Quick Cash Not Always a Sure Thing With Estate Sales

As homeowners retire and downsize there’s a growing number of Chicago area businesses helping them sell-off their belongings. Yet some of the people in charge of those sales are issuing words of wisdom for consumers looking to hire an estate sale company.

Always interview companies in person. Always ask for a contract. And always get receipts from your sale.

“You should have an accounting of basically here’s the income, this was cash, this is credit, this is what we received,” said Jennifer Prell of Paxem Incorporated.

Prell is an award-winning member of the American Society of Estate Liquidators who said fly-by-night estate sales companies can create problems for consumers and the industry.

NBC has heard from several consumers in recent months who said their estate sales only led to frustration due to non-payments.

Nancy Calderon said she thought she did her due diligence when hiring a different company to help her downsize from a larger house. She was hoping to make about $2,500 after signing a contract with the company, which agreed to a flat fee of $750 or 30 percent cut of the sales.

But Calderon said a check never arrived after her sale and the company’s owner stopped communicating with her.

“I did not receive keys, sale receipts, a donation receipt, nothing from them,” Calderon said. “If they have the sales receipts, I want to see them. What did they sell my things for?”

The company hired by Calderon told NBC 5 that nothing of value was sold and that it mailed her receipts. Calderon said that is simply not true. She’s also urging consumers not to go with the cheapest companies they find.

“I guess you really have to go a step farther,” Calderon said. “It’s very disheartening that you put your trust and your faith in somebody to sell your possessions that took me years to collect.”

The company hired by Calderon was also removed from, which tells visitors to its website that it removes any company that does not pay its clients.

Estate sales can be a bargain hunters paradise, with everything from furniture, to jewelry, and toys being hot sellers. Items that don’t sell are typically donated to charity by the estate sale companies.

Prell said customers should expect to pay companies at least $1,000 for a sale and home de-cluttering. Most estate sale companies charge a flat fee or take a cut of the proceeds, whichever is higher.

According to, the average sale now rakes-in more than $11,000. The website also determined there are approximately 10,000 to 12,000 estate sale companies in the US.

“Our goal is to make you as much money as possible, liquidate the house and cost as you as little money as possible liquidating the house,” Prell said.

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