Starting a Low Start Up Cost Business - Estate Sale Facilitator or Liquidator
Many of times when someone passes away the family either does not have time, lives out of state or just does not want to deal with the cleaning up and disposing of their loved ones items in order to prepare their home for selling. That is when they would hire a Estate Sale Facilitator. An Estate Sale Facilitator is someone who basically sets up and runs an estate sale for those loved ones who for whatever reason cannot do it themselves. Sometimes you may even work for a family whose loved one is going to a nursing home and who needs to scale way back, or possibly someone who is moving out of the country and can’t take their possessions with them, or those who are downsizing, or are having financial difficulty.
Basically your job will be to go through all of the stuff and price it and organize it. You will also need to make the estate look nice and presentable for the sale. You are not required to have an extensive knowledge of antiques, if there are several antiques that you are unable to determine a fair value for using Ebay as a guide for instance you can always ask the family if you may have an appraiser determine the value of the item at their expense.
As for the cost of starting an Estate Sale Facilitator or Liquidator you investment will be more about time then money. You will need to get yourself bonded so that people trust you. Most people do not feel comfortable working with someone in this kind of capacity that are not bonded. You will also need to get insurance, this is to protect you if you accidently damage something belonging to a client or if you get hurt while working on the job. A family is not going to want to hire someone who they will be responsible for damages if that person happens to get hurt. Also you initial advertising costs. You may want to get a web site going that tells about your services there are of course costs associated with that, at very least you will to print of flyers to advertise your business. You will also need to have standard contracts made up where you can change certain things for different jobs such as the percentage charged for each job. You may also want to invest in a few tables to use during sales in case the family does not have an adequate amount. You will need signs and to pay for newspaper ads as the sale but you can wait to purchase things until you have your first client. Then you can take those expenses out of your pay once you have recieved it. Total start up costs will run you between $600 and $800 dollars.
Eventually you may want to hire, but it might help to have someone to help you out during sale days and for the big cleanup after the sale is over. Many times family members of the home owner will be willing to help but if not having a spouse, a close friend, or an teen age child of your own to help you out would be beneficial. Depending on the size of the sale and the home you may need all of those. Those who are not bonded however should not handle cash, they can help bag things up, answer questions and carry things out to people’s cars. You don’t need to include helpers in your start up costs. You can offer those who are willing to help you a percentage at the time of the sale.
As for how much you will make this is a percentage business. Each client should pay a certain percent based on the amount of work you will need to do. You will need to see the home you will be working in and how much stuff you will be dealing with. Percentages can start at 25% for smaller homes with not much stuff to 40% for larger homes, or homes that have a lot of stuff. Keep in mind that a large home with lots of stuff could take you weeks to price and organize everything. Also be sure to charge a higher percentage if the house is messy and you see yourself having to do a lot de-cluttering and cleaning to get it presentable for the sale. Keep in mind if you will need to pay someone to help you out with this particular sale as well and factor that in to your quote. Obviously the sky is the limit on how much you can make in this business.
If the house is really dirty and you don’t want to undertake that you should politely ask the family to have a maid service come in and do a onetime cleaning at their expense. But if you do this yourself the client will be grateful and hopefully throw some referrals your way and you can raise your percentage and make more money. You should also try and get the items priced, the home clean, and the sale organized and over within one month’s time if possible. Remember the family wants to get that house up for sale as soon as possible.
The ideal situation is a house that no one is living in. If no one is living in the house you should get a key so you can work when ever you need to, to get the pricing and organizing done. If there is someone staying at the house set up times where you will be allowed to come in to the house and do what you need to do. Be very clear about how much time you will need.
You don't need any special training to do this job but you should do a little research first. Be sure attend as many estate sales as you can prior before starting this business up yourself. Get an idea for how they are set up, and how things are priced.
Many times the realtor will want to have the house listed at the time of the sale and this is fine. This is great for two reasons, it is great for the family because a lot of people will be coming through and seeing the home and for you it means you might get a chance to meet the realtor. This is a good thing because realtors can be your best friends in this business if you manage to get friendly with them and impress them. If they like you they may be willing to recommend you to their clients, and that is a major plus for you and free advertising to boot.
The final aspect of your job will be getting rid of any remaining items that have not sold. You can ask the family if there is specific charity they would like you to send it to, but it is easiest if you find some place that is convenient for you to bring the items to. You can also ask the family if it is OK if anyone who helped out at the sale may take remaining items. Since they don't want them they probaby won't mind but be sure to ask first out of respect. You could also do a bag sale towards the end of the last day to get items out. This will be less work for you in the long run.
Estate sale facilitators and liquidators will find that their careers are recession proof. There are always going to be reasons for homes to need to be liquidated and there are always going to be families that may want the revenue from such sales but who don’t want to or do not have the time to deal with everything themselves.