Q. Where does the name Pink Dog Estate Sales come from?
A. The Raybecks are passionate animal lovers, with six rescued pets currently filling our home with love. The name Pink Dog stems from a family joke. And to further honor our rescued pets, we make it part of our mission to support worthy local animal charities from the proceeds of our sales, including the Hudson County Animal League, the Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge Inc. (RBARI), and Orphaned Pets.
Q. How do I know you’re trustworthy?
A. Since Michelle and Steve both come from education careers, we have both passed rigorous State of New Jersey background checks, and our fingerprints are on file with the state. All our helpers have been carefully hired and trained and are our responsibility. And of course, before you even have us in for a consultation, we're happy to provide references you can call and ask how they liked working with us.
Q. How do you determine whether an estate sale is feasible in my home?
A. We begin with a telephone screening, and proceed to a free in-home consultation, when we discuss your needs, look at what is for sale, examine the layout of the home and property, and figure out what can be done and what resources it will take for us to do it properly. Whether your home is 500 square feet or 10,000 square feet, we have the resources and the know-how to make your sale happen properly. We do not shy away from dirty or crowded "hoarder" homes, and we do not judge your family for the condition of the home.
Q. What do you charge?
A. We operate entirely on commission, with no out-of-pocket costs to you, and no high minimums. Our commission is flexible depending on the individual needs of the home, the length and size of the sale, and other factors. The way we structure our commission, it often turns out to be lower than what our competitors charge. The commission is agreed upon before the contract is signed.
Q. Do you use a standard contract?
A. Our contract lays out everything we will do for you, everything you must do to prepare for your sale, and addresses common problems that may arise.
Q. Are you insured?
A. We carry $1 million in liability insurance and $10,000 in inventory insurance from the Bomba Insurance Company, a major insurer of home-based businesses across America.
Q. How do you advertise?
A. To begin with, we take hundreds of well-composed, well-lit photos, and we keep adding as we organize the home for the sale. These photos will be used in detailed listings on estatesales.net, estatesales.org, and estatesale.com, which also feeds into pinkdogsales.com. We have premium memberships on all three sites, which ensures us high placement in the listings, and we routinely win recognition for high viewership. The sale is also shared on our business and personal Facebook pages, and with our ever-expanding e-mail list. We also advertise on Craigslist, four to six times before and during the sale. When warranted, we advertise in your area daily newspaper. We do not advertise in weekly newspapers because we do not want your address published until the day before the sale. Finally, if the municipality allows it, we put up hot-pink directional signs showing the turns to your home from the main road. Our professionally printed, free-standing signs are clearly visible from a half-mile away on a straight road. This is over $200 in advertising costs per sale, and it’s all covered in our commission. Some companies will charge you separately for advertising.
Q. How do you set up the sale?
A. We bring tables, jewelry cases, clothing racks and hangers, bins, lights, whatever we need to organize your items and show them to best advantage. We go through boxes, cabinets and closets and display the items for sale. We rearrange furniture if necessary for safer traffic flow. We carefully mark items that are not for sale, and tag items throughout the home with prices. We also put up bright yellow caution tape and hot-pink signs to mark prohibited areas, and directional signs to show people where in the home they can go and draw attention to potential dangers, such as low door lintels and unexpected steps.
Q. How are prices determined?
A. In many areas, our own knowledge and experience allow us to know what prices to put on common items such as furniture and housewares. We also have a great deal of experience in research, and many excellent resources and experts who can assist us in determining value of such things as collectibles and jewelry. In the case of precious metals, the items are weighed and priced at a percentage above melt value as determined two days before the sale. We strongly discourage clients from attempting to set prices. In our experience, items with client minimums tend not to sell.
Q. Do you sell vehicles?
A. Yes, we can sell cars and motorcycles as long as they have clear Division of Motor Vehicles titles.
Q. Do you deliver?
A. We have a relationship with a mover who can deliver within 24 hours for a separate fee.
Q. Should we be present for the sale?
A. You need not to be present for the set-up process, and no family members are to be present for the sale itself.
Q. How important is it to accept credit cards?
A. In our experience, it is critical to accept credit cards. Credit cards allow people to make larger purchases than they might if we only accepted cash, and they prevent people from running out to the ATM for cash and never coming back to complete their purchase. Most people don’t carry hundreds or even thousands of dollars in cash, but it’s easy to use a credit card. In our experience, credit card purchases can account for as much as half the overall sales, which means half your sales might not have happened with a cash-only company. And we absorb the credit card fees as a business expense, which actually means our commission is as much as 3 percent lower.
Q. How many people will staff my sale?
A. Usually, we have one person at the front desk, guarding the valuables, negotiating prices, accepting money and maintaining the itemized list. Then we will populate the home with a minimum of two helpers, depending on the size of the house and the volume and nature of the contents. Our payroll is covered by our commission.
Q. Who's going to buy all this stuff?
A. For one thing, we have excellent relationships with many excellent high-powered buyers who stock furniture and antique stores in New York, Lambertville and other cities by buying at estate sales. Many estate sale buyers have eBay stores. And of course, there are many young adults leaving home, newlyweds and newly arrived immigrants who need to set up their homes.
Q. What is the itemized list?
A. As each transaction is completed, we write down what was sold and the total price. Only one person handles money, so the list is always accurate. At the end of the sale, the list is entered into Excel. You receive a print-out of the list, with our calculations of our commission and your share at the bottom. You’ll be able to see the prices you got for your items, and exactly where we got the amount we pay you, so you’ll know we’ve been completely fair and honest. Most companies don’t bother with this, or if you insist on it, they charge you a separate fee.
Q. Are prices negotiable?
A. Yes. Usually on the first day we try to stick to our marked prices. On the last day we advertise a set reduction, and then prices are negotiable from there. Our philosophy is, we’d rather accept a reasonable offer than not sell the item at all.
Q. What if credit card purchases exceed your commission?
A. Funds from credit card purchases go into our business account early in the morning on the next business day, so if we have to, we go to the bank and get out enough cash to pay the client’s share. There’s no waiting.
Q. How soon after the sale will I be paid?
A. Usually, we complete the list on Sunday and send the payment out on Monday. If possible, we pay in cash, or if you’re too far away, we send a cashier’s check via certified mail, so you’ll get paid as fast as the mail goes, usually a couple of days. Again, we absorb the costs of the cashier’s check and the certified mailing as part of our business expenses. If something prevents us from doing the banking on Monday, we’ll let you know so you don’t have to wonder.
Q. Does anyone on your staff speak any other languages?
A. Owner Michelle speaks Spanish and finds it very helpful to do business with Hispanic customers in their own language. This also allows us to work with underserved Hispanic sellers. We also have two other staff members who speak Spanish.
Q. What happens to the items that do not sell?
A. First, invite your family and friends in to take what they want. Then, have a charitable donation, which will get you a tax write-off. Our favorite charity that actually sends a truck to pick up your items is the Salvation Army. If necessary, high-value items that did not sell may be sent to auction. Finally, if necessary, you can hire a clean-out company to dispose of what cannot be donated. We have vetted many clean-out companies in the area and have selected the one that does the best job and makes it their business to keep your costs down.
Q. Some estate sale companies also do clean-outs. Why doesn’t Pink Dog do clean-outs?
A. We focus on doing one thing well: running your sale. It is our job to sell your things, and whatever doesn’t sell, we guide you on how to dispose of it, but we believe it would be a conflict of interest for us to take your things after the sale has ended.