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Top mistakes to avoid during an estate sale

Hiring an estate sale company can make life easier, but a consumer group warns not to do it expecting to get rich. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — Whether you’re downsizing or dealing with the death of a loved one, hiring an estate sale company can make life easier. But a consumer group warns not to do it expecting to get rich.

“What you really get out of it is some money but a house that, in the end, is completely cleared out and left broom-clean,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at Checkbook.org.

When deciding which company to hire, Brasler recommends visiting a site the company is working at to evaluate whether it’s advertising the sale well and displaying items in a well-mannered way.

“Does it look like things are well organized, does it look like they know what they’re doing?” Brasler said.

If you own an item of particular value, some companies will pull it from the estate sale to sell at auction. If that’s the case, Brasler recommends you get a second opinion.

“Tell the appraiser up front: I’m not going to use you to sell this item in your shop; I’m just trying to figure out what it’s worth,” Brasler advised.

Two common mistakes made by homeowners is to forget in the house something they want to keep and to throw away items they believe to be of no value.

“You will be shocked at what they can sell,” Brasler said. “Even canned goods and unopened bottles of juice.”

Through a special arrangement with the nonprofit Washington Consumers’ Checkbook, WTOP.com readers can have a look at Checkbook ratings of estate sale companies for a limited time.

Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services is an independent nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974. It has for more than 40 years been an innovator in providing information to help consumers make smarter choices.


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