We hear a lot of success stories from the estate sale companies that list on our website. Whether they’ve been in business for decades, have special expertise, are particularly good with clients, or they’ve found the “special sauce,” successful estate sale companies have a lot to teach us about standing out in a sometimes over-saturated industry. What factors into an estate sale company making it. . . versus barely scraping by?
We talked to some of our most viewed estate sale companies to find out some of their secrets. Dallas, Texas based Attics to Basements Estate Sales received the third most views on our website during 2016. We got in touch with owner Mark Pittmann to find out what qualities he attributes to staying in business so long, any advice he has for newbies, and what he says is the most important part of being an estate liquidator.
EstateSales.org: How long have you been in the estate sale business?
Attics to Basements: This is the beginning of my 19th year—almost exactly, next month will be 19 years, so it’s been many years in the works. I haven’t been advertising on your website that long though—six years I think, but I’ve done at least 500 sales on your website, maybe 600, so I do 3 or 4 a week normally. Next week I actually have five.
EstateSales.org: How large is your company?
Attics to Basements: I’ve got a big staff. There’s 26 of us. I’ve got managers and assistant managers, and I have a special supervisor and a great staff. I love my staff! We are just really close, and we’re all addicted to this line of work. This is my addiction—going into all these houses and selling everything. And we have a wonderful track record. We’re very sincere. Our intent is very clear: anything that we need to do for the client. We always focus on the client.
EstateSales.org: Do you have a big following?
Attics to Basements: We have thousands of followers, which is wonderful. So when there’s a bad one I make sure that we run them off. . . I don’t have time for a mean person or a thief or a liar, or someone that’s causing trouble, so our following is good people, loyal people. We’ve weeded out all the bad people.
EstateSales.org: What about your clients?
Attics to Basements: My clients are wonderful. They’re interviewing me for the job, but I’m also interviewing them—they just don’t realize it. You’ve got to make sure the client is someone you can please. There’s one every so often that I don’t feel I can, and so I decline the opportunity to conduct their sale. You know, it’s kind of important to me that I select the best clients for me because I want their complete happiness, I want complete success. Our goal is to please the client and obtain top dollar and an empty house, so whatever that takes, is our job description.
EstateSales.org: How did you grow your following?
Attics to Basements: This is the beginning of my 19th year so we’ve been around a long time. We’re one of the oldies! The new people in today’s world are trying to figure out how to obtain that. . . and well you know what? The answer is: Get down and get dirty! You’ve got to do the dirty work, you’ve got to do the work that’s required to obtain the reputation. I’m stuck with my reputation, that’s why it’s very, very important to me. That’s why I want happy clients.
I am the most reviewed estate sale company on Angie’s list with the most A’s, and they featured me in their Angie’s List monthly magazine a few years ago, so all that’s wonderful too. So there’s a lot of things that’s added to it. But my email list is almost 8,000 people—and those are loyal followers—and I’d say, maybe, at the most, 2% of those people are antique dealers. Most of the following are simply people who are addicted to the estate sale world, and looking for things for their collections or their homes.
EstateSales.org: Technology has changed a lot over the years. . .
Attics to Basements: Technology has changed so much since I’ve been in business! We used to not take credit cards! Now people sign up for our email list on our website, [on tablets or smartphones] at our sales, however they want to do it.
EstateSales.org What would you say is an estate sale company’s biggest challenge?
Attics to Basements: I think it’s integrity. I have integrity, and my followers and my clients will tell you that, and my staff will tell you that, too. It’s extremely important to me to maintain integrity on a day-to-day basis. The new people don’t have a name, and they don’t really know what they’re doing, and they’re hoping that they’ll have success overnight, and it isn’t going to happen. They have to develop that integrity that comes from doing a job well. A lot of people aren’t willing to do a job well done. They’re just not willing to do it because they want instant results.
See, in the old days when I got into it, I knew there was no such thing as instant results. You can’t get that into anybody’s head space because in today’s world with telecommunications and everything, everyone wants instant results. . . that’s why you have Twitter and Yelp and all this. And I couldn’t be less interested in that, you know, because to me, that doesn’t get you anywhere. The only thing that gets you anywhere is quite simply: integrity from a job well done. You’ve got to earn your stripes.
EstateSales.org: What are some examples of “getting down and dirty”?
Attics to Basements: You’re gonna have to do the hoarders, right along with the million dollar houses. Every week I probably have a million dollar house, but every other week I have a hoarder. I’ve never been snooty or uppity enough to just take the million dollar houses like some of these estate sale companies will do. I believe in serving the community, and we all live our lives differently, so every house is different. There’s no two estate sales the same.
Now I do request a minimum of $10k in estate sale value. In other words, I hope to ring that much on the cash register, so I can’t afford to do little biddy sales because I have too much overhead and I have a very expensive staff. But I am willing to do anybody’s house of value.
A lot of people go, “Well I don’t do little old lady houses,. . . well you know what? You’ve got to do those! You’ve got to serve the general public, you’ve got to serve the neighborhood, and that’s what you’re well known for. And that’s what I’m well known for. And the more of the general public I serve and I please, the better I do. And that develops your integrity. It’s doing the dirty work, it’s earning your stripes, and it’s pleasing the community. Because if you don’t please the community, you won’t go anywhere. And you’re not going to have overnight success.
I have been fortunate enough that I have grown every single year of my career—goodness! The last two years was like 150 sales each year and I’m already six sales ahead of last year, and I’m going to exceed that this month. I already have 17 sales booked in May for the four weeks, so it’s going to be crazy. The rest of the year is gonna be just crazy….but that reason it’s crazy is because I have built that up, and I have made sure that my integrity is in check and the egos are in check with my staff, and we stay centered and focused every day. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job.
EstateSales.org: Do you have any advice for estate sale companies starting out?
Attics to Basements: You’ve got to please the client. There’s this guy that just came out with this book. . . and his complaint was that there wasn’t enough customer satisfaction in the estate sale world for the buyers. Well you know, maybe that’s true, but I felt that he completely missed the mark. He said all estate sale companies tended to be too focused on the client and not on the buyer, and I’ve got news for him. He couldn’t be more wrong!
We go out of our way to please our buyers. We have so many regulars, and I am so fortunate that if I have three or four or five sales a week, they go to every single one. I mean, I have such a wonderful customer base, but the main focus has to be on the client. Like for instance, I’m your client. I advertise on your website, so I’m your client. That needs to be your focus (laughs) and that’s why you’re talking to me right now.
Well, my client is the one that hires me to conduct their estate sale. That has to be my focus. . . So there you go.
We’re all gonna need an estate sale one day, and we better do everything we can to please our client. I leave every house the way I would want my house left at the end of the sale. I tidy it up, make sure all the trash is bagged, I make sure it’s just as neat and tidy as I can and that’s what pleases my client. That’s where my reputation comes from. That’s why I was mentioning integrity,
It’s all about integrity. You’ve gotta do exactly how you’d want done to you.
If you’re in the metroplex area, be sure to check out Attics to Basements!
Have you ever been involved in an estate sale? What tips can you offer, either as an estate sale company, client or a customer? We’d love to hear from you!