Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why should I have a professionally conducted estate sale rather than a garage sale or family-run sale?
A: First, it’s an incredibly difficult task for non-professionals to get things together, let alone run a sale as it should be run. Not only is the work itself grueling, but you also have to factor in sentimentality, time, difficult family dynamics etc.
As one would expect, most laymen (and this includes attorneys, CPA’s, trustees, etc.) have absolutely no idea what items are worth in the secondary market. Laymen attempting to conduct their own sales, we have found, either vastly over-price else ridiculously under-price the vast majority of their household possessions.
McQueen Estate professionals, on the other hand, come into your home or place of business and price merchandise for sale at a fair market value. We market the the items via this website, newspaper ads, word of mouth and online ads, and we display everything in a way that will net you the most money possible.
Remember, too, that there’s greater perceived value when a professional estate liquidation firm conducts an estate sale. Customers who come through a sale conducted by McQueen Estates see carefully considered traffic patterns, lighted showcases, professional signage and tags, neatly draped tables, helpful employees.
Q: How exactly does an estate sale work? How does it differ from an auction?
A: Estate sales (also known as “tag sales” in some parts of the United States and Canada) are orderly liquidations run much as a retail shop would be. That is to say, every item has a price tag.
Estate sales are different from auctions in that customers need not wait hours for one item or another to “come up on the block.” Also, with an estate sale, the estate itself is not at the mercy of an often uncomfortable customer base that dwindles down as the day goes by. As in an auction, though, sealed bids may be placed on appreciable items at our sales. This is one definite similarity. (For the record, bids are “called” at the close of the first day of the sale.) Sealed bids are considered binding contracts, and must be honored.
Our sales are beautifully staged, professionally organized and extensively advertised. The public is invited into the home and allowed to shop at leisure. Clerks are available to write customers’ tickets and answer their questions. Cashiers are stationed (usually near the entrance/exit) to “cash out” customers.
Q: Do I even have enough for you to conduct an estate sale? I don’t really have fine art, great antiques or lots of expensive things.
A: You’d be amazed at just how well even an average estate can and does sell when offered to the public in one of our orderly liquidation sales.
We liquidate entire estates of all kinds, not just those that are filled to overflowing with 18th century furniture, period silver, vintage clothing, rare automobiles, fine jewelry and the like, We sell furniture of all types, clothing, general residential contents, cars, stereo equipment, tools, motorcycles, farm equipment, musical instruments .
Call or e-mail us to schedule a complimentary consultation in which we can advise you how to best liquidate your estate.
Q: What should I do to get ready for a sale?
A: First, get all your legal “ducks in a row.” If there has been a death in the family, make sure that you have legal title and full authority to sell. Make certain, too, that all disbursements have been made to any and all heirs before you call us for a consultation. If there’s a divorce or bankruptcy liquidation afoot, make sure that you talk to legal counsel before calling us. (Remember, by the way, that any liens or other encumbrances are solely your responsibility.)
Second, please step away from the dumpster and the thrift shop box — PLEASE. (You’d be horrified to learn what some clients have, in their zeal, thrown or given away before speaking to us!)
Third, show us any and all items you do not want us to sell before we sign a contract, as a) we base our commissions upon what we estimate the gross sales to be and b) items taken after the signing of the contract are subject to full commission.
Q: How much do you charge to look at an estate?
A: Our initial consultations are always free of charge. Should we determine that an estate sale is not your best option, we’ll be glad to provide you with a set of alternatives during this complimentary consultation.
Q: How is your company paid for its services?
A: We operate on a flat, all inclusive commission that’s based upon what we initially estimate the gross sales will be — there are no out-of-pocket expenses to you. (There may, on rare occasion, be an exception to this rule should a commercial dumpster of any kind is required, or serious grounds maintenance. Sometimes, too, the estate may want additional advertisements or security above and beyond what we deem necessary, but this, again, is rare.)
Remember that, because we operate on a percentage-based commission, we are doubly motivated to get you the most money possible for your household possessions.
We are a company with integrity and never have “up front” fees, nor any hidden costs.
Q: Do you have any special requirements of the estate itself before taking a sale?
A: Actually, yes, but only a few. If you are the representative of an estate, we will need to have a photocopy of the necessary legal documents which authorize you to dispose of the contents. We also require that the homeowner’s insurance on the home itself be current and in place throughout the sale process. The estate itself is responsible for disconnecting from gas or water any appliances which are to be sold. The furnace and air conditioner must be in working order before we begin work, and the water, gas and electricity must be turned on and kept on throughout the sale process.
Q: Shouldn’t I wait until my home has sold before I have you conduct my sale?
A: Some real estate agents may disagree with us on this issue, but we answer this question with a resounding “No!” You see, selling a home and then contracting with an estate liquidator can — and most often does — paint the liquidator into a corner, so to speak.
We want to do your sale justice, and we need adequate time in which to do this. Please try to coordinate the sale of your real estate with the sale of your household possessions, as (again) an estate sale can bring thousands of potential buyers into your home. (By the way, we gladly work with realtors to co-market the properties themselves.)
Q: The executor/executrix lives out of state. Can we still proceed with a liquidation?
A: Absolutely. We work for out of state heirs, executors/executrixes, trustees etc. All necessary arrangements can, if necessary, be handled via telephone calls, faxes and e-mails.
Q: How long will it take you to coordinate my sale?
A: The average estate requires two to three weeks’ worth of “lead time.” Occasionally we may coordinate a sale in less time; rarely, a sale may require more time.
Q: How long should I expect my sale to run?
A: Each sale is unique; however, suffice it to say that approximately 95% of our sales are two-day sales. From time to time (perhaps once a year), we may encounter a small sale that only merits one long day, or (even more rarely) an extremely full sale that merits three days. For all intents and purposes, though, you can probably count on a two-day sale.
Q: What do you do with items that don’t sell?
A: Naturally, we strive to sell the contents of an estate “wall to wall”, but there are always some things left over in each estate
On the off chance that items of appreciable value are left unsold, we can and will gladly broker your items for you. (Sometimes we consign items into future estate sales; sometimes we help you sell them through an auction house; sometimes we direct you to local buyers; rarely we use one of two local “buy out” services.) For all intents and purposes, in any case, it’s little more than common and miscellaneous household “stuff” and perhaps a few small pieces of furniture that one finds unsold at the end of an average sale.
We ALWAYS encourage our clients to walk through an estate after the sale but before the charities arrive, thus giving them (our clients) the opportunity to decide if there’s anything that they don’t want to go to charity. (Again, sometimes the family decides to keep everything and let nothing go to charity. That’s fine, too — it’s still their property to do with as they wish.) In any case, our clients are always welcome to be on site during the charity pick-up itself, as well as during the (much rarer) visit from a buy-out broker.
Please note: under no circumstances do we buy “remainders,” nor do we buy full or partial estates. To do so, we believe, lacks integrity, constitutes a conflict of interest at best, or even a serious ethical violation at worst.
Q: What do you do to deter theft during the sale?
A: We limit access to one entrance/exit. If there’s an attached garage or breezeway, it’s kept separate from the main house itself and manned by one or two employees. Furthermore, our staff is well trained in watching for “sticky fingers”, and our security officer scrupulously checks receipts at the door.
We do not allow drink cups in the house, and we strongly discourage baby strollers in our sales. (These are often used as ploys by professional shoplifters, believe it or not.) Should someone buy handbags or luggage, we’re careful to check each piece before it leaves the door. Gold, platinum, palladium, some sterling, better ivories, valuable objets d’art, gemstones etc. are kept in locked, lighted showcases. We only allow one piece to be shown at any given time, and nothing leaves the showcase(s) until paid for.
Q: Do you sell automobiles and motorcycles?
A: Absolutely! We find that cars, trucks, vans and motorcycles all draw large numbers of new and different customers. (By the way, as a general rule, we charge a considerably reduced commission on most automobiles and motorcycles.)
Q: May I be present for the sale itself?
A: Sorry, but the answer is an unequivocal “no.” We will be glad to arrange for a “family only” preview upon request, though.
We don’t allow the family on site during public sale hours as it has long been our experience that family members inadvertently get underfoot, or become emotional, or get distracted by the public’s sometimes bad behavior in the family home. We suggest that you take a nice spa day for yourself on the public sale days, or perhaps treat yourself to a day at the lake.
The family (or trustee) is, however, most welcome to be on site during the work after the sale (e.g., during the charity pick up or buy out). Again, we always encourage a full walk-through by the family shortly after the sale ends.
Q: Do you clean the home after a sale?
A: We strive to pick up large debris and leave the home “broom clean.” (Bear in mind that ours is a professional estate liquidation firm, though, not a housekeeping service. If you’d like the home to be immaculate and ready to put on the market, we’ll be happy to refer you to a professional housekeeper whom we recommend highly.)