Estate liquidation pointers from Jeff Baker, owner of J.A. Baker LLC. His compnay will be managing the estate sale of Dr. and Mrs. Howard Sirak April 17-19.

By Jeff Baker

J.A. Baker LLCis a company that appraises personal property and handles all aspects of estate and tag sales as well as comprehensive liquidation services. April 17-19 JABaker LLC ismanaging the Estate Sale of Dr. and Mrs. Howard Sirak. The sale is at the Sirak's Bexley home, 2399 Commonwealth Park South. It will feature museum quality works as well as furnishing, jewelry, house goods, etc. More information can be found here.

Liquidation of an estate – whether large or small – can be a daunting task. To ensure that you receive the fair market value for your antiques, artwork, furniture, and heirlooms, you need a company that will honestly and fairly appraise your property, and then handle all aspects of the sale. How do you go about choosing the right company?

First, interview more than one company. Begin with phone conversations followed by in-person interviews to determine the right fit. Here are some questions you should ask:

1. How are charges assessed? Every company is structured a bit differently, but most work on a commission basis. A 35% commission fee is a fair rate, as this is a labor-intensive process and you want it done properly, with all your items presented in the best possible light.

2. Are there any hidden fees beyond the commission? Be sure to ask about any additional fees such as advertising and after-sale clean-up services, as these can drive up your costs.

3. What insurance does the company carry? Make sure that, at a minimum, there is liability insurance to cover accidents for any damage that may occur. "Errors and omissions" insurance is also a good idea, although many companies will not have it due to the added expense. It covers negligence if the company fails to do its due diligence and set prices at a fair market values.

4. What type of research is conducted? There should be a comprehensive research process in place that exhausts every avenue including the internet, various databases, and outside, knowledgeable consultants. Determining the true value of items such as rare books or specialized equipment is essential.

5. Who does the appraisals? No one appraiser will be an 'expert' in all areas. Choose a company that has experienced staff with specific specialties such as art, rare books, and furniture. Certification by the International Society of Appraisers, American Association of Appraisers or American Society of Appraisers is desirable.

6. Are additional resources available to help with appraisals? There should also be a trusted network of consultants should second opinions be necessary or additional input be required

7. What kind of marketing is provided? A small ad in the 'garage sale' section of the local paper is not enough. You need a company that takes full advantage of social media, and has both email and direct-mail lists. Ask how the lists were compiled, and how many people are on them.

8. How is the sale handled? You want a company that will protect the building as well as the items for sale. Pick one that puts down commercial matting to reduce wear-and-tear, ropes off closed areas, handles parking issues, and cleans up after the sale is completed.

9. Are references available? Don't be afraid to ask for references. They can be a valuable source of information to help you narrow down your search.

10. What happens if items don't sell? An 80% sell-through rate is the norm. However, any unsold items may be donated to charitable organizations, with receipts supplied to the sellers for tax purposes. In rare instances, a company may have a sales room to display unsold pieces, with proceeds reverting back to the estate. End of sale buyouts are also offered by some companies.

One last piece of advice: don't do your own clean-up prior to hiring a company to handle your estate sale.This can lead to discarding items that may be of high value. Let the experts who are objective, know their specialties, and understand the prices that items are commanding in the marketplace appraise your property. Good luck!