When starting an estate sale business, one always wonders how much to charge in estate sale fees or establish a standard estate sale commission to follow. How much do estate sale companies charge? It’s not as simple as setting a number, there are a few factors to consider.
- Quality and level of service provided
- Geographical location
- Local competition
If you’re a client that stumbled upon this article, we’re glad you’re here. You’ll get a very good idea of the efforts that estate sale companies must go through in order to conduct a professional and successful estate sale for you.
Don’t let the lowest estate sale commission be your motivator when hiring a company. Focus your efforts on finding a professional estate sale company that’s reputable, experienced, and is insured to protect you and your home from any potential liabilities.
Remember the old saying “If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. You should be able to make a wise decision after interviewing a few companies and by clearly asking them what they offer, and if their commission is all inclusive or not.
Estate Sale Commission or Flat Fee?
If you’re an estate sale company, the fee you charge is your decision. Estate sale clients however do prefer the commission structure over a flat fee, why?
Earning commission based on the amount of sales is a motivator in itself. A client is much happier and more eager to pay money if they make money. It’s also in the best interest of the estate sale liquidator to sell the items at the highest value possible.
There are a few companies that charge a flat fee for their estate sale services, but the majority of estate liquidators work based on a commission structure in addition to flat fees for particular job requirements that go beyond the selling of items.
Justifying Estate Sale Commissions
In a highly competitive market, you may be interviewed and often times asked why your commission is higher than someone else.
Be prepared to answer with justifiable reasons that make sense to the client. All the added services you provide, costs that may already be included in your commission instead of added fees, and put them at ease by explaining it clearly.
In an unregulated industry, it’s difficult for a client to compare estate sale companies.
It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Not all companies hold liability insurance policies, have an experienced staff, provide a final list of sold items, or are members of distinguished estate sale industry organizations. These things cost money, thus the cost to conduct business is higher.
Many liquidators already have a large following of buyers and thousands of people in their email list, while others just started in the estate sale business and just want to get the first sale.
Fees should not be the biggest motivator in choosing you, and this is something that each client must understand clearly when making a final decision, be their guide to help them understand.
Be prepared to highlight all the differentiating factors about your company and explain why the services you offer are worth every penny.
Establishing your Estate Sale Fees
Before establishing a standard estate sale company commission, one must understand the cost involved in holding a professional estate sale.
The costs will obviously vary with each sale depending on the size of it, amount of items available in the home, number of days required to stage the estate sale, and not to forget additional operational and marketing costs.
Some companies choose to include their fees in the commission they earn, thus they charge a higher percentage, others will charge a separate fee for certain services such as final clean up or labor, thus making their commission less, but this should clearly be defined in the written estate sale contract and made clear to all parties involved.
Estate Sale Costs to Consider as a Liquidator
This could be a variety of things, but there are some common costs to consider when establishing a usual and customary fee for specific tasks that may be required of you beyond your general state sale duties.
How many employees will you need to properly stage the sale? Inventory, research, pricing the items, and security during the estate sale are all costs to consider when establishing estate sale labor costs.
Some sales held in gated communities may require you to hire additional labor to direct traffic or stand at the gate and direct buyers to the sale.
Each company is different, some may charge labor costs separate from their commission, thus keeping their commission low, while other companies roll this cost into the estate sale commission they set with their client and charge a higher percentage.
When considering labor costs, remember to include everyone involved in the estate sale process, not only the employees you hire. Your time is also valuable, did you include it in the labor fees or will your pay come from the final commission?
These are fine details to consider that will make a big difference in your bottom line and overall profit.
Estate Sale Security Fees
Does the sale warrant a full-time security guard due to the items available in the home? Many estate sale companies may have to hire security if there are a lot of valuable items such as jewelry, fine collectibles, etc..
This security fee may be something you want to add as a separate line item on an estate sale contract and only discuss it when the type of sale warrants its discussion.
Jeanette McBeth, owner of Platinum Estate Sales of Distinction, LLC recently stated that “clients pay for security if they request it. Higher commission for mold in contract and or feces, but must be large areas, clients pay for dumpster and clean outs.”
While establishing a standard commission structure, always keep security in mind and be willing to adjust when necessary.
No two estate sales are the same, therefore your fees must also be adjusted when the situation warrants an adjustment in estate sale fees.
Material & Equipment Costs
Cases, tables, table covers, pricing tags, markers, tape, and signs are common materials to have available at every sale, but if the sale is extremely dirty or a “hoarding situation” requiring certain cleaning materials, or specific equipment like a golf cart rental due to long distance driveways and additional display cases, these are a few things to consider and may be outlined as separate fees on the estate sale contract specific to that sale.
Advertising and Marketing Costs
Some sales may require above average advertising and marketing. Sure you can list your estate sale online with estate sale listing sites, market your sale on your social media channels, and even send out an email to your list of estate sale shoppers, but if it’s a sale that requires a national reach, an entire print ad because it’s held for a public figure, or the items at the sale are so rare they may interest clients from all over the country, you can easily rack up a large advertising expense you didn’t account for which will cut into your bottom line and profit.
Taking these estate sale costs into consideration early will help you adjust your fees and final earnings.
- Pay-Per-Click Ads
- Boosted Social Media Ads
- Magazine Print Ads
- Local Newspaper Ads
- Premium Estate Sale Listings
Clean-up and Disposal Costs
The goal of an estate sale is to have everything sold by the end of the estate sale, but not all estate sales sell out and there are sometimes many large furniture pieces and items left in the home at the end of the sale.
The client may ask you to offer a clean-up service at the end. Is this something you want to include in the commissions you earn or charge separately for?
This is a decision you will have to make because it will also require labor, a trash bin, or possibly even a disposal truck and a dump fee.
Every penny counts, and being aware of the costs early will help you negotiate properly, earn fairly, and make it clear to the client prior to signing a contract.
We spoke with Victoria Prieto, owner of All Treasured Estate Sales, an estate sale company serving the Denver Colorado area for over 15 years and a member of our Estate Sale Company Network Group on Facebook about additional fees and here’s what she had to say:
“There is an extra fee for unsold pianos and old school chest freezers. It doesn’t happen often, however it’s quite costly to have a large piano moved out of a basement. I always let the client know I will do everything possible to sell it first, and even offer it for free at the end of the sale to help them avoid the additional cost. If I cannot do either, there is an additional fee added. The same applies to a 500lb freezer. We always communicate with the client and give them options before, during and after the sale.”
Estate Sale Cancellation Fee
No one ever wants to deal with this, but cancellations do happen. Imagine after scheduling a sale which books those days on your schedule, you and your employees spend the time required to inventory, stage, research and price the sale items just to receive that dreaded phone call asking you to cancel due to a family feud, or the client simply wants to cancel or even reschedule due to whatever reason!
Unless you’re a volunteering service and running a non-profit estate sale company, you’re owed some money for the labor costs incurred and loss of business.
This fee is also something you must consider, and it’s your choice of whether you charge specifically for the costs incurred, a lump sum or a fee per day.
Estate Sale Commission Standards
There are no estate sale industry standards set for commissions. Each liquidator decides on the commission they want to charge for the job they do, and may actually adjust it from one sale to another.
Sometimes the same estate sale can have two different commission structures depending on certain items.
Clients may decide it’s not in their best interest to pay a 30% or 40% commission on a boat, motorcycle or certain jewelry. The company must be willing to make estate sale commission adjustments to satisfy the client, and they do it all the time.
A 40% commission fee may be charged for the estate sale, but specific items may only earn them a 15% or 20% commission.
Estate Sale commission and fees are often negotiated before the final contract is outlined and signed.
It’s not uncommon to see a 90% commission if it’s an extremely labor-intensive sale that addresses a hoarding situation with a lot of clean up and things that go above and beyond the calls of duty such as mold.
A probate sale that may require a company to supply detailed information beyond their normal list, or appear in court does require more time and labor. This cost can’t be ignored and should also be considered.
So, if you’re new and considering what your estate sale fees should be, set a standard commission you want to follow but at least be willing to negotiate when necessary.
No Hidden Estate Sale Fees
Put yourself in the client’s shoes. There’s nothing worse than dishonesty or perceived dishonesty. One of the biggest conflicts that occur in the estate sale industry between clients and companies involve the final pay out.
Often times, clients look at their final check and aren’t satisfied with what they see. Granted, many of them are unrealistic about the value of the items in the home and think they should’ve sold for more.
This along with added fees they didn’t expect, or think they weren’t made aware of is generally the cause of many feuds that go on for months, and can cost companies their reputations. It’s something that can easily be avoided with a legally binding and detailed estate sale contract.
Elizabeth Naumann Pier, owner of Estate Finds Online, a St. Lawrence County Estate Sale Company is another professional member in our estate sale company network, said “Once we visit with a client and establish the goal they’re looking to accomplish, we evaluate the best liquidation method to fit their particular situation. Our fees and costs are always discussed with them, and outlined in a written and binding contract between us”.
Estate Sale Written Agreement or Contract
Conducting estate sales within the guidelines of a written contract is possibly the safest method to protect yourself, your client and your estate sale company.
You may want to even take it a step further by sitting down with the client and explaining each section just like a Realtor does when signing the final contract of a home purchase. Having the client initial each section that outlines any added fees will give you the peace of mind you need and a good reference to send your clients to if any complaints ever arise after the sale is over.
Once you have a business name, a legal contract, and proper insurance, create branded estate sale signs and use our tips for marketing your company and advertising your estate sales, also read our great guide to efficiently stage an estate sale.
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We bring estate sale clients, estate sale shoppers and estate liquidators together. If you’re a liquidator, we harness the experience of professionals in the industry and bring you information and tools to help you grow your business.
Whether you’re an existing company or just starting an estate sale company. Here are the best resources to get you started.
- Register and list your liquidation business to receive leads
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- Want to sell online? List on our online auction and reach collectors worldwide
- Want to learn more about the Industry? Get the latest from our Estate Sale University
- Want to Network with other companies? Get vetted and join our private estate sale company network group on Facebook.
If you’re an estate sale client looking to hire a professional, we invite you to contact us or choose from a list of estate sale companies and professional auctioneers listed on our site. Want to shop estate sales? Buy online or find an estate sale in your area.
Let Us Know!
Are there any additional costs incurred or added during an estate sale that we didn’t capture in the article above?
Send us a message or a comment below and we’d love to add it to our article, mention you and share it with everyone else.
Our goal is to provide the public with a behind the scenes peek at what estate sale companies have to endure in order to provide a successful estate sale while helping newcomers to the industry learn the best methods of conducting professional estate sales and become reputable members in the estate sale industry.