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Safety Tips

A lot of people love estate sales. It’s something to do on a weekend whether they are interested in buying something or not. We all love to just browse….well, some people love to browse.  Personally, even before the pandemic, I preferred to shop via the comfort of my living room.

Whether you’re having an onsite (at your home) estate sale, a garage sale, or you’re just selling a few items on Craigslist, there are safety precautions you need to take.

  • When on the phone answering general questions about a sale item, do not answer questions about alarm systems, where you work, your hours, who lives with you, home occupancy, your marital status, and any other questions that seem unnecessarily intrusive. Just stick to questions about the product they are interested in. Don’t get chatty about your personal life.
  • Don’t give out your address until you have an appointment and their Ask for their phone number and call them back to set an appointment.
  • If they ask if you take checks or some other online type of payment like Zelle, say no. You can always change your mind after you meet them but don’t even hint that you’ll do anything but cash initially.
  • If something feels strange about the conversation, trust your gut and don’t do it.

If you’re having an onsite estate sale or garage sale:

  • Recruit several volunteers to help you watch over the items and keep an eye on people.
  • Lock up. Be sure to lock any doors and windows that lead to your house, including doors that might lead to your basement from your garage, and the back patio doors.
  • Never allow anyone to go inside your house. If they need a toilet (even for a child), direct them to the nearest gas station, fast food restaurant or shopping mall. Have a sign up saying NO RESTROOM AVAILABLE may avoid having to refuse a request. If they want to try on some clothes, have a full-length mirror outside that they can use.
  • Watch out for people who are wearing a fanny pack. Most serious buyers will be wearing a fanny pack, but one might be there to pretend to be the owner and sell some of your items pocketing the cash!
  • Do not accept large bills.
  • Mark an area with a sign that says ‘cashier’ and try to have only one person as the designated money-manager. Having only one person prevents a shopper claiming that they paid for the item with someone else.
  • Always check what’s being bought when someone leaves.
  • Add items up yourself. Keep a calculator handy.
  • Protect yourself with these signs
    • ALL SALES ARE FINAL
    • ALL ITEMS SOLD AS IS
    • NO REFUNDS WILL BE GIVEN
    • NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ACCIDENTS
    • NO RESTROOM AVAILABLE
  • Don’t lie about the condition of an item. If the item doesn’t work or has a defect, be upfront and tell them about it before they buy or put a sign on it.
  • Always keep a charged cell phone on you.
  • Don’t tell people you’re moving or give any information as to the vacancy of the house.
  • If you live alone, pretend you don’t.

Craigslist is “special”. I read somewhere that one out of four listings are a scam of some sort. That sounds pretty hard to believe but use an abundance of caution when dealing with Craigslist buyers and sellers.

  • Always use the Craigslist proxy email address. Once a potential buyer is truly interested, it’s okay to switch communication to your cell phone and text. If you’re the one browsing, send questions to sellers through an email address you solely use for Craigslist or any online activity to shield your real email address. You can set up multiple email addresses through Gmail and route them all through your main Gmail account. Try this: gizmodo.com/how-to-set-up-a-second-google-account-and-how-to-use-it-1840014381
  • Meet in public and bring a friend if possible. Coffee shops, malls or even the parking lot of the local police station are all possibilities. Keep your cell phone handy and turned on during the meeting.
  • Get the buyer’s full name and cell phone number prior to meeting. Text them an hour in advance to confirm they are coming. If there’s a problem, you have their information in your phone.
  • If possible, move the item into your garage or driveway prior to the meeting. Keep the garage door open during your meeting and lock the entrance to your home.
  • Have a family member or friend at home with you.
  • Don’t answer personal questions about your life, work schedule, and marital status, particularly if you’re a female.
  • Meet during the daytime. If that isn’t possible, make sure to turn on as many lights as possible around the area where you’ll be standing.

You can avoid scams on Craigslist with these few tips:

  • If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. I’ve seen the exact same picture on VRBO and Craigslist showing a completely different rental rate (much lower).  What’s the scammers point? I have no idea, but you would find out if you contacted them.
  • Avoid ads that use vague or overly generalized language. Genuine sellers typically provide a wealth of information to describe the item and its condition.
  • Look out for ads that display a sense of urgency.
  • Never do a deal where the seller asks for money upfront.
  • If an ad offers an item for sale that doesn’t match the image, it’s likely a scam.
  • Don’t send money to someone offering a deal from out of your local area.
  • Avoid ads with multiple misspellings or grammar errors. Humans make mistakes, but it’s been shown that Craigslist posts with multiple punctuation marks, spelling errors, and odd use of language are generally scams.
  • Make sure the seller is willing to meet in person. Are they objecting too much or making excuses? That’s a red flag!

If you prefer to do it yourself and keep more money in your pocket, try our services. For a flat fee, we post your information and photos on a private temporary webpage for you. Don’t worry, we do all the technical behind the scenes stuff.  You can still do an onsite sale for a weekend or two and at the same time you can allow people to view your items online and contact you for an appointment for purchase. This means you are more in control of your sale and the people coming into your house. Serious buyers don’t have a problem with viewing your items online first. Your own web page also expands the sales time from only a two-day onsite sale to a 30-day sale.

Not just for estate sales or moving sales  – This service is not just for selling furniture and household items, it can also be used to sell your home by owner. Instead of just posting signs around the neighborhood or taking out a classified ad in the local paper, you have a website link with all your home information where people can see pictures of the home, get descriptions and contact you without giving out your address in advance!

If you do the sale yourself, you will need to do some advertising. We can help with that if you like. Below are Options and Tips for advertising online.

Next Door-   nextdoor.com

Pros: You can post for free and the items are listed in a For Sale Section. It’s based on your neighborhood or an expanded area. Not everyone in your neighborhood is on this site, but it is easier to control who sees your post.

Cons:  This site is like posting items for sale on Facebook. It works best if you’re only posting a few items. Each post is sequential and the more items that are listed for sale the further yours drops down the list. Instead of posting individual items, I  suggest posting an estate sale announcement on Next Door. Do a regular post and also post a For Sale Listing using the same information under Garage Sales (they don’t have a category for estate sales).

Your Local Newspapers

Pros: Newspaper ads reach a lot of people and many people love to attend onsite sales.

Cons:  People post their address in the ad and I think this is a bad idea.  People may just show up at any time, and unscrupulous people may assume the home is vacant and decide to make an unannounced  visit in the middle of the night!

The option is to list a website address and force people to go there first. Serious buyers will have no problem with this.

Newspaper ads are not cheap, but they do have far reach and a lot of readers. It’s worth the $60 or $70 for a small ad that will run for a few days. Check with your local newspaper on rates. A person is generally available to help you and will write the ad for you or you can just tell them you have a graphic picture to put in the ad.

Use a graphic instead of just text. For a newspaper classified ad column the graphic will be resized by the newspaper depending on their column width – typically 1.83 inches. It may be small but it’s still better than just text because it will stand out.

Craigslist

Pros: Craigslist reaches a lot of people and people love to attend all types of onsite sales. Generally, Craigslist buyers are looking for deals – highly discounted items that they may turn around and resell.

Cons:  Whatever you do on Craigslist, just be careful. Listen to your gut and if it sounds weird or looks weird just don’t do it. Read my safety tips.

Again, the option is to list a website address and force people to go there first. Serious buyers will have no problem with this.

Street Signs and Flyers

Pros: Street signs and fliers are necessary if you want to reach out to neighbors or maybe even give neighbors pre-sale opportunities.

Cons:  The signs don’t reach many people and cannot stay up for long due to city and HOA codes.

You will find a variety of letter size signs in the template section of this website. All Free.  Just download and print. They are created for standard size 8.5 x 11” printers. You may want to  put your Sale Dates and Address on a separate paper and attach both to a piece of cardboard or a box to put on the street. Be sure and check with local authorities and your HOA and remove the signs as soon as your sale is over.

The best way to reach people is to use all these channels for advertising.

To do your own sale consider our option:  a private website address to list all your information and photos. This allows you to have all your information and photos online for a period of 30 days and you can promote that private webpage anywhere and everywhere you like – on street signs and fliers, on a newspaper ad, on Craigslist, on Next Door, and on Facebook marketplace. This option allows you to stay in control of your sale and visitors to your home. And, it keeps more money in your pocket than using a liquidator.

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