A lot goes into being a successful estate sale company. Knowing how to properly appraise and price items takes time and research, and acquiring that breadth of knowledge comes from many years on the job. In other words, there aren’t any short-cuts in this business.
Successful estate sale companies have also mastered soft skills like juggling the often competing demands of their clients and customers, organization and project management super powers, and fine attention to detail.
In 2016, Milford, Massachusetts-based Best Rate Cleanouts & Estate Sales had the second-most views on our website, so they must be doing something right. We caught up with owner Chris Jordan to find out his take on the growing estate sale industry, how to handle the competition, and what he likes best about advertising on EstateSales.org.
How long have you been in the business?
I’ve been in the antique business since 2001, but I’ve been doing estate sales regularly since 2001.
How big is your estate company and staff?
It ranges. . . each house is different, so I don’t need everybody in every house, but big houses might be up to eight or ten.
How many estate sales do you do a year?
We’re a lot different than some of the other companies around here. The last three years we’ve been averaging over 100 sales a year. Which is probably why we got so many views.
What do you attribute to your success?
Well I don’t want to reveal my secrets too much to other companies, you know what i mean? (laughs), but put it this way: I’m not as selective as some of the other companies. I’m not looking to get rich quick.
I have heard that sometimes newer estate sale companies try to be too choosy. . .
A lot of them have high minimums, too. Do I have a minimum? It’s not etched in stone. If I look at a house and I don’t see at least $4k worth of merchandise, it’s not worth us doing a sale at our percentage. But I hear of companies that have really high minimums, and that’s fine if that’s how they want to run their business.
The thing is, too, you have people who run estate sales with their siblings who have careers, or they have another source of income. I don’t have another source of income, My wife doesn’t work. This is what we do for a living. So you gotta take it when when you get it.
I’ll take on that small sale that isn’t gonna make a lot of money because I’m thinking beyond it. There might be a neighbor or a family member or whatnot, and they might need an estate sale. So then that one that only brought 3 or 4k might be worth it in the long haul.
A lot of your sales come from word-of-mouth?
That and advertising. And my reputation. Reputation has a lot to do with everything, too. Word of mouth. There’s so many estate sale companies now I’ve noticed compared to like five years ago. I’m sure you guys know from all the people that sign up on your website.
(Ed note: Estatesales.org has 3,979 companies listed on our site, a number that has grown since 2009).
That must give you an edge – having the longevity. Do you find your antiques background also helps?
Yeah, that helps a lot. I used to go to estate sales. I used to get up at two in the morning and go and wait in line and want to be number one in line and all that. I used to feed off the two-day sales, get there the next day, knowing if they didn’t see it the first day they’d be giving it away. I reincorporated a lot of that—what I’ve experienced before, going to sales—into how I run the sales.
And integrity is huge in this business. My staff, we’re not allowed to buy anything, I’m not allowed to buy anything. We don’t bring stuff from one sale to another. I mean there are a lot games that go on with companies – with some of them, not all of them—and you’re hired to represent an estate. You’ve got to be on the up and up with it. and that’s our philosophy. So it helps.
Do you advertise on social media and on the main 3 estate sale listing sites?
I do a lot of advertising online and stuff like that. I’m a paying member of your site and the other two (.com and .net).
Is there anything about .Org that stands out?
I’ve always liked the layout better and the photographs, and the people that come to my sale, they like that too. The photos are bigger. I know you changed the website and there were some kinks to get over [when we added the ability to host your own online auction], but overall I like putting my sales on your site better. . . I mean your site—it’s brighter, it looks better. I’ve always liked it.
When we post an estate sale on your site and we come up with a title, you want to put as much as you can, on your site, you pretty much have unlimited character space in the title area. On the other sites, they don’t. It’s little things like that that stand out.
Do you have any advice for newer estate sale companies about challenges you face?
in my opinion, a lot of people go to estate sales, newer people, and they see companies like [Best Rate Estate Sales] and a lot of these other companies that are real busy, and they think, oh I’m gonna start my own company and do it. . . It’s not as easy as people think! It’s a lot harder, and especially if you’re new and you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t know that Chinese vase is 300 years old, and you sell it for $10. So it’s a lot of things like that.
There are a lot of people that want to start up estate sale companies and they don’t do it right and they don’t do the people that are hiring them justice—by selling their items properly. I’m constantly learning. I don’t know everything. We have to do a lot of research. You deal with the good with the bad. It’s a very fun business, and if they’re in it for the money, they shouldn’t get involved in the business! You have to love this kind industry, If you absolutely love it, then you’ll be making money.
The first estate sale I ever did was my grandmother’s, and it was hard. But I liked antiques, and not just antiques but I liked interacting with people. And that’s more of the challenge of an estate sale—is dealing with all the different people who come to the estate sales. They haggle you. They’re sneaky! (laughs) So you have to deal with that kind of baloney. You have to keep a smile on your face. You can’t be an ass to people or they won’t come back. You can’t be rude. I see some of these companies, they have mega lists of rules, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. Yeah, you’ve gotta have rules, you gotta keep an eye on stuff, .but you can’t have that many! Can you imagine all that stuff stuck in the door at a Wal Mart before people walk in? (laughs)
I’m constantly learning too, but it’s definitely one of those businesses where you have to love it, you gotta live and die by it, you can’t just do one sale a month. There are people in this industry that are signed up to your website that have been in the business way longer than me. They’ve been antique dealers for forty or fifty years, and they run sales now. They have the knowledge. They have a background, so it’s tough for when you get somebody that thinks they’re a know-it-all, and then you hear horror stories about ripping families off or something happens. It’s a shame when you hear that.
I just want people to know that if they’re honest and they have integrity, then they’ll be successful.
Are you an estate sale company that’s been in the business for awhile? What do you attribute to your success? Leave a comment – we’d love your input!