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About Estate Sales - Part 1: 5 Steps to Take Before the Sale

 November 2015

By Nan Hayes for Caring Transitions®

As the nation’s largest and most trusted resource for estate sales and online auction liquidation,

Caring Transitions® owners are often asked how customers can best prepare for their estate sale.  Caring Transitions® will dedicate our next few newsletters to providing tips to consumers on this very topic.

There are several things that can be done even before the sale begins. We have outlined some of those steps below. This process is similar, whether you are holding a sale in order to downsize, prepare for a move or clean out a family home.

1. Call your local estate sale professional first

Too often customers make decisions on their own before they consult an expert.  In some cases families will donate items and even hold a garage sale before calling for an estate sale.  Unfortunately for those customers, there are usually too few items left to support a viable sale. We also find that families often save the largest pieces of furniture for an estate sale while getting rid of smaller items. In reality, the opposite may be true. Large items such as bookshelves, entertainment centers and dining buffets often do not hold as much value as the smaller collectibles, clothing and jewelry. 

For these reasons and more, it is best if the customer calls an Estate Sale professional before they make any decisions. As industry experts, we know what may or may not have value in today’s marketplace and can make recommendations as far as what should be donated and what should be sold.  Our objective is always to provide the best possible plan for each family in just one free in-home visit.  

2. Let the family choose what they want, with limits

The dispersal of personal property among family members can create difficult situations, especially when closing the family estate. Close friends and family members will typically want a few items from the inventory that will be sold or discarded but trustees may feel obligated to optimize the value of goods in the home by selling them to the highest bidder. For estate sale professionals, the dispersal of goods before the sale poses a different challenge, because it has the potential to impact the total value of the sale, which can harm a company’s ability to cover their labor and administrative costs. For this reason, most estate sale professionals have a clause in their contract that prohibits items from being withdrawn from a sale once the sale is contracted.  This means once professionals begin working on the sale, clients and their family members cannot remove additional items from the sale. They may, of course, purchase those items during the sale like any other customer.  

To avoid issues, it is generally preferred that family and friends are allowed to lay claim on a limited number of items during a limited period of time before the sale is contracted. Professionals can usually help communicate these standards to the entire family to avert conflict among family members. 

Look for more information about heirlooms and family estate disputes in our December newsletter.

3. Cleaning and organizing is acceptable, but not necessary

For families who feel the need to take action before obtaining an estimate from a professional, it is ok to clean everyday items and sort them into categories. On the other hand, we do not advise that families attempt to clean rare items or antiques. Cleaning such items improperly can cause damage to delicate finishes and special markings. In these cases it is best to wait for professional advice.

4. Allow ample time when possible

In most cases, it will take 2-4 weeks to schedule, sort, price, advertise and set up a successful Estate Sale.  For families that  do not have the luxury of time, Caring Transitions®  can provide a variety of storage or other liquidation solutions,  including our popular CT Online Auctions, which helps put your items in front of  more bidders faster.  

5. Understand your own objectives

Most often, an Estate Sale is used as a means to downsize a home before moving or to declutter a home order to place it on the market.  Estate Sale is a preferred method of liquidation because professionals take on all the labor so families don’t have to and the sales typically attract buyers who are willing to spend more than garage sale buyers.  Estate sales can be especially effective when clients have antiques, collectibles, jewelry and other items of value. Clients, however, have a variety of objectives and a great solution for one family, may not be the best solution for another.  One group may need to clear a home quickly while the other has weeks or months to get the job done.  One home may have plenty of high end items for sale, while another home is packed floor-to-ceiling with a tremendous volume of goods that hold little or no value.   

Clients who take time to evaluate their true objectives, such as “clear the home quickly so it can be sold,” or “take time to honor and preserve mom’s memories,” will have better outcomes. They are best supported by solution-based companies such as Caring Transitions® who can provide a variety of sale and liquidation options.  

For additional tips on how to hire an estate sale professional, keep an eye out for:

About Estate Sales – Part 2: 5 Questions You Should Ask an Estate Sale Provider

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