ESTATE SALES

Each estate is different. Some are larger than others, some smaller - some may be considered more valuable, some less - some may require more time to clean out - some may have more trash than treasure, others more treasure than trash. We look at each estate and/or household individually and estimate accordingly. In most cases we will provide a quote and contract up front to eliminate any confusion or over-billing.

Please do not attempt to clean out an estate by yourself, without consultation, because in the process you may unintentionally throw out valuables. That’s like throwing away money! We once were called in by another company only to discover two boxes in a pile destined for the dumpster. These two boxes were subsequently sold in an online specialty auction realizing over $11,000 for the Estate! We can make an appointment that is convenient for you, do a walk-through, give you an estimate and help you decide the best route to liquidate your estate. Hall’s Auction Services Ltd. is fully insured and offer our services for Estates, individual homes, businesses, contractors, realtors and others.

We will work with you to determine the best option for liquidating your estate. We will explain the options for choosing a cleanout, estate sale, consignment sale or auction sale if you are undecided. We offer full services for onsite estate tag sales and onsite auctions as well.

WHAT IS A FIDUCIARY?

A fiduciary is an individual, corporation or association holding assets for another party, often with the legal authority and duty to make decisions regarding financial matters on behalf of the other party.

Auction companies in Alberta are bound by provincial legislation and must deposit all monies received into a trust account prior to taking any commissions or fees. Unfortunately, the same legislation does not apply to consignment stores, antique dealers or even estate sale companies.

METHODS OF SELLING AN ESTATE

Executors faced with liquidating an Estate's personal property will quickly find that it is their most time-consuming administrative task. Executors who don't perform their duties could be removed from office by the Probate Judge, so it is important that they single-mindedly pursue disposing of the estate's property so that the bills can be paid and the estate settled.

Executors have three main liquidation options (each with their own pros and cons). The two liquidation goals of the Executor are to achieve the greatest cash benefit to the estate and to leave the house broom-clean so that it can be sold. Any company chosen to help you in liquidating an estate should be conscientiously vetted and have a legally binding fiduciary duty.

Option 1: AUCTION GALLERY CONSIGNMENT

A reputable auction company will always attempt to maximize the value in your consignments and you are protected by provincial legislation when choosing to work with a licensed auction company.
Pros for Consigning to an Auction Gallery

Auction Galleries are in the business of selling goods in the secondary market.  Consignments at an Auction Gallery are typically grouped according to the type of items in order to maximize turnout and get the best prices from their collectors.  For example, there may be an auction dedicated to art, antiques, contemporary home decor, or any other of many categories.

Cons for Auction Gallery Consignment

There are a few reasons for not consigning to an Auction Gallery.  For starters, many Auction Galleries will take only the best items from the estate.  A great percent of an estate is made up of small value items that are of little interest to the auctioneer, which leaves the Executor to deal with the remaining majority of the estate property.  Thankfully there are many charitable organizations in every city that can all benefit from donations.  Lastly, when an Auction Gallery spreads the merchandise out over several auctions, it can take months for all the items to sell, delaying the closing of the estate.

Tip for Auction Gallery Consignment

Before you consign to an Auction Gallery, ask the auctioneer how your merchandise will be distributed between auctions, examine the auction contact and get a guaranteed settlement date.  You will also need a plan for disposing of all the remaining estate merchandise.

Option 2: HAVE AN AUCTION ON-SITE

The on-site auction is quickly becoming an event from the by-gone era. In the past, it was an easy job for an Executor to find an auction company willing to take the estate liquidation job. Nowadays, with more and more commerce being completed online most auction companies are no longer committing to on-site sales unless your estate is very large and valuable.
Benefits of an On-Site Auction

A strong argument for an on-site estate auction is that when the auction is over, there will be very little clean-up.  If you like, the real estate can be auctioned as well, since auctioneers work with licensed realtors to auction the real estate.  In one day, the house, car, boat, RV, and all the household goods could be sold.

Negatives for an On-Site Auction

Auctions are driven by competitive bidding. Consequently, it is necessary to have a lot of people at your auction.  Big crowds require nice weather, plenty of parking, bathrooms, food, and refreshments to keep the people from leaving.  Online bidding can be included to boost attendance, but it is the local crowd that builds excitement and drives the prices up.  To attract a crowd, the estate must have collectibles and other quality goods.  Run-of-the-mill goods that can be purchased at the local thrift store are insufficient to attract a good auction crowd.  The estate needs to have a minimum value in order for any auctioneer to be interesting in helping you.  The time required and the expenses of holding an on-site auction are quite considerable.  If the value in the estate does not justify the auction the auctioneer will certainly let you know.

Suggestions for an On-Site Auction

If your estate has many large collectibles, like antique furniture, or fine art, an on-site auction may be your best choice.  Summer and fall weekends, when the weather is warm and dry, are the best times to hold an on-site estate auction.  The auction company you hire should be equipped with sound equipment, canopy tents, display tables, and plenty of help for fast checkout.

Option 3: ESTATE TAG SALE ON-SITE

For those not familiar with tag sales, think of a garage sale, a high-end garage sale. Companies that specialize in tag sales are less common than auction companies and unfortunately are not bound by the same protective legislation that all licensed auctioneers must adhere to. At at tag sale, or estate sale - whatever you wish to call it, everything in the house is priced, much like at a yard sale. Shoppers will browse through the house, and choose the items they wish to purchase.
Pros for On-Site Estate Tag Sales

On-site tag sales do not require relocating all goods to an auction gallery.  They usually start on Friday evening and end on Sunday, so there is no need to provide food or bathroom facilities as with on-site auction.  Tag sales can be held rain or shine and in any season.  Additionally, tag sales can also market the low value items that most estates are full of.

Cons for On-Site Estate Tag Sales

The biggest disadvantage in hiring a tag sale company is that these companies are not held to the same legal standards which auction companies are held.  Auctioneers and Realtors are bound by law to the estate by a fiduciary bond.  A fiduciary relationship binds the agent by law to act at all times in the best interest of the estate.  Fiduciaries are licensed by the province, must pass tests, be bonded, must hold all funds in a trust account until distributed, and have to settle the account with the estate within a specific time frame.

Fiduciaries must also keep accurate records and follow certain protocols. Failure of a fiduciary to follow procedures can result in fines or loss of license. Estate  sale companies are not held to the same legal standards, although they certainly have a moral obligation to the estate.  Tag sale companies can handle the details of the sale and the distribution of the money any way they see fit.  Be careful!

Another problem with tag sales is that typically there is merchandise left over after the sale.  There can sometimes be a LOT of merchandise left over.  When a lot of items are remaining, the executor then has a clean-out problem because the house must be left "broom-clean" before a realtor will list the house for sale.  Unlike an auction, where prices go up with each bid, tag sale shoppers want to negotiate a lower price for everything.

Tag sales can be quite emotionally difficult if you decide you want to be on-site for the sale.  The public does not know, or care, that you deceased mother loved her collections and comments from the public, while not intended to be so, can be quite hurtful.

Tips for an On-Site Estate Tag Sale

When working with an estate tag sale company, read the contract thoroughly, and make sure that settlement deadlines are included.  The operator should have proper licensing, a trust account, a solid pricing plan, adequate staff, and a solid track record.

What about Internet Sales and Retail Consignment Stores?

Internet sales work well for items that can be shipped easily, like small collectibles, books, and artwork. Before you decide to sell these items online yourself, remember that having a nice assortment of collectibles at your auction or tag sale is what will attract the buyers to your event. If you sell all the good collectibles online, you won't get very good attendance at your sale.

Don’t even consider a retail consignment; they will take too long to sell your items.

How Will I Know if I am Dealing with a Reputable Company?

Unfortunately, asking for a reference doesn't always work; no one gives a bad reference.  The Better Business bureau lists ratings for some, but not all companies.  With an auction company, most provinces have an occupational licensing board which can give you the status of an auctioneer's licence and tell you if they have any complaints on file.  Checking up on an estate tag sale company is a lot harder because there is no agency keeping track of complaints.

Online reviews may be of some assistance.  Remember however, the vast majority of people do not typically bother with online reviews, only those very motivated to do, for better or worse.

Alberta provides consumer tips to help in your making decisions about working with an auction company.  See www.servicealberta.ca for further information.

Hire a Company with A Solid Internet Presence

These days, it is imperative for a company to have an online network.  A company that is well-connected in the online world is likely to be a company that is well-networked in the local area.  It's unlikely that a company with a poor or no website will be able to use the internet to generate sales for your event.  Doing a Google search of the company's name or web address is the best way to see how well connected they are.  Go to Google’s search bar (not the address bar at the top of the page, but the search bar in the center of the page) and type in the company’s web address starting with www.  How many search results are returned that pertain directly to the company you are investigating?.  Ranking well with the search engines doesn't necessarily mean the company will be the best one for your needs, but it is a good indicator of the professionalism of the company.  Typically, companies that have lots of returned results do so because other organizations want to associate with experts in their field, so they link to the experts website.  A large number of linking companies is like a "vote" for the company being linked to.  A company that displays lots of Google results is usually one that is recognized as being expert in their field.

So, What's the Best Way to Liquidate an Estate?

There is no specific answer to this question.  Ideally, the best option is to hire a licensed fiduciary to sell the estate property, to the bare walls, at any time of year.  To achieve this will depend on your estate.  Ideally it will require an event that may be part auction, part tag sale, and run by a reputable licensed firm.

Since estate sale companies are not generally not licensed auctioneers and auctioneers usually do not perform tag sales, that's a tough solution to implement. There are auctioneers that may combine these services however, or work with estate sale companies for the lower value items in the estate.  Finding such a company, or number of cooperatively working companies, will give the executor the flexibility of have a sale any time of the year, the ability to sell down the bare walls with nothing left over, and the assurance of dealing with a provincially licensed and bonded fiduciary.