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Want to hold an estate sale? You'll want to follow these steps

11Alive Investigator Rebecca Lindstrom reveals two different estate sale companies with a long list of unhappy customers. It isn't just a sale gone bad. These clients say the owner sold their stuff, then kept the money.

There are many reasons people hold estate sales, from downsizing to liquidating a house after a loved one died. But you want to make sure your home of memories is in the right hands.

Since it’s an area many people aren’t familiar, they often turn to companies to help with their estate sale needs. Most businesses want to hold a successful sale and have the best of intentions, but remember, the estate sale industry is a cash-based business with little accountability. There is no governing board or industry licensing requirement.

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11Alive's Rebecca Lindstrom talked with two sets of victims who say the estate sale companies they hired sold their stuff, but never gave them all of the money they were owed. Some also claim they're missing furniture and proceeds from sales that were taken to consignment shops later.

To make sure this doesn’t happen to others looking to hold an estate sale, Lindstrom spoke to Donna Davis, owner of Donna Davis Estate Sales, who has over a decade of experience in the industry.

When it comes to picking a real estate company, Davis said to talk with at least three companies. You’ll want to ask for and call references from recent sales (not from two years ago). Get their business license and make sure they’re knowledgeable on how to price things.

“Walk around with them and ask what would you price that for and see what their response is,” Davis said. “I want [my clients] to feel comfortable at the end of the sale that they were in charge of what they would sell things for.”

Once the sale is over make sure you get paid quickly. Davis said there is no reason why you can’t get your money within a week of the sale.

“We like to cash out and let the seller have as much money, a little something, of course, each night,” Davis said. “I don’t want to hold on to someone else’s money.”

If there are leftover items, Lindstrom asked if you should let the estate sale company consign the leftover items? Davis said she believes it's a conflict of interest. Instead, her company gives clients a list of consignment shops she feels do a good job so they can make their own arrangments.

“If you had priced the item correctly in the sale and it was a desirable item, it should have sold in the sale. It was priced too high,” Davis said. “So why all the sudden is it going to the consignment store where the seller will ultimately get more money as if they had priced it right, to begin with.”

Ultimately when it comes to holding an estate sale and using a company, it's up to the client to do the research.

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