Average Income Estate Liquidator Business

The estate sale business is booming. This business is truly recession-proof as executors look for help in selling personal property left in an estate, as well as baby boomers who are downsizing and selling many of their belongings. In fact, baby boomers are a large part of an estate sale liquidator’s business.

Recently I read on Indeed.com that the average income for an estate sale liquidator is $66,000.

Although I’m not sure how accurate that statement is, I do know that if the estate sale agent is trained, educated and committed to hard work, they should easily exceed that $66,000 average.

Consider this: The average estate sale company charges anywhere from 25% to 40% of the total proceeds, with 30% being the norm. If the company conducts a sale with end-of-sale proceeds equaling $8,000 and they charged 30%, the estate sale company has earned $2,400 for that sale!! Of course, there are labor charges for helpers, and other expenses. But I can assure you the other expenses we pay are very low compared to other occupations.

So, let’s say the company only cleared $2,000 and they conducted 3 sales that month. Take $6,000 x 11 months you do come up with $66,000. Some sale proceeds are much higher than $8,000, and some are lower. I would say $66,000 or higher is a very nice income and you can be your own boss!

But, let me caution you that conducting a sale for someone else is a large responsibility. You are not only pricing and selling items, but you will be held responsible for every aspect of the sale. It takes ongoing education and training to maintain a successful estate sale company.


Does Your Insurance Cover That?

It pays to read your policy. You should have General Liability Insurance to cover injury, damage or theft during your estate sales, but do you know exactly what is covered? An incident at one of our sales lead me to take a closer look at our policy, and revealed some interesting details.


Guidelines for a “Partial” Sale

We were contracted to perform an estate sale for an elderly couple moving to assisted living. They were selling most, but not all, of their belongings, and they were still living in the house. Some companies don’t accept sales under these circumstances, but we do. And we have very specific rules that we clearly communicate to the client, both in our conversations and in our contract.

  1. Any items that are not to be sold must be either secured by the client, or removed from the home prior to the start of the sale.
  2. All jewelry and other valuables must be removed from the home.
  3. We are not responsible for any items left in the home that are not part of the sale.


An Unfortunate Occurrence

The husband showed early signs of dementia, which was confirmed by the wife. Apparently he didn’t remember our instructions about securing valuables and jewelry. He removed two rings from his fingers and left them on the bedroom dresser before the sale. Despite having workers throughout the house who are trained to watch for theft, within ten minutes of opening the sale both rings had been stolen. It only takes a moment to slip something like a ring into a pocket, and it’s gone. Naturally, both the husband and wife were distraught, and asked us to check if our insurance would cover the loss.


Check with Your Agent

  1. I’m familiar with our policy and was sure the theft (also called a “mysterious disappearance”) would not be covered. But when I called our insurance carrier and talked to them, I was surprised to learn a few things about our policy.
  2. If the rings had been included as part of the sale and were stolen, they probably would have been covered by our policy.
  3. If the home had been broken into and the rings (or other items included in the sale) were stolen, they would have been covered as long as there was evidence of the theft (broken door, window, etc.).
  4. If we broke or damaged an item in the home, it would have been covered by our policy.


A Thorough Inventory

Our insurance representative emphasized the importance of having a complete inventory of all items contracted to be sold, including photos and descriptions. You’ll have photos of larger items you use to advertise your sale, but do you have photos and descriptions of smaller, valuable items such as jewelry, coins, sterling, gold, and art? You should include photos as part of your inventory (attached to your contract), along with copies of any appraisals. This is particularly important in the case of vacant homes, since the chance of an overnight break-in is higher.


Check Your Policy and Contract

Even if you’re sure you know what your policy covers and what is in your standard contract, it’s always a good idea to review both from time to time. Have specific language in your contract stating that non-sale items must be removed or secured by the client, and that you are not responsible for any non-sale items left in the house. You may also want to point out to your client that a theft of this nature may not be covered by their homeowner’s policy.

  • Donna

Donna Davis has over twenty years of experience in the antiques and estate sale business, and conducts sales every weekend in the Greater Atlanta Area. She is also the Founder and Director of the National Association of Estate Liquidators, and Lead Instructor of NAOEL’s online school. You can contact Donna by email at donna@naoel.com or by phone at 800-521-8820.

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