How to Start an Estate Clean-Out Business

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When a loved one dies, family members or executors are often faced with the daunting task of clearing the residence of the deceased. Because a residence must be cleaned out before it can be rented or sold, your clean-out business must be able to provide dependable and expedient service. An estate clean-out business can take the physical and emotional stress out of a job that can seem overwhelming to your clients.

The Basics for Your Clean-Out Business

To begin, you'll need a reliable truck and a place to store furniture, housewares and other items that will not be disposed of as trash or recyclables. Your truck should be large enough to accommodate the items to be removed in a single trip. Your clients want the job done quickly and efficiently. As the owner, you can run your clean-out business more cost effectively if you minimize travel to and from the job site.

When you are starting out, you can rent a storage facility and conduct business from a home office. If you plan to expand your business and hire employees, you'll need to rent or purchase building space. Depending on your business, a warehouse-type facility may be sufficient. If you plan to sell estate items yourself, you'll need a storefront to showcase wares and invite customer traffic.

Today's customers expect a business to have a website. It pays to hire a professional who can design a user-friendly site where people can access your contact information, book an appointment for an estimate, get price information and read reviews from satisfied clients.

Additional Clean-Out Business Services

With an estate clean-out business, you can offer clients a number of benefits beyond convenience and peace of mind. Consider incorporating additional services (for additional fees) in your estate clean-out business, such as:

  • Cleaning services, including carpet and upholstery

  • Same-day service

  • Packing and moving services

  • Valuing goods, including antiques and collectibles

  • Selling items or arranging for the sale of items

  • Clean-out services under hazardous conditions, such as excessive dust or mold

Pricing Estate Clean-Out Services

Prices charged by most clean-out businesses, including the nationally known 1-800-GOT-JUNK, are based on how much room the items take up in the truck or the total cubic square footage of the items. For this reason, companies typically provide an in-person estimate rather than a quote over the phone. Currently, prices range from $99 for a few items to $700 for a full truckload.

Become Fully Licensed, Insured and Bonded

Customers will look for these assurances, but what do they mean?

  • Licensure means that a business complies with regulations set forth by the governing authority in the jurisdiction where it operates. Depending on where you live, a business may need to be licensed at the state or local level or both. Register your business with the federal government by obtaining an employer identification number from the IRS, which you can do at no cost through its website.

  • Insured means that a business has protection against financial loss. Suppose you or one of your employees knocks a hole in a wall when moving a piece of furniture. When you're insured, the insurance company is liable for the damages, not you personally.

  • Bonded means that there is secured money set aside with a bonding company to pay damages in case a claim is filed against the business. The bond money is under the control of the state, not the business or the business owner, so it is guaranteed to be available if needed.

Know the Values of Estate Items

Become knowledgeable in the pricing of antiques and collectibles. Visit antique and resale shops in your area. Study online auction sites such as eBay, Antiques.com and Heritage Auctions.

Whether you sell items yourself or through a dealer, you want to be sure to get the full value of what they're worth on wholesale and retail markets as part of your estate sale and clean-out operations.