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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Contracts - What to watch for

No one likes the word contract until things go south and you wish you had done it.  It doesn't matter if you are holding an estate sale for your aunt or hiring a well known and established estate sales company.  I have read many contracts and they are all different.  Mainly, you want it to define the dates of the sale, the fees or commission they are expecting from the sale, payment terms and timeline, and what their services will include.  I would avoid contracts that allow for pre-sales from employees and friends.  If you want to allow them to purchase something in advance they should ask you first and by all means that is your choice.  We have seen this in the case of expensive items that may be difficult to monitor during the sale, firearms, and items that might be offensive to the public such as adult magazines.  (Yes, some people have collections and wish to sell them and not everyone entering the sale is comfortable with it.)  These items are best to be sold to private parties if possible.

Because checks and credit cards take time to be processed, it is understandable that the company will need ample time to prepare and mail your final invoice and settlement.  Most companies ask 5-10 business days to finalize the books.  If you do not receive your invoice in that time, you deserve a great explanation.

You should also expect a fee in the case of a breech of contract.  If a company begins advertising, photographing, cleaning and setting your sale, they may want reimbursement for these services in the case you change your mind.  Because estate and moving sales work primarily on a commission basis, they get no reimbursement until the sale is over.  Also, if your sale has been on the calendar for several weeks, they may have lost sale opportunities with other clients.  Furthermore, be sure you are ready to go through with the sale before you sign.

Contracts almost always include a section that asks you not to sell or take anything from the sale agreed upon from that point forward. The moving or estate sales company has chosen to take your sale based on the amount of merchandise and quality of it.  If that amount or quality decreases, they are no longer able to make that commission.  Also, after photos and advertisement has begun, customers may be driving long distances to buy that item only to find the sister took it from the sale the night before.  This not only leads to a very upset customer but a reputation of the estate sales company not upholding their advertising integrity. If you are uncomfortable about a price the company has placed on your grandmother's antique Fenton glassware, ask them to adjust the price rather than removing it from the sale.

The commission, fees and any other costs of your sale should be clearly defined in the estate sales contract.  If you place a reserve on an item, it should not only be stated in the contract but be clearly indicated that is before or after the commission is taken out.  You may have choices about cleaning, hauling and trash pick up.  Some companies cover some but not all of these.  If they don't, ask them what the fee will be.  Advertising is also a fee you will want to have in the contract.  Some companies require the client to pay for advertising and some do not.  Ask what kind and how much advertising they will cover and if you want more, negotiate that into the contract.

Don't be surprised if the contract limits or asks family members to not be present during the sale.  This is difficult to understand if you haven't held an estate sale before for a 3rd party.  The first impression to this clause may be that the company is dishonest.  If they don't want me to be at the sale, then that means they are doing something unethical.  Wrong.  Hopefully you have already checked out the reputation of the estate sales company and read any complaints in the Better Business Bureau before you have gotten to this point.  Think of it as if a realtor was showing your home and negotiating with a potential buyer and you were standing in between them.  It's not comfortable for the customer or the agent you have hired and trusted to do the job.  Also, many estate sales involve heirs and emotional attachments to the items that may be upsetting to see sold away to strangers.  I will cover this more in another blog about why we have difficulty in parting with belongings. 

  Again, make sure before you sign that you are ready.  If there are items you have not removed from the sale, write it into the contract.  The better you communicate with the moving sales company, the better.  Labeling with tape, moving to an unused room or covering with a sheet are all suggestions in conveying your wishes to the estate sales staff.  Remember, the person you consult with and sign the contract with may not even be working your sale.  Often times, other employees are setting and selling the merchandise and if you are not on the premises, how will they know it's not for sale?

The following is brought to you by Busy Bee Moving Sales in Nashville, Tennessee.  Visit our website to find out how we can assist you in selling your estate. email: or call 512-788-2544.

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