Estate Sale Certification – Is there licensed companies?

When hiring estate sale organizers, one always wonders if a special license or certification is necessary to own an estate sale business.  Although many estate liquidation companies are owned by licensed real estate brokers, appraisers or auctioneers, their license isn’t specific for the estate sale business.

Details about professional licensing

estate sale certification A license gives “permission to practice” it is issued in order to regulate specific activities that require specialized skill.  Real estate brokers are licensed professionals, so are estate attorneys, and appraisers. 

Generally, the license is tied directly to the person, governed by the State in which they practice.  This means “if the licensed individual does not follow the strict standards, or is found to be unethical, their license to practice can be revoked”.

Real estate brokers, estate attorneys, certified appraisers receive special training, they are licensed professionals bound by strict standards, examinations, code of ethics, regulations, and continued education in order to maintain a valid license to practice.    This professional license ensures the client they are knowledgeable, experienced, skilled to perform their specific duties, and are bound by the standards governed by the state they practice in.

What is an accreditation?

Being accredited means a company or individual has received a certification of competency, authority or credibility.  Organizations that issue credentials or certifications regarding practice standards must be accredited, audited regularly themselves to ensure that their certification practices are acceptable.

Certified Relocation Specialists “CRTS”, founded in 2004, grants certification for senior movers, relocation and senior transition services.   While their certification isn’t specific to estate sales, it encompasses a range of service providers dealing with seniors including organizers, real estate agents, brokers, movers, move coordinators, estate sale specialists, caregivers, home stagers and other related professionals.

What about the industry Associations or Organizations?

Estate Sale Memberships

There are many estate sale companies and estate professionals that hold memberships with various associations that promote ethics, provide training, and continued education, most  memberships are not governed by the State or stop a third party from continuing to provide a service

How does all this apply to the estate professionals you want to hire?

With Realtors and attorneys, they are licensed professional, certified appraisers and auctioneers also fall into this category.

Carolyn Schwaar with Realtor.org recently reported “You hear it all the time: If only it were harder to get a real estate license in the first place, then fewer bad apples would join the industry, or they’d learn earlier the right way to do business.”

Licensing requirements are always being revised, making it harder to qualify, forcing existing licensees to more stringent requirements; this is done to insure the client is at ease knowing he has hired a licensed professional that is required to follow strict standards.

What special licenses are required for the estate sale business?

Estate Sale Companies Not CertifiedThere is no governed “license to practice” that sets standards for estate sale companies specifically.  Many estate sale companies hold a business license in the city or State they provide service in; some hold memberships with the better business bureau or belong to industry associations and/or organizations.

According to Julie Hall’s report to market watch “most liquidators have no formal training, Hall says. Anyone can set up shop as an estate seller, and plenty of folks who lost their jobs in the recession did just that”.  She is the executive director of the American Society of Estate Liquidators. An educational resource not affiliated or sanctioned by any governmental body.  Members of that organization must meet certain education or experience requirements and abide by a code of ethics.

We reached out to Julie, and asked her what happens if consumers complain about members?

 “We get very minimal, easily-solvable complaints a year because our members are serious minded and do a very good job.  Very proud of that! They really love what they do and serving the clients”. 

When it comes to hiring an estate sale company, it’s quite simple, there are many good reputable companies and there are many bad ones.  There is no special license to practice that’s regulated or governed.  Even more of a reason for you to hire an estate seller you trust.

History, experience, knowledge, morals and integrity play a big part and define a good apple from a bad one.  It would behoove anyone hiring an estate sale organizer to do their homework first.  Membership affiliations are not a guarantee of proper business dealings.


Experts say “Even if many complaints are brought against an estate liquidator, they can continue to hold estate sales, without anything or anyone stopping them”. 

Freddie Chang, an acquaintance of a former estate liquidator had this to say to market watch “An acquaintance of mine died in 2010.  He was an estate liquidator with affiliations and memberships in a few national liquidation organizations.  His obituary said he was an ‘international antiques dealer’.  However, he wouldn’t leave the country since he owed about $500K in back taxes…applying for a passport would have flagged him”.

“Further, he was featured in Boston area newspapers and on a couple of TV news investigative reports for having stolen much of the deceased person’s goods.  Regardless of the huge number of complaints against this guy, he operated in a legal ‘gray area’ and was never prosecuted since he had signed contracts that virtually allowed him to do almost anything with the goods.  So, folks need to be very careful about these people regardless of their affiliations with ‘industry’ organizations.”


The many reputable estate liquidators are just as frustrated “The bad companies out there give our industry a negative label.  While many of us uphold excellent reputations, and do all the right things, bad estate sellers do hide behind affiliations and memberships meanwhile they’re out there tainting our industry’s reputation”. 

What does this mean to you when you’re ready to hire an estate sale company?

Reviews tell you a lot, but they’re not always accurate.  Estate sale companies get reviewed by sale buyers, and feuding family members all the time.  It would be unfair to judge a company based on reviews from buyers who didn’t get a cheap enough price at a sale or feuding family members that were not happy with the outcome because an item was sold by the trustee that should’ve been given to them.  You must hear both sides every time.   

The estate sale organizer’s job is to sell the items at the highest price possible for the client, that’s you!  They’re essentially getting a bad review for doing a good job.  It is also unfair to judge whether you should hire a company based on memberships or affiliations, since those memberships are a choice, not a State governed requirement.

who to hireSo how do you pick the right company?

As a client, you must take the time to speak to them directly, get a good understanding of what estate sale companies do, meet, and interview them face to face.  Discuss your concerns, ask for references and make a decision based on their experience, personal integrity, and ability to help you achieve your goals, safely and effectively.

Never verbally agree to an estate sale without a written contract, which will also vary from one company to the next, unlike real estate contracts, there is not an industry standard contract for estate sales.

As your guide, we promote all things positive; help others by sharing your personal experience; positively rate a professional that helped you.  By highlighting the good liquidators, you are making a difference in the industry, and helping these reputable small business owners stand out.

Maybe one day the industry will be regulated, for now, there are thousands of trusted and respected professionals that built their business on a good foundation.  They practice estate sales and uphold the highest quality standards to not only meet, but exceed your expectations.  They rely heavily on experience, values, morals, integrity, honesty and dedication to the client and the industry they serve.  Those are the estate sale professionals to find and hire.

Reference:

About Professional Licensure in the United States

About CRTS – Certified Relocation Specialists License

How Much Do Estate Sale Companies Charge and Is It Worth It?

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