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Estate Sale Feedback
Old 12-23-2018, 11:46 PM   #1
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Estate Sale Feedback

I thought I would give a post-mortem on the estate sale I did for my mom's estate. I posted beforehand on Midpack's thread and thought I would post as to how it turned out since others may need to have one done at some point.

I was very happy with the whole experience. My mom died and had a small house full of stuff. I don't think she ever threw anything away. She was very neat and everything was put away nicely but there was a lot of stuff.

DH and I did go through her house first. We did this for a few reasons. One, make sure we found any cash or valuables we didn't know about. Second, find items that I wanted to keep. Third, locate any items that I might want to point out to the estate sale people.

This took several trips to do because there was so much she had kept. For example, she had a closet that was full of blankets. There were probably over 20 of them. Ironic as my mom never used more than one. Or, the chest of drawers that had drawers full of unused towels and table cloths. I found towels DH and I gave my mom over 20 years ago. She was still using towels that she had when I was a child!

My mom didn't have a lot of super valuable stuff. Most of her furniture was old. She did have a lot of the Holiday Barbie dolls in boxes and also a lot of Madame Alexander dolls (but mostly from the last 30 years so not super valuable).

DH and I had moved recently so we brought over a few things to the house to add to the sale. Mostly stuff that we ended up not having room for in our new house.

The estate sale company would run a 3 day sale, discounting on the 2nd and 3rd days. What didn't sell I could either keep or a charity would come in a take it out. They would take 40% which I felt was very fair since I knew my mom's estate was not a high dollar estate. And the company (a married couple with help from their adult kids) did a lot of work getting ready for the sale.

They went through everything in the house and filled 20 large trash bags with unsellable stuff (they had encouraged us not to throw anything out before they came out). They then organized everything in the house. They brought in display tables and they put like things together. For example, they made the den a doll room and displayed the many dolls for sale. The dishes were together. The blankets were organized at another place.

They listed on the major estate sale websites and took very detailed photos which were on the websites. They identified the stuff that I knew had some collectible value plus other things that I had no idea had value. For example, they found a Jimi Hendrix blacklight poster that was in a closet. It had been mine as a teenager. It sold for $125. I would have had no idea it had any value at all. Or, my mom's ancient fan or an old roaster or her Pyrex bowls from the 50s. I would not have thought any of that had value but they recognized it and priced them accordingly.

I did know the Looney Toons Taco Bell glasses were collectible and that I had some collectible fountain pens from Disney. They recognized those as well. My mom had some costume jewelry from the 40s and 50s. Again, they noted in the listings the pieces that were from notable designers.

My mom had some fine jewelry and I had added a couple of pieces of jewelry that I had owned for years and didn't wear any more. All of the jewelry they took to a jeweler to look at and they sold all the fine jewelry as a lot to the jeweler. They said I would get more doing it that was than I would selling it in the house and they wouldn't have to worry about someone stealing it. Since my mom's house was not in a high income area I thought they had a good point.

So -- the sale itself. I didn't hover at the sale but did stop in each day. I know some estate people don't want you to do that, but they didn't seem to care that I stopped by. The first day they were happy to have sold some of my mom's furniture as they said furniture usually sells on the third day, if at all. My mom had a nice vintage sofa (recovered several times) and some vintage chairs that sole almost immediately on day one. One funny thing was that her not very nice kitchen table and worn kitchen chairs sold on day one. The dolls sold steadily throughout the 3 days. The most valuable Looney Tunes glasses sold on Day 1.

On day 2, I went by there and was told it had been a little slow. They said that the second day is usually the slowest. People who really want something buy it on Day 1. Otherwise, they usually wait until Day 3, hoping for the largest discount.

On day 3, we showed up at 2:30 (sale to end at 5:00). There were a lot of people at the house and a ton of stuff had been sold. People were really taking advantage of the reduced prices. At that point, DH and I started talking about what we might keep out of what didn't sell.

I had always known I could sell the more collectible stuff on eBay or NextDoor, etc. Basically the dolls, some of the costume jewelry, some old newspapers, the Hendrix poster. Also there was a table and a small curio cabinet that I had been on the fence about whether to keep. I would keep them if they didn't sell. Also a few more practical items (some bowls, a pair of my mom's gloves, etc.).

The guy running the sale said that at about 3:00 people would come in hoping to get the last minute discount and that that last two hours were usually very busy.

The next morning we came in to see what had not sold. I was stunned by how much sold in those last 2 hours. Every last doll was sold (I suspect someone came in and just bought all of them). The table and small curio cabinet sold. In fact, most of the furniture in the house sold. My mom's old refrigerator sold. I was so surprised at some of the stuff that sold.

I ended up keeping only a few things that didn't sell. All of the collectible stuff sold. My mom had a full set of Desert Rose dishes -- this from the original set from the late 40s/early 50s. Lots of the pieces sold, including the most valuable pieces. There were a few left, but not enough that I wanted to deal with selling them.

The charity came in and took away the stuff. Afterwards, I had about 20 bags worth of trash left (that the estate sale company had discarded) plus a few things that were broken down enough the charity didn't want.

Where my mom lives it is hard to get trash pick up of stuff like that. I didn't want to pay 1-800-got-junk prices to get rid of it. I took pics of the stuff and got quotes from some people on Craigslist to get rid of it. But, my mom's neighbor wanted to do and gave me a better price so I did that. House is now empty. Obviously moving stuff that had been in place for many years there was quite a bit of dust and dirt under some of the furniture and appliances so I am going to have someone come in and clean.

I ended up netting about $3800 from the sale (less the cost of the trash removal and cleaning which is not much). It was more than I expected to get and was well worth it.

Yes, yes, I would have made more selling stuff on eBay myself but then I wouldn't have recognized the value of some things. And, I could have run a garage sale for the more mundane items but neither DH nor I wanted to do it.

Basically doing the sale was no work for us. Even without the sale, I would have had to go through my mom's stuff. This way, I got some money out of it with no investment of time and energy by me and I ended up with an empty house which is what I wanted. The estate sale people did all the work and did it well and I just collected my money and didn't have to pay to get the house cleaned out. Win, win.
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Old 12-24-2018, 04:04 AM   #2
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Congratulations on having an estate liquidation firm to handle the sale of your mother's things. Having to deal with estates is just so difficult.

I have spent the better part of 15 years moving my parents, my aunt and my daughter a couple of times each. While one person's things are a treasure to them, my aunt put out two 30' dumpsters of junk/trash. You find out about secret eccentricities like my aunt saving pounds of rubber bands and plastic bags filled with plastic bags. Then we figured out she was living on ramen noodles and tuna fish and not taking care of herself.

The parents and my aunt are now gone, and we're down to 8-10 pieces of good furniture that's just unneeded.

When it's time for us to downsize, I just pray that we still have the mental facilities to get rid of unneeded furniture and not put the burden on the children of splitting up and liquidating what's left. After all, it's just stuff, and we cannot take it with us.
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Old 12-24-2018, 05:55 AM   #3
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We ended up having an estate sale (12/14-15) after all, and we’re pleased as well. It wasn’t the money that sold us after all, it was clearing out the house - and that’s done now with very little effort on our parts.

Once we spent a week looking over everything and really thought about how we would sell, donate or trash it all ourselves, though we could have made as much as 2-5X what we netted, we realized we’d almost pay someone to take it all away for us. An overwhelming amount of stuff, making money was no longer of much interest.

The estate sale team worked for days beforehand sorting, marking and displaying everything. They brought in some of their own stuff to augment the sale and increase traffic. They had a website with pics and descriptions of all major items, they even updated it with “sold” banners on major items after day one. And they left the house empty and broom clean. We ended up netting $6200 and there’s a (real) Persian rug ($8500 appraised) yet to go - but the house is empty!

Now all we have to do is sell the house, that will be relatively easy, so we’re almost done. The house next door just sold for $519K after a month on the market and it’s 400 sqft smaller. It’s a very desirable neighborhood with the best schools in town.
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Old 12-24-2018, 12:54 PM   #4
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The estate sale team worked for days beforehand sorting, marking and displaying everything.
So did ours. The estate sale company said that some companies that do sales don't do much of that. They don't go through everything and basically price a lot of stuff on the fly when people walk through the house and find stuff. Of course, doing it that way they tend to miss some of the more valuable stuff and people may not even be able to find it.
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Old 12-24-2018, 01:19 PM   #5
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Many thanks for the great overview. What was the professionals' percentage?

Over decade ago I had professionals conduct an estate sale after I bought my late father's home "as is" [including all the stuff.] If I remember right, their fee was 30% of total sales. I didn't have to lift a finger, except to cherry-pick a few items I wanted the night before the sale started. I also netted several thousand dollars.

Now that I am older and have my own house full of "stuff"... I have advised my heir to do likewise.

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Old 12-24-2018, 01:23 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katsmeow View Post
I thought I would give a post-mortem on the estate sale I did for my mom's estate. I posted beforehand on Midpack's thread and thought I would post as to how it turned out since others may need to have one done at some point.

I was very happy with the whole experience.
[…]This way, I got some money out of it with no investment of time and energy by me and I ended up with an empty house which is what I wanted. The estate sale people did all the work and did it well and I just collected my money and didn't have to pay to get the house cleaned out. Win, win.
Wow, I am SO HAPPY to read this! What a great outcome. It is encouraging to read that these estate sales can work out this nicely.
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Old 12-24-2018, 01:29 PM   #7
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We ended up having an estate sale (12/14-15) after all, and we’re pleased as well. It wasn’t the money that sold us after all, it was clearing out the house - and that’s done now with very little effort on our parts.
Wonderful, and what a perfect way to get rid of things before your big move! Thanks to you and Katsmeow I now have this filed away in my "mental file cabinet"; and in the unlikely event that we ever decide to move away, I will do the same.
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Old 12-24-2018, 01:39 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Helena View Post
.

Many thanks for the great overview. What was the professionals' percentage?

Over decade ago I had professionals conduct an estate sale after I bought my late father's home "as is" [including all the stuff.] If I remember right, their fee was 30% of total sales. I didn't have to lift a finger, except to cherry-pick a few items I wanted the night before the sale started. I also netted several thousand dollars.

Now that I am older and have my own house full of "stuff"... I have advised my heir to do likewise.

.
For us their take would have been 30% on the estate sale itself (including cleanup, no other charges at all), but the dealer (who also has an antique shop), paid us $3800 outright for most of the valuable stuff minus the Persian rug yet to sell. And instead of taking a percentage, we agreed to a fixed $2400 in advance on everything else. For the actual estate sale - with him bringing in a lot of his own stuff, and bringing back all the stuff he bought from us outright, the accounting would have been more complicated. By agreeing to an upfront price, the estate sale team was able to just sell everything without worrying about what we got a cut of and not. Again, we’re thrilled with how easy it was.

We feel bad that our parents might have wished we’d held out for top dollar on everything, but it would have been overwhelming for us.

An aside, they told don’t throw anything away, nothing! For little stuff, they just bundled it all and sold it in lots. They would not break up the bundles, and I don’t blame them. Some examples of what they bundled:
  • my Dad had every nut, bolt, screw or washer known to man (all presorted)
  • he had cans of paint, glue, etc.
  • lots of canned goods
  • pots & pans sold in made up sets
  • vases and flower arranging stuff sold in lots
  • most tools sold in lots
just some examples, there were tons more.
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Old 12-24-2018, 01:48 PM   #9
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Thank you for sharing how the estate sale operation works. We're planning on moving MIL in abt 6 months and will have to liquidate her home (2000 miles away) when that happens.

I do have one question though, and that is how did you select an estate sale group/firm? Is there anything that discouraged you from one firm or another?

OK, that was was 2 questions, sorry.

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Old 12-24-2018, 02:08 PM   #10
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We paid the service 40% of the proceeds. There was no upfront charge. From my research, they will often take a lower percentage on a higher value estate. I knew my mom's belongings were not high value so I was expecting something in this range.

From my research there are several models. Percentage based seems to range from 25% to 50%. Higher values are usually lower (services may make a difference as well). Some will charge a flat fee or a minimum plus a percentage.

They can also turn you down if they don't think it will make enough. One thing they said is that they look for something that they are sure will sell in order to make their minimum. For my mom that was stuff like the jewelry and the dolls.

I found the company we used from our real estate agent.
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