Safety and security at estate sales are essential, and is one of the many reasons a client will rely on a professional estate sale company to handle the liquidation of their items.
A professional company should have policies, rules, and guidelines to minimize liability issues and protect itself and the client at all times.
Estate Sale Security Concerns
If you’re new to the industry, it’s good to know the common issues you may run into as an estate sale professional when it comes to security.
It only takes one bad incident to potentially damage your company’s reputation beyond repair.
Once a client signs an estate sale contract, you are required to insure the home and the contents before the estate sale begins.
Here are some typical security and safety concerns most estate sale pros have and how you can best avoid them in order to protect yourself and your client:
1. Theft by Employees
If you’ve put together a team of employees you trust, you’re in luck! Finding good help is extremely difficult.
Your employees will always be surrounded with valuable items with and without supervision. This can be quite enticing to some, and you must do your due diligence prior to leaving them alone.
First and foremost, you must supervise the employees you hire until you are sure they can be trusted in someone’s home on their own.
Most estate sale companies are owned by family members that work together. If you hire people from the public, running a background check may give you peace of mind.
2. Theft by Client & Family
I hate to call it that, but in a way it is. Once a client signs a contract instructing an estate sale company to sell the contents of the home, the company earns its commission based on those items sold.
There are horror stories of clients and family members deciding they want to keep more and they do come in the home and take it.
You can avoid this issue by establishing a policy that allows you to change the locks on the home for the time period you’re in it.
Not very common, but companies that hold high value estate sales have gone as far as hiring a full-time security guard to guard the properties in their absence.
3. Theft by Shoppers
Some estate sale shoppers are unfortunately notorious at this. Some hide items within items, switch price tags between items or try to cover valuable pieces with sheets or blankets hoping the person at the register will not notice.
Be aware and have a plan to prevent this sort of theft.
4. Criminal Theft
Your employees, client, and shoppers are not the only ones you need to worry about. If anyone in the nearby community with criminal intent finds out that there is a home full of valuable items that is not attended, then that becomes a prime target for breaking and entering.
Be sure that you, your employees, and your client do not reveal the address of the sale to anyone they don’t completely trust.
It’s also important not to reveal the exact location of the sale on any of your online advertising until the very last minute.
It’s for this reason that EstateSales.org provides the ability for you to hide the sale address until the date and time of your choosing. Normally, companies choose to reveal the exact address the morning that the estate sale starts.
Security Tips at the Estate Sale
Each estate sale you take on will be different from the next. The amount of security and type of security measures you take will vary based on the home and the contents inside the home.
Consider an Online Estate Sale
In 2017, EstateSales.org launched the very first online selling system purpose-built for estate sale companies. Using the EstateSales.org platform, you can photograph, price and upload items for sale in the home and conduct a virtual estate sale.
A bulk item upload feature and soon-to-be-released mobile app makes creating an online sale relatively painless.
Buyers can then either buy items at a fixed “buy-it-now” price that you set, or compete in an auction style format (be sure that you are in compliance with your state auction laws, if any) Conducting a virtual estate sale virtually eliminates the issue of theft.
It also gives shoppers the flexibility of browsing and buying on their own schedule. You can then arrange for buyers to pick up their items on a certain day and time slot, or ship items.
You can read more about the many other benefits of online estate sales in this blog post.
Being involved on the first day of inventory is extremely important. Some companies will not allow their employees to bring in large purses or bags into the home during staging and setup.
Many retail stores with employees do a bag check before they leave the premises for the day. Consider implementing a similar policy.
Whatever policy you establish, keep in mind it must be a policy that meets local labor standards.
Tag Items Wisely
To avoid price tag switching, valuable items should be double tagged. A visible tag for the shopper, and a hidden tag for you to double check in case one is removed.
For large collections within the same category (Lladro statues, Hummel figurines, Barbies, etc…) besides pricing them individually, place the collection in one area or inside a single cabinet.
Create a price list that hangs near the cabinet, and keep another copy near the cash register. Have your clerks check the item with the price list so that they can confirm that tag switching is not happening.
Unfortunately, there is no single remedy to this problem, however a combination of security measures should minimize the issues you’ll run into.
Security Measures During Setup
Monitor the Staff
Creating a team of employees you can rely on and trust is possibly one of the biggest struggles estate sale companies run into when they first start. Building the right team takes time.
Until you’ve established trust, it’s important to monitor and be present at all times during the setup, and estate sale days.
Not all, but some estate sale companies will change the front door keys once an estate sale contract is signed.
This will deter clients and family members, from entering the home and removing items originally included in the sale.
If it’s something you decide to do, make sure it’s outlined in your estate sale contract and the client is aware of it.
Remove Valuable Items
Small items of value such as estate jewelry can easily be removed from the home and taken in to your office for research and pricing.
Even if you have a trusted staff, make sure your estate sale procedures include a final walk through at the end of each day.
By walking around and making sure all windows, and doors are properly locked you will minimize theft possibilities.
By assigning responsibilities to your employees, it becomes a standard operating procedure.
Security Tips With Advertising
If you list your sale online along with photos, Estatesales.org allows you to choose the date and time you want to release the property’s address.
It’s important not to release the address early because you don’t want the public to know what’s inside the home and where it’s located.
Security During Estate Sale Days
Besides online marketing, directional signs to your estate is how people in the local area, or people driving by will get notified about your sale and attend to shop.
Estate sale signs should be put up early morning before your sale starts and removed at the end of each day if you want to avoid liabilities and security breaches.
There are some general estate sale rules everyone follows for safety reasons, but depending on the sale you’re holding, you can adjust those estate sale rules specific to the sale itself.
If a home has a lot of breakables or many jewelry pieces, you may ask your shoppers not to carry their purses, boxes or bags inside, but rather give the items to your employees to carry out.
As an estate sale professional, liability runs high, and you are in charge of the rules you set for each sale.
Number of Employees
Some sales are extremely small, while others are quite large, having enough employees secure the different areas of the home is not only necessary but essential.
Besides assisting shoppers, they can manage the flow of people, keep a watchful eye and monitor everyone coming in and out of the sale. This will minimize price tag switching and theft.
During the estate sale setup, it’s important to place items in their proper areas.
Items of Value
Small items that have a high value should be placed in locked cases with an employee near by where they will be monitored at all times.
Estate Sale Cash Register
Proper placement of the cash register is also important, at times you may need two cash registers if one room if full of jewelry and the rest of the house is not.
A single employee can manage the jewelry counter and have the buyer checkout on the spot instead of allowing them to walk around the home with smaller items in their hand.
If you have employees run the cash register, it’s safer to empty it throughout the day only leaving a certain amount of money to continue transacting for the rest of the day.
The majority of estate sales are fine to manage with a few employees. Some estate sales, however, will require a much more in-depth security plan which may include a full-time security guard to monitor the premises.
Cost of Security Guards at Estate Sales
The average cost of a security guard can run anywhere between $20 and $75 per hour. It’s a hefty cost to pay, so make sure you only resort to a full-time security guard on site when the estate sale value warrants such a drastic measure.
Security Cameras at Estate Sales
Security cameras in general are a great deterrent to most would be thieves, but they can be complicated, bulky, and very difficult to function.
We reached out to Brian Greely with Texas Surveillance and Security. Greely has been in business for 25 years and specializes in business and industrial security and surveillance applications.
We asked Greely about using security cameras at estate sales and this is what he shared.
“In order to place wireless security cameras on location, there must be a WIFI connection at the home. Some cameras can function with a wireless hotspot from a cellular phone, but the bandwidth will affect the quality of images received”.
“It takes 4 megabytes per wireless camera to run through the internet. If you’re only running a single camera at the cash register, the function may be acceptable, but you will have a delay in the images recorded.”
We asked Greely what he would recommend for an estate sale company if they chose to have a wireless security camera used at their estate sale.
“I recommend over-the-counter wireless cameras found at Costco and other electronic stores. They’re affordable, easy to setup, and can be moved around easily from one estate sale to the next. Most wifi enabled home grade cameras should function well with a wireless hotspot.”
He continues “Just having one camera at the sale gives them the ability to place a sign stating ‘These premises are being monitored by video surveillance’ which will serve as a deterrent in itself.”
What Works Best?
We also did our own research to find a functional and affordable security camera that can easily be setup and used at estate sales.
We found a system called “Reolink Go”.
The Reolink Go is a wire-free mobile HD security camera that operates on a 4G-LTE and 3G network. It will require you to purchase a sim card from a supporting provider such as T-Mobile.
The system functions well with a cell signal in areas that have no WiFi or an electrical power source.
Contacting your local T-Mobile store should give you more details about this go anywhere security camera system.
Security at Estate Sales in Summary
Security measures are taken to protect assets, employees, and your company from any liability.
Whether you decide to use these estate sale security tips at your upcoming estate sales is your discretion.
Security measures can be costly, so make sure you inform your client if there are any additional estate sale security fees during your on-site client interview.
It’s also a good idea to put the tools already in place to work for you.
If the client already has an alarm and/or video surveillance system, ask them to provide you with access so you can monitor and secure the area during the time you’re in their home.
Last but not least, consider the benefits that an online estate sale format may give you. People cant steal from you if they aren’t actually there! EstateSales.org provides an easy-to-use platform for going virtual.
Got Security Tips to Share?
If there are additional estate sale security measure you’ve taken as an estate sale professional, leave us a comment below, we’ll be happy to add it our list of tips.
At EstateSales.org, we take pride in providing estate sale industry professionals with resources to help them grow their business. Whether you’re a veteran estate sale company, or just starting in the estate sale industry, these and many other tips can be easily found on our estate sale university online.
Got a question? Ask other professional liquidators in the industry by joining our private Facebook Group dedicated to estate sale professionals, and founded by EstateSales.org.
We also offer a menu of services to help you get more estate sale leads, list your estate sale online to gain a following of shoppers or reach millions of people worldwide by listing items online via our estate sale online auction.