Auction 411: Estate Liquidation Auctions, Beginning To EndAuction 411: Estate Liquidation Auctions, Beginning To End

When it comes to auctions, nothing gets the blood bubbling like a good old fashioned estate auction. Now that I have your attention, what if you were responsible for the estate of a family member or loved one after their death? Setting up your own estate liquidation auction is overwhelming at best, regardless of the obvious heartache and bereavement. Have your ever wondered how to hold an estate liquidation auction? Or, have you ever thought of hiring an estate liquidator? These steps will guide you through this rocky road of emotions and loss, and help to make the work of estate liquidation auctions easier.

What is an estate liquidation auction? How does it differ from an estate sale?

When a loved one passes away, their family is often preoccupied with the bereavement and the funeral services, and does not know what to do to regarding the deceased belongings. That is where an estate liquidator comes in. An estate liquidation auction is similar to an estate sale where the main goal is to sell off the home and contents of that home. Where they differ is in the licensing and the wider scope of inclusion which can expand to stocks, bonds, realty property, fine jewelry, coin collections and fine art. With an estate sale you may be limited to the contents of the home alone with a cap on profits for both the family and the liquidator, at an estate liquidation you are able to include so many more variables like homes, vehicles, and monies saved along with heirlooms, coins, jewelery, stocks, bonds, investments and other insurable valuables. There are no caps on profits at an estate liquidation auction, and the family can determine the Estate liquidators are licensed and bonded; they are usually accompanied by licensed realtors, CPAs, appraisers. This is opposed to estate sales, where anyone could set up shop without a license.

Before you start the hunt for a proper estate liquidation auction company, remember people are not their possessions, retain from the estate what is important either emotionally or because it is stipulated in the will - remember once an item is sold it will be difficult or next to impossible to have it returned.

What questions should I ask to hire the best estate liquidator?

When shopping for any service, you should always do research. This is especially important when entrusting your loved ones assets with strangers.

Your best approach for research is to start by calling at least three estate liquidators in or around your area.

- Ask for references, and check them.

Questions to ask when checking references
- Were they professional and courteous?
- How long did the entire process take?
- Did they answer questions as they arose?
- What security, if any did they provide? How much staff did they have?
- Concerning high value items, did they sell them through the estate sale, or through a different auction?

More research questions to ask potential estate liquidators:
- How did they get into the estate liquidation business?

- Ask them what their company's set up and sales fees are.

- Ask them if they are insured, and belong to any organizations.

- Ask them how long they have been in business, and what makes their service better than the others.

- Sometimes it's good to ask them for a success story, these can be quite illuminating as to their business and their attitude toward their clients.

- Ask them how their company accounts for each sold item, do they provide a post sale item inventory and price list?

- How long would it take to reconcile the money and forward a check to the estate?

- For sale remainders, how do they dispose of them? If they donate to charities, do they provide a written valuation and receipt?

- Do they leave the estate in a mess once the sale is complete or do they clean up after themselves?

- Do they themselves purchase items from the estate sale? If so, how do they value those items?

- How do they handle cash found in the home?

- Do they provide preview sales for dealers?

- How do they advertise the estate sale?

- Lastly, ask them this question: Are there any questions I have left unasked?

General tips you should know:
- Good estate liquidators will themselves offer free advice over the phone, so be sure to write down any advise they may impart.

- Before your appointment with the liquidator arrives at the door, separate the estates high valued items from the pack of the rest. It is quite telling to see the reaction of the potential liquidator to these items to get a feel of whether they will be enthusiastic, and respectful.

- Ask friends, family members and professionals what sort of questions they would ask an estate sales company.

Lastly, on average, most liquidators will charge a commission of the net (after costs of running the sale; labor, food, advertising and security) anywhere from 30-50 percent of the proceeds. All initial costs to set up and host the auction are paid out of the pocket of the liquidator. The costs of clean up and dump fees are normally paid from the side of the estate prior to payment.

Good Luck.
by Pat Munro
References and Bibliography
Visit for collectible auctions, appraisals and liquidation and bankruptcy.
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