For Dealers Only, Your First Estate/Collection Buy

Table Full of Collectibles

OK, your ready to answer your first call to go look at a house full of items for sale. Mrs. Jones has found your add in the paper, and said she needs to liquidate her mother’s estate. As the excitement builds and dreams of treasures fill your head with magic, you might realize that you don’t know where to start, after all this is your first time.

* What do you do first?
* How will you be expected to pay?
* Will she accept a check and if so, how do you make an offer?
* Gulp, how do you dare offer a price low enough to guarantee that you can make a profit?
* What if you buy the contents and you can’t take it all then?

These questions and more are all legitimate concerns. You could fill a book on how to handle this and I do have plans to include this information in an upcoming book, but let’s look at just a few of the most important quick, easy to remember things that will help you land your first purchase.
table full of antiques

* ALWAYS wipe your feet upon entering any dwelling, I don’t care if it looks like a goat barn. This simple show of respect puts you in good standing right away.
* Have a business card and hand it to the prospect upon introducing yourself. You may be new at this, but they don’t have to know that.
* Find something to remark about their dwelling in a a positive way, then thank them for the opportunity to look at the items.
* Ask them what their goals are, and find out if there is a deadline. (Many estate purchases have a real estate closing pending.) Don’t forget to listen here.
* Ask if you can take pictures with your digital camera for reference and mark some of these references on your clipboard. These two tools are relatively inexpensive and a must for anyone going into a home to make purchases.
* After a few minutes of looking around, you should know whether or not your interested at any price. The first question I like to ask myself is: “If this lot was given to me free of charge, would I be interested in it?” If after getting a good look, the answer to that question is no, your wasting their time and yours, thank them graciously and leave. There is always another deal around the corner. If the answer to the question is yes, now the game begins.
* Start planning an offer strategy.
* Resist the urge to knock items that have flaws to get the lot at a cheaper price, this puts the prospect on the defense, not to mention that it’s an old worn out tactic. Be different, find good things to say about what you like. If you need to knock something down a peg to bring the lot price down, knock the current market prices, or the cost of hauling and re-sale overhead, but NEVER their merchandise.
* If at all possible, make an offer based on the entire lot, this is the best way to buy low enough to make a profit, of course, you’ll have to find a market for all of the mediocre and low end items.
* When you make an offer, SHUT UP! Look for signs as to what they think of your offer. So many people will make an offer to buy, then keep talking out of nervousness. This is perhaps the biggest mistake in negotiating.
* If they’ve accepted the offer, make sure the terms are clear, such as: How long do you have to remove the items? If you have to leave things behind until a later date, I like to put a deposit with the remainder due upon removal of the rest. A check should be fine in most situations, you should be a little suspicious of anyone that doesn’t want to take a check, although there are sometimes legitimate reasons for doing so.
* Get a receipt for your purchases. While it’s often not practical to list every item in a big buy, put as much detail on your receipt to avoid confusion. Your digital pictures also help to avoid any mix-ups as to what was and wasn’t included in the purchase.
* Make arrangements for the removal of your items, the quicker you take them the better off you are.

If you stay in the business, you’ll undoubtedly come across lots that are out of your league. Why pass them up? If you’ve got a good eye, and know there’s great deal but just don’t have the time, money or other resources to deal with it, why not network with an auctioneer or fellow dealer. Some of the pie is better than none and the relationship you build could be more beneficial than the contents. A good auctioneer or dealer will always pay a respectable finders fee for quality purchases, I do.

Also, if your not sure what exactly your looking at, it may pay to consult with a professional, I’m available for phone consultation and plan to have chat consultation on my web site soon.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, there are many things to learn about purchasing large collections. I’ve been doing it for more than 25 years and I’m still learning. If you care to learn more about this aspect of the auction world, then you’ll want to stay in touch here and at as well.

Other resources that may be helpful. How to Liquidate an Estate.
My online radio show ep.5 Buying Lots and Collections.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments or ask questions, you may also email me at