No matter what business you’re in, it’s exciting to get a potential lead. Estate sale leads can be initially evaluated over the phone but in almost all cases, a follow-up on-site estate sale interview is needed to further evaluate the items being sold, scheduling and what’s required of you as an estate sale company.
Here are some tips we gathered for you to use during your estate sale client interview.
Preparing for An Estate Sale Interview
Like any interview, being on time is extremely important. If you’re late, you give your potential client the indication that you are not responsible, and you don’t pay attention to small details.
You’ve heard the term “dress for success”, it holds true every time. First impressions are extremely important and you want to give your observer a lasting one.
To better prepare, try to schedule your estate sale client interview days when you’re not setting up or running an estate sale, this will give you ample time to prepare and not forget things that will make or break the potential sale.
As an estate sale company, it’s easy to become numb towards the personal situations that warranted an estate sale in the first place, but try to never forget the human side of the business you are in.
Divorce, death, and downsizing are very common reasons why people hold estate sales. These situations are often very emotional, and you may be faced with a client that wants to spend more time with you discussing their situation.
Don’t rush your visit. Estate sales are a personal business after all and you are the last step before they move on to the next chapter in their life.
Compassion is key to the success of your estate sale interview process. Never let this business sway you away from being a compassionate human being first, estate sale professional second.
Being a good listener requires talent. Strutting your way into an estate sale interview with a list of questions like “How much stuff is here?” and talking about yourself non-stop is a turn-off.
Make mental notes of what’s important for the client in front of you first, and follow with answers that meet their needs.
Estate Sale Client Interview Questions to Prepare For
Anyone letting someone into their home can feel uncomfortable, cautious, and vulnerable. It’s important to make the estate sale client interview process a comfortable one for them.
Give them the peace of mind they need by clearly answering the questions they have. Let them get to know you.
Here are some common questions you may get asked during an estate sale meeting that you should prepare for:
How Long Have You Been Doing Estate Sales?
This is a good opportunity for you to highlight your company’s experience in the estate sale industry. Discuss the approximate number of sales you’ve held so far.
Have a link to your company detail page on EstateSales.org that shows your previous sales. Bring a wifi enabled tablet or smartphone and quickly share those with the client.
Are You an Insured and Bonded Estate Sale Company?
This is becoming more and more relevant. Clients, trustees, and Realtors want to protect themselves from any possible liabilities and concerns that may come up during the estate sale.
As a professional estate sale company, offering peace of mind to the clients is a must.
Having a copy of your policy handy during the estate sale client interview is an added bonus. The goal is to allow the client to feel confident in whom they choose for their upcoming estate sale.
What Do Your Services Include?
It’s easy to say, “Oh we do everything! You don’t have to worry about a thing, we take care of it from start to finish”. Since the client isn’t an estate sale professional, they don’t know what “everything” is.
The more a client understands all the steps an estate sale company must take to accomplish a successful estate sale, the more they will be understanding of the the fees that go with it.
Make sure you are detailed, and explain all the steps you take to provide the client the successful estate sale they are hiring you for.
Services to Highlight at the Estate Sale Interview
Explain to the client that you take detailed photographs for inventory and advertising purposes, and how important it is for you to spend the time taking good photographs for their estate sale.
If you spend time cleaning to make the home presentable for potential estate sale shoppers, mention that you do that.
It’s easy to overlook and not mention the little things you do, but these small things can make a big difference in the client’s decision process and differentiates you from other companies they may be interviewing.
Do you compile a list of all valuable items to be sold and create an inventory list of items sold? Not everyone does that! Make sure you mention it.
Believe it or not, there are still estate sales across the country today that are not professionally staged. Letting the client know you take the time to properly place and stage their items for maximum visibility is also a big plus.
Don’t forget to let them know that all staging equipment is provided by you (Display cases, shelves, tables, etc…)
Your experience matters! Always assure the client that you will do the research necessary for the items in the home if you’ve never seen or sold it before.
If you rely on outside professionals for fine art, jewelry, and other valuable items, let them know you have the network to do so.
This step is possibly one of the biggest concerns for clients. If you’re a licensed appraiser, this would be the time to bring it up.
It’s also important to educate the client on fair market value. Always be honest and truthful without making empty promises.
If a client thinks their collector plates will fetch a ton of money, explain to them what you’ve seen them sell for from your experience. Simply agreeing with the client will only create false expectations you’ll have to meet.
Get more information and details about estate sale pricing by reading The Ultimate Estate Sale Pricing Guide
Almost every company provides proper security by having enough employees keep an eye on the items during the sales.
Security is important to clients, so you should provide them details that will give them peace of mind.
If you provide additional security, such as hiring a security guard, placing mobile security cameras, changing the locks on the front door prior to staging, etc… be sure to bring it up during your estate sale meeting with the client.
The goal of an estate sale client is to sell their items in the time period they’ve allowed. Advertising the estate sale properly is a big selling point.
Not everyone uses email marketing, has a social media presence, or features estate sales online. Some less marketing-savvy companies still rely on local estate sale signs only.
Here are a few of the highlights to add:
- Mention your email marketing to shoppers and how many are in your list.
- The social media sites you post to and if you run paid ads to reach more people.
- If you list your sale on estate sale listing sites.
- Walking around and notifying the neighborhood or passing out flyers.
Don’t forget to mention that when you list an estate sale on EstateSales.org, it’s automatically shared on 5 other sites at no additional cost. So, you can say that their sale will be advertised on multiple websites that shoppers frequently visit on a regular basis.
Mention all forms of payments you accept. The more payment methods you accept, the more you increase the chances of items being sold.
If you provide a final itemized list of items sold, bring it up. Not all companies do that, and this is extremely important and shouldn’t be forgotten about during the estate sale interview.
End of Sale Clean-out
Make sure to explain how you handle items left over after the sale. For some speciality items that don’t sell well in a local market or require more time than is available at an in-person sale, you may use an estate sale online auction or have a consignment shop. For less valuable items, you may specify that you will donate the left overs, sell them in bulk, or simply toss them out. A client must be assured that the home will be left empty at the end of the sale. Be sure to that the client understands the cost involved in clean out work including dumpster rentals, landfill and/or hauling fees, hazardous waste disposal fees, as well as who pays for that and how.
Whether you do or don’t allow clients to be at the sale for example, explain why. Discuss all the policies your estate sale company has with an explanation of why you do things the way you do.
- Do you charge if they remove items from the sale?
- Do you change the locks on the front door and give them a key?
- Are they allowed to be on-site during the setup?
- Can they remove items at the end of the sale to keep?
- How you get paid, how they get paid, and when
There are many situations, variations, and issues that come up, and your goal is to detail this as much as possible in order to minimize misunderstandings later.
Any additional services you provide that go above and beyond the call of duty should be brought up during your estate sale interview.
The more you tell clients about the things you do, the more they will appreciate the services you provide and are more understanding when comparing estate sale commissions and discussing the fees.
Estate Sale Fees
No matter what business you’re in, clients don’t appreciate hidden charges. Discussing the details of your estate sale fees, whether it’s commission based, flat rate, or additional fees you charge for estate sale added services, be clear and concise.
There are no set standards in the estate sale industry on the fees to charge, each company sets its own rules.
When you are at an estate sale interview and you state the percentage you charge, it may seem much higher than what someone else quoted them, but the other company may have not stated that labor is charged separately.
Make your fees very clear, and discuss them in detail with your client so they’re not blind-sided.
Last but certainly not least, be sure to go over the timeline of when commissions are paid, as well as how they will be paid.
Review The Estate Sale Contract
In the estate sale industry, gone are the days of a hand shake. Every professional estate sale company in the industry conducts estate sales with a written contract.
Instead of emailing a contract later, or leaving an estate sale contract with them to read and sign, discuss the contract in person during the estate sale interview section by section and ensure they clearly understand it.
Interviewing The Client
It’s now time for you to interview the client! In this industry, the estate sale interview is a two-way street. Once the client’s questions are answered, you also need to decide whether you want to accept the sale or not.
Some estate sale companies will not perform sales if they see the value isn’t there. Veteran estate sale companies know all the costs involved in setting up an estate sale, if there’s not enough to cover the expenses, it doesn’t make sense for the client or the company to hold a sale.
It makes sense to evaluate the estate in the beginning, but from a respectful, professional, and compassionate stand point, it’s best to let the client get to know you first.
Here are some common questions you’ll want answers to before you begin (what, when, where)
What is included in the sale? Clients will have the opportunity to remove items before they sign the estate sale contract, so it’s best to know while you’re in the home, what will remain and what will go in order to get a general idea of value.
When do they want the sale done? Their schedule must align with yours. If they’re not flexible on sale dates, and you already have one scheduled, you may need to walk away and refer the sale to someone else.
is the property suitable for an on-site estate sale? Does their HOA have any policies that could make conducting the sale in their home a problem? Are there parking or other access restrictions on the property such as guarded gates? If access is a problem and you don’t have a contingency plan, you may need to pass, or use an online auction format estate sale with scheduled pick up times.
Covering Your Legal Bases
Does your client have the legal right to sell the items in the home? Ask for legal proof.
Without legal documentation, you are putting your estate sale company at risk for potential lawsuits. A signature on the contract simply isn’t enough.
We reached out to our professional network of estate sale companies and here are some tips they shared:
Holly Gorman with Lenor and Auntie Glads LLC Estate Sales said:
“If Probate: Obtain a copy of the executor paperwork or letter of personal representative signed by the court. If downsizing for a relative in senior living: Obtain copy of Power of Attorney from family member.
She Continued… “Verify address/owner through the county tax assessor. We also sometimes check the courts to see if there may be a pending divorce situation. One consult, the man stated his wife was not available to sign the contract. Turns out, she was on vacation overseas. She had no idea he was trying to sell anything. We declined the sale. If the home is in two names, both must sign”.
As an estate sale professional, you are a service concierge that manages people, personal property, money and on many occasions a lot of emotions.
Veteran estate sale professionals understand the role they play. The role can be emotionally and mentally exhausting at times, but you are at the center of it all whether you like it or not.
At all times, the client including your referring sources must know you have the experience and manpower to handle any situations that come up.
Besides the legalities and necessities, always remember to be a compassionate, caring estate sale professional during all phases of the sale process.
EstateSales.org is dedicated to our professional estate sale industry professionals, and we provide the platform your company needs to have a successful estate sale business.
From listing your company online for potential leads, advertising your estate sale to thousands of shoppers, to a robust online auction platform that makes items available for purchase to thousands of online shoppers, and much more.
We are eager to continue to support our community of estate sale professionals, and continue to lead the way in providing services that support, promote, and provide value to the estate sale industry.
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