overpriced for the market?
- Are the staff efficient and pleasant? Is there enough staff in the right places?
- Is there a good turnout of buyers? Are they purchasing or just looking and leaving?
- Is someone knowledgeable clearly in charge?
Look for what is important to you – Don’t get caught up by fancy websites, advertising or smooth talking – Go and see if what has been pitched to you is true.
5. Interview the Company owner/manager you see as the best choice, once you have narrowed it down. Set up an appointment for them to come and meet with you. They will want to see what you have to liquidate and you will want to see their response to your belongings and premises.
6. Do not throw anything away – that” pile of junk” could be worth big money!
7. Remove or clearly label the items which are not to be sold before getting a bid. Realize that most companies work on a percentage so the more they can make for you the more they make. Their bid to you is based on what you represent will be for sale. Many companies will charge a commission for items of value which are included in what they based their bid on but then removed.
8. Very Important: Make sure that the company you are hiring is carrying liability insurance, WCB, and have a license to do business. Should anything happen while they or anyone else is in your home you may be held responsible for costs if proper coverage is not in place. it is easy for any company to say they are covered but ask for proof. Most professionals will show you the actual documents supporting their claim.
9. Beware of impossible promises – an estate service is not a charity and cannot offer a charitable receipt for donations, no matter how well connected they are with the intended recipient charity. In Canada receipts for charitable donations can only be provided by registered charities and certain other specific organizations. Check the Canada Revenue Agency Guidelines “Which organizations can issue official donation receipts”.
10. How are they going to leave the home once the sale is completed? Watch for the term “broom clean” – this means you just get the floors swept afterwards, but if the home needs to be professionally cleaned for new owners or to list the home for sale you may require more of a service. Discuss it with them!
9. Get a contract. A contract is extremely important. It should detail when the sale will be held, how much the company is charging, when you get paid and any other specifics you have negotiated, such as final cleaning. DO NOT hire a company or let a company start working without a contract! You should both have a signed copy. A good company will generally ask you for a deposit and provide a receipt showing both parties are acting in good faith.