When deciding whether to use an auction service or an estate sale company, our conclusion after 24 years of service and research is simple.
Estate sales do not work.
They just do not work.
Often referred to as a "tag sale" or "conducted garage sale", these types of sales may be a solution for those who are not moving from their home, those with heavy furniture items in a multi-unit residence or those who need money or room quickly. For those who are leaving, even a multi-day estate sale cannot sell all that an auction can in a few hours. Reputable auction companies know this as a basic principle and therefore do not compete against their own industry by conducting estate sales. Beware of any auction company that offers to conduct an estate sale for you. It should be taken as a sign that they are conflicted in their professional interest by what is best for them and not best for their clients.
Each year we receive six-10 Monday morning telephone calls from unhappy estate sale clients. Many are panicked and angry. All are disappointed. Not only are they faced with poor financial results from the previous days of an estate sale, their overall, most important goal is still not accomplished. The ever-present leftover items that did not sell still have to be dealt with. Add in other factors like a fast-approaching selling date and they have more stressful issues than when they began the process of selling.
Sadly, after an estate sale, we cannot help these estate sale clients because the time to conduct a successful auction has passed. Even if time is not a factor, the quality of the remaining merchandise certainly is. The sentence we use most often is, "If the estate sale crowd did not want it, the auction crowd certainly won't, either."
JUST WHAT'S WRONG WITH AN ESTATE SALE?
* Value assessment and pricing is usually done by just one or two people. Pricing is a guessing game based on instantly obsolete price guides, reference books and a good old fashioned "stab in the dark" method of guesswork. Add in the well-known saying, "No one pays book price for anything nowadays" and you have a hard-to-win scenario. Estate sale companies may tout they use the "fair market value" criteria when pricing but that, in no way, guarantees it will sell, and isn't that what a seller needs - items to sell? Consider the paraphrased definition of "fair market value" is 'the price at which something will sell for as long as neither the buyer or the seller has a compulsion to sell or buy the item in question.' When a potential seller is contemplating an auction or an estate sale they most certainly do have a compulsion to sell!
Additionally, buyers must agree with the opinion placed on the price tag or the merchandise does not sell. Pricing further becomes a slippery slope with this costly downside: Similar to a retail store, if something is priced too high at an estate sale, people will walk away and not buy. If something is priced too low, it sells immediately leaving the seller wondering if it was priced too low and money was lost. Unlike a retail store with a stockroom of merchandise, there can be no correction of price after it sells. Now, the item is gone.
* Many estate sale companies are not registered businesses. Therefore, they cannot obtain business liability insurance. Every seller is exposed to substantial risk and liability by allowing any uninsured business to work on their property. Most homeowners would not allow an uninsured tradesman to work on their property for a few hours, let alone allowing an uninsured company to work and allow the general public to come onto and into their home for multiple days.
* Generally, the public is granted complete, unescorted and unsupervised access to all levels, all rooms and all locations of the seller's home on sale days. Many estate sale companies are understaffed during sale days. This is crucial as dozens of people are allowed to walk through a home, opening closet doors and cabinets and exploring all nooks and crannies. Many family members do not like the idea of strangers meandering through a loved ones home for several days.
* Estate sales are an unregulated industry void of any state licensing and registration requirements. In Illinois there are no specific laws protecting sellers and their families using an estate sale company. Critical issues like requiring a written contract documenting a seller's expenses, sales commission, receipts for sales and a timeline for paying the seller are just a few of the topics that are unprotected. Remember, estate sale companies handle all of your money from a buyer's cash, check or credit card payment. Unlike many other Illinois businesses that handle other people's money, the non-regulated estate sale industry has no requirement to maintain an escrow account. Even if an auction company conducts your estate sale the rules of maintaining an escrow account do not apply because they are not doing an auction. They are doing an estate sale.
* Only a limited number of people, generally 5-20 at a time, are allowed to even look at items for sale during an estate sale. Potential buyers have been known to line up outside a home as early as 4 a.m. on sale days to get an admittance number and then have to stand in line for hours waiting just to look at your items in your home. Some estate sale people call that a part of the estate sale "experience." We have also discovered many times the best items are sold prior to the sale days to estate sale employees or their list of preferred buyers giving items NO public exposure. Not exposing a seller's items to the most people possible is poor business and a ticket to failure.
* Two, three or four-day estate sales do not create any sense of urgency and excitement. Why do in two, three or four days what an auction can do in hours? Plus, the savvy public is aware the term "estate sale" often is misused by those holding a simple rummage sale. People have a tendency to put off attending any multi-day event thinking, "I'll go there later." The public also knows the best items are sold on the first day so there is no reason to hurry to the later sale days. Additionally, it is human nature to keep driving past a long line to get in to anywhere and estate sales are no exception.
* Most estate sales begin on a Thursday or Friday - a move that benefits only the estate sale company and also shuts out the employed public from attending on the opening day(s). That means the general public, who traditionally will pay more for items than a dealer will because they are not looking to make a profit, have to wait until Saturday or Sunday to shop. It's to the benefit of the estate sale company to begin sales during the business week to eliminate selling on two consecutive weekends.
* Ironically, some estate sale companies hold illegal silent bid auctions during their estate sale on the more valuable items. Not only illegal in Illinois without a licensed auctioneer present with an advertised license number, it again puts the homeowner in potential financial jeopardy as an illegal act is being committed on the seller's property.
* Many estate sale companies suggest donating the many unsold items after an estate sale for tax benefits. Trust us, there will be many unsold items after a multi-day estate sale. Remember, we get the calls from owners on Monday morning pleading with us to finish what the estate sale company started. Plus, it's more work for the seller to track down an organization and wait for a truck with no guarantee the charity will even accept the items. A donation receipt is financially worthless at tax time unless the owner itemizes on their tax return. We suggest checking with a tax advisor even then because the actual cash benefit may pale in comparison to the receipt. Many have trouble with the idea of giving away items that should have sold for cash.
* Many estate sale companies have buyout clauses that allows them to buy unsold items that did not sell for the prices they put on the price tags. Many estate sale companies have a shop or lease consignment space where they can sell what they bought from you on the final day. Ask upfront. If that happens, all of the proceeds from their buyout is theirs and not yours. Remember, they bought it from you on the last day of the sale.
How Our Auctions Are Different
* Prices are decided by the masses in a live, competitive bidding process. This leaves the opinions of value up to the masses instead of one or two.
* Public access on auction day is limited to the auction areas and approved rooms (washroom) and only with an employee nearby. With rare exception, all auction items are outside of a home.
* All auctioneers in Illinois must pass a state test to be licensed, issue written contracts, maintain an escrow account for auction proceeds and complete 12 hours of continuing education every two years. No options here. It's the law.
* Our auctions are open to the public. All who attend have an equal opportunity to buy at the same time when an item is on the auction block. There are no pre-auction day sales to friends or colleagues. Auction day is sale day. A bidder who arrives when our viewing period starts has no more opportunity to buy over a bidder who arrives seconds before the bidding starts.
At an auction it is the customer who offers the most money, not the customer who happens to see the item first, that wins. That is where the excitement is!
* 99% of our auctions are held on Saturdays so that more of the general public can attend. One of the strengths of an auction is assembling a mixture of buyers. Dealers, investors, collectors and end-users make up a strong buying market that can generally only be assembled on a weekend.
* The word "AUCTION" is an "action" word. The human eye gravitates to the word "auction." It brings the feeling of "right now!" to the mind. The public knows auctions start at a designated time and end only when everything is sold - no matter when that is. The pursuit of a potential good buy where the public decides the price in a unique and exciting manner is a powerful lure.
* With some rare exceptions, if something does not sell at our auction, it's not worth donating. Most used furniture is not selling well in any venue and in those cases, we have a connection with a charitable group that picks up within 24 hours of our call. Generally, except for stray pieces of electronics, it all sells at our auctions.
* Prigge Auctions is not a reseller. We do not own, lease or share space with an antique or resale shop, hold a booth at antique malls or flea markets nor run an eBay store. There are no lines of impropriety to be blurred. We rarely have any items of value left after an auction so there is nothing of value to buy! We also never offer to buy items directly from a client as that is the largest conflict of interest in the auction world.
We Know Each Seller's Situation Is Different
There may be scenarios where neither an auction or an estate sale is practical. Because there is only one chance to settle an estate, it is vital to gather the facts before a decision is made. Remember, our consultation and visits are free.
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