So You're Going to Have an Estate Sale

So you’re going to have an estate sale. Maybe you have recently lost a loved one and you are an executor to their estate. Maybe you are helping an elderly family member move to an assisted care facility. Maybe you are selling your own estate as part of a planned down-sizing. There are any number of paths that can lead you here, but now that you’re here, selling an estate, there is something important you should know: The steps you take need to be in the correct order.

Selling an estate is a big project. Often, there is a lot of clean up that needs to happen. Usually, there is a real estate transaction somewhere in the mix. Many times, there are valuable items that can’t be kept, but shouldn’t be thrown out. Almost always, there are things of value you don’t realize are valuable. There are curbside, haul-away dumpsters to rent, art to evaluate and sell, auction houses to contact, furniture to consign, and every tiny little detail that needs to be looked at, considered and decided upon. Whether you hire a professional estate seller to help you manage this large project, or tackle it by yourself, the proper order is important in keeping costs down, and maximizing the value of your estate.

Here is the punchline: before you throw away the first piece of ‘junk’, before you have anyone come clean anything, make sure you know what you have. This is done with the simple process you have probably heard of before. Sort the entire estate into three categories: Keep, trash, sell. This last one, selling, is where an estate sale professional can really help. Estate sellers will know trash from treasure, and they will know how to set you up to get the most value. They will know how to get your house cleared out. Then and only then should you worry about cleaning or throwing away anything. If you are going to go it alone and manage the estate liquidation process yourself, the same still applies. You will want to complete the sorting and clearing of the house before you spend money on cleaning crews. 

Sometimes the house you are selling can be a real mess. This is especially true when there has been a protracted illness, or when mental health has played a part in the need for an estate sale. We’ve all heard hoarder stories, or had a hoarder in the family. Many families feel embarrassment and want to ‘get it cleaned up enough’ to begin having people come look. Many people feel overwhelmed by how much stuff there is, and don’t think they can possibly get through it all if they don’t throw a bunch of stuff away first. Resist the urge to purge. Get your estate seller involved right from the start. If you are running the sale yourself, this first contact with the house and all its ‘stuff’ is when you should begin your sort. Yes, you will sort a lot into the ‘trash’ pile, but it is so much better than throwing away good money, and then going back through and touching everything twice.

There is a lot more I could say about the estate sale process, (and I probably will in some future blogs!) but this is the main thing I would want my clients to know: bring in your estate seller first. Maybe even before you bring in your real estate agent, bring in the estate agent. The estate seller can help you figure out how long it will take to clear and prepare the property, they can perform the initial clean up, sort your items into the three primary groups, and help you achieve the best outcome from this difficult task.

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