Despite what you think, the nation's still not out of its economic woes. As a result, more "professional" estate liquidators have cropped up in recent years (almost tripled in the L.A. region in the last year). Many of the newer liquidators are legitimate people trying to start up a new business, but some seem to have less than honest motives.
Yesterday, we met with a couple from out of state. They were in L.A., looking to liquidate the personal property of a relative who recently passed away. The contents of the property was minimal, but there were some nice sell-able items, including a large doll collection, Disney memorabilia, Wizard of Oz collectibles, etc.
Prior to our meeting, the couple had met with a number of other local liquidators to evaluate the property. One particular liquidator strongly suggested that the couple take a write-off by donating all the home's contents to charity. Because the couple was from out of town, the liquidator, of course, would coordinate the charity pick-up on their behalf, and empty the home's entire contents.
The couple was quick to realize that there was something wrong with this offer. In essence, they felt that this liquidator was asking permission to STEAL anything of worth, and then donate the discards to charity (charities don't itemize all items, so there's no way for the client to determine quantity of goods donated).
For any reader of this blog, please do not go with a liquidator who cannot provide stellar recommendations (the above liquidator has been in business for only a year and was unable to provide the client with more than 2 recommendations). If possible, attend an estate sale conducted by those who you're considering. Most legitimate liquidators will be excessively busy and should have a sale scheduled every few weeks.
Despite being a business, estate liquidations also has a personal component. The liquidator should have some empathy and respect for the client, as well as the property that must be liquidated. In all cases, go with the liquidator that makes you feel most comfortable and who provides you with the knowledge that they are working with you, and not for you.
Finally, do not hire a liquidator who is not willing to detail what they can sell, how they can sell it, and who - after the sale is complete - is unable to provide even a cursory itemization of what has sold. Household property does not belong to the liquidator. They are merely agents tasked to sell the goods at the highest dollar amount.