Estate Liquidation – Pros and Cons of Tag Sales and Auctions

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.

What you’ll get from this article

Executors have three main liquidation options, and I will discuss the pros and cons of each in this article. Any company chosen to liquidate an estate should be vetted; I will tell you how to do this conscientiously, and I will also propose the best liquidation method. I assume that the twin 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. Of course, there are ways to maximize the cash return for each type of sale, and I’ll tell you what they are.

Investing ten minutes into reading this article could save an Executor many hours of work.

Option 1: Have An Auction On-Site

Benefits of an On-Site Auction:

Auctioneers are very competitive lot. It should be an easy job for an executor to find an auction company willing to take the estate liquidation job, and commissions will be competitive. 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 are licensed to auction the real estate and other titled property. 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.

Suggestions for an On-Site Auction:

If your estate has many large collectibles, like antique furniture or a piano, an on-site auction may be your best choice. Summer 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 2: Auction Gallery Consignment

Pros for Auction Gallery Consignment

If weather is a concern, you may want to consider consigning your items to an Auction Gallery. Consignments at an Auction Gallery are grouped according to the type of item in order to maximize turnout and get the best prices from their collectors. For example, there may be an auction dedicated to art and home decor, or musical instruments, or ceramics.

Cons for Auction Gallery Consignment

There are quite a few reasons for not consigning to an Auction Gallery. For starters, many Auction Galleries will take only the best items from the estate. Ninety percent of an estate is made up of items that are of little interest to the auctioneer, which leaves the Executor to deal with the remaining ninety percent of the estate property. 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.

Tips for Auction Gallery Consignment

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

Option 3: Tag Sale On-Site

Pros for Tag Sale On-Site

Tag sales have several advantages over an on-site auction. For those that are not familiar with tag sales, the sale is held on the premises and in the house. Companies that specialize in tag sales are less common than auction companies. At a tag sale, 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 buy. When buyers arrive at the house, they take a number, and are admitted into the house when their number is called. Tag sales usually start on Friday evening and end Sunday evening, so there is no need to provide food or bathroom facilities. Tag sales can be held rain or shine and in any season

Cons for Tag Sale On-Site

The biggest disadvantage in hiring a tag sale company is that tag sale companies are not held to the same legal standards to 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 state, must pass tests, be bonded, must hold all funds in an escrow account until distributed, and has 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. Tag 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.

Another problem with tag sales is that typically there is merchandise left over after the sale. Often, there is a LOT of merchandise left over. When a lot of items are left over, 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, which is not only time consuming but costs the estate money.

Tips for Tag Sale On-Site

When working with a tag sale company, read the contract thoroughly, make sure settlement dealines are included. the operator should have a solid pricing plan, adequate staff, and a solid track record.

What about Internet Sales and Retail consignment?

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, 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. Dont even consider a retail consignment; they will take too long to sell your items.

How do I know if I am dealing with a reputable company?

Unfortunately, asking for references 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 states have an occupational licensing board which can give you the status of an auctioneers license and tell you if they have any complaints on file. Checking up on a tag sale company is a lot harder, because there is no agency keeping track of complaints. One website that is helpful is http://www.ripoffreport.com. When at the site search the name of the company you wish to investigate; also type in the owners name to see what that brings up.

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 to see how well connected they are. Go to Googles 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 companys web address starting with www. How many search results are returned that pertain directly to the company you are investigating?. If the company is a national franchise, disregard the results for the general franchise and only count the results where the local company is mentioned. 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?

The best type of sale for estate liquidation is to hire a licensed fiduciary to sell the estate property in one day, to the bare walls, any time of year. To achieve this would require an event that is part tag sale and part auction, run by an auctioneer. Since Tag Sale operators are generally not licensed auctioneers and auctioneers usually hate to do tag sales, that’s a tough solution to implement. There are auctioneers that combine these services, however. Finding such a company will give an executor the flexibility of having a sale any time of year, the ability to sell down to the bare walls with nothing left over, and the assurance of dealing with a state licensed and bonded fiduciary.

What Are the Benefits of Selling Assets Through Liquidation Auctions?

There are times when it is necessary to make pretty tough decisions as far as our business is concerned. Try as you might, there may come a time when it is necessary for you to exit the business and to do so without merging it, selling, it or passing it on to another individual or entity. When it comes time to exit the business, you are going to need to develop an exit strategy that is well thought out and follows along with a plan that will benefit you to the greatest extent possible. One part of that plan may be selling some of your assets through liquidation auctions. Why is it a good idea to do this?

Before I begin to discuss the benefits of selling your assets through a liquidation auction, it’s important for you to understand that there may be other options that are available. It is always a good idea to discuss any exit strategy with your attorney as well as your accountant before you make this type of move. There may be legal ramifications that are associated with the closure of your business that you have not considered. Your accountant will be able to help you with any financial problems or questions that you may have so that you can exit the business with the least amount of financial impact on your personal lifestyle.

It is also a good idea for you to take a good look at your assets and the inventory that you have available. While it certainly is true that using a liquidation auction is going to be the easiest way for you to sell off your assets, there may also be some items available that would be better sold elsewhere. This is also something that you can discuss with your accountant to determine if there is going to be any financial or other benefit to you when selling those items.

Among the specific benefits of using a liquidation auction, one that is certainly going to be considered is the convenience of doing so. It is likely that you are dealing with a very stressful situation while you are closing your business and the last thing that you would want to do is to add a lot of stress along with it. Using an auction allows you to put the majority or perhaps even all of your assets on the auction block and to have them taken care of in that way. There is still going to be some sorting that will be necessary on your part, but if you don’t have to worry with the stress of selling those items individually, you will fare much better.

There are also additional benefits that should be considered because they can help to relieve you of some of the stress of the situation and to allow you to fully liquidate your assets. Included among those benefits is the marketing that is available to allow you to reach a much wider audience. There is also the certainty that the items are going to be sold and many full-service auctions have a regular following which may be looking for exactly what you are offering. So if the time is come for you to close your business, consider using an auction to liquidate your assets for the financial and stress management benefits that are available.