Frequently Asked Questions
(Compiled by our friends and mentors – WA Estate Liquidation with permission)
What do I need to do before you can hold an auction?
Almost nothing. Please remove any family photos, personal papers, and anything the Estate or family wants to keep and leave everything else where it is. If the family doesn’t want the personal papers or photos, leave them there. You don’t need to haul off or donate anything. You sit back and let us handle it all. You will be surprised at WHAT people buy. We sell everything down to the spices in the kitchen cupboards, clothing in the closets and everything in between. If we don’t’ think an item will sell by itself, we make “box lots” or mystery boxes of random items. It’s better to sell an item as part of a box lot then worry about having to haul it off or pay to take it to the dump. People repurpose and reuse so many different things that we usually have very little left after an auction ends.
How does the process work?
First, we setup a time to meet with you and look at the Estate. There is no charge for us to come out and take a look. If you like us and we think we can be a benefit to your Estate by offering our auction services, we will agree to take on the job of liquidating the estate and we would then email you a digital contract to sign. Once the contract has been signed, we set you up in our computer system as a consignor. After this is done, we will usually get a key from you and place a relator type lockbox on a door. Then we would come in and organize things and take photographs of them where they sit. We put number stickers on the items and upload them to our cloud-based auction site based on the room they are in at the estate. Once everything is cataloged, we then would edit the photos and upload them to the internet auction site with a start date and time agreed on between us and the Estate rep. The Estate rep would review the photos and auction items to ensure everything is good to go and then we would start the auction process. We upload the items and usually try to have them online for between one week and two weeks. We would then advertise the auction on Skagit Breaking, and our Social Media pages. On the agreed auction time the auction goes into “Live” mode. This is when you will see the most bidding activity as bidders compete in real time to “win” the auction items. Starting at lot 1, Each item closes 15 seconds apart, one by one until all items have been sold. We use a “soft close” auction style, so anything that gets a bid in the last two minutes, extends that item by two minutes until all bids are received. Once all items have been “sold” at auction and the auction ends, we immediately download the auction from the cloud-based system, and process invoices. We immediately bill each bidder’s credit card and email them a copy of their invoice with a link to schedule a pickup time on an agreed upon day between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to come and pickup their items. We have our crew on site on pickup day to assist each buyer with picking up their items. We ship worldwide, so we take any items that need to be shipped and we handle all the shipping and charge the buyers directly for shipping costs directly. Once pickup is finished, it is up to each individual estate to decide what they want us to do next. We either haul off and donate any remaining items or we leave them for the estate if the estate wants them left. We then would haul any trash to the dump. We try to recycle and donate everything we can that isn’t useable or sellable. After the sale, the Estate Rep is provided with a detailed inventory list of every item that sold, how much it sold for and how much commission was paid. The Estate rep will receive a second list of unsold items that were left over. Usually within 2 weeks of the auction end a check is sent out to the estate rep for the proceeds of the auction.
Do I have to sign a contract?
Yes. For everyone’s protection, we have you sign a contract. We use lawdepot.com to have you electronically sign a contract. We’re a small business and our word means more than any contract will, but to protect you and I, we have you sign one. We give you the option to cancel the contract and pay nothing if we haven’t started photographing. If we have started photographing, you only pay the auction hosting fee if you should change your mind.
How Much Do Your Services Cost?
Our basic Estate Liquidation Services cost a flat fee based on a sliding scale and auction hosting fee and 35% commission of overall auction sales. **Exception: Vehicles, Tractors, Large Equipment 10% commission) This hosting fee includes labor for photographing the items, uploading and editing the photos as well as labor for auction hosting, auction billing, shipping, labor for pickup day and clean up. **This is subject to change depending on the Estate size, contents of the estate and the quality of the estate items. These costs are not out of pocket but come off of the final invoice at the end of the auction sale.
Do I have to Be there?
No, we regularly work with estate reps who are out of state or that don’t want to be involved in the process. We also know that losing a family member or friend is very emotional and difficult and we will handle the entire process. If you want to be there, you are welcome to do so, but we find that it can be emotionally challenging for people to watch as their loved one’s items are sold off. We don’t have the emotional or sentimental connection to the items, and while we are sensitive to the needs of each individual estate, our goal is to sell the items for as much as we can and empty the property of the contents so the estate can move forward with the next plans for the property.
Do you Deep Clean the Estate after the Sale?
No, we will liquidate the personal property of the estate and haul off the trash. We leave it ready for a deep cleaning but we do not do a deep cleaning at the end.
How do you know how much an item will sell for?
We don’t. An item is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it, so we start everything out on our auctions at a $1.00 opening bid. We let the open market set the price on nearly everything. The key is to market it to the right audiences, so we get at least two people interested in the items and those two people will bid back and forth on it until one of them ultimately wins it. Hibid.com, the auction company we use to host our auctions, is viewed by people across the entire US and in multiple countries. We ship (a lot of auction houses don’t) and therefore we have eyes on our auctions from all over the world.
Can I put Reserve Prices on items?
You can put reserve price on items, but it is discouraged. The point of an auction is to liquidate items. People don’t attend auctions to pay retail prices, they attend them to “get a good deal.” If you plan to put a reserve price on something, try to sell it outright first. We charge the Estate a Buy-Back fee for the amount of commission the item would have made, had it sold for the price it reaches. Example. You have a kitchen table and you want a minimum of $500.00 on it. At auction, the bids get up to $150.00 but doesn’t sell because you have a reserve price on it of $500.00. We would still charge you a 35% buy-back on the commission amount of $150.00 that it would have sold for had you not put a reserve price on it.
What Doesn’t sell well?
Several “used” items don’t sell well. They might actually surprise you and not be what you expected. In our experience, items that don’t sell very well include, beds with any sort of flaws/stains, floral print couches, collector’s plates such as bradford exchange, etc, most clear glassware and most any LARGE solid wood/oak furniture pieces (even if they cost $1,000’s of dollars when they were new). A lot of families are living in small apartments and tiny homes and don’t have room for the large furniture pieces. A lot of mixed or blended families also don’t sit down for formal dining and China Hutches, Large tables, etc sometimes are a hard sell for more than a couple dollars. The benefit of selling them for a couple dollars at auction to someone who is going to repurpose them is you don’t have to move the items. Many charities are no longer accepting large furniture items either.
What if I want to sell something from the Estate Outside of the Auction?
Once we sign a contract with an Estate Rep, everything needs to be sold through the auction process. When we agree to take on an Estate, there is a lot of work involved. We have employees to pay and we base our agreement on the items we have seen included in the estate and what we believe we can sell those items for and what we would make in commission off of those items. If we allowed estate reps to remove items, especially the “good” items and sell them privately, we would not only be losing money but those items might be the entire reason we agreed to do the estate in the first place, because we agreed to sell the entire contents of the estate, including the good and the bad. You are welcome to give the person interested in the item the auction link and have them bid on the item.
What Shouldn’t I do Before I call you?
This is a very common question. Time and time again, we’ve heard “I had someone (antique dealer, etc) come in and look at the Estate and they only agreed to buy a few things but wouldn’t do an entire estate sale. STOP!!! They cherry picked your good items and left you to find someone else to deal with the rest. If they aren’t willing to deal with the entire estate, why give them first dibs at the good stuff? Many times, we will decline an estate sale if it has been cherry picked of the good stuff. Part of dealing with entire estates is there needs to be enough Good stuff to offset the bad stuff. If it has been cherry picked already, there might not be enough stuff left to make it worth it for an estate company such as ours. Ask what they would be willing to pay outright, take their name and number and base your minimums or reserves off of those prices and see what happens at auction. You can always send them a link to the auction and if they were serious about buying the items, they will bid on them. Otherwise, you might be surprised what those cherry picked items can bring in at auction.