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Hoping I can get some general guidance from those of you who may have had to move your loved one to a facility and sell the contents of their home.


My mom died in February and I have been interviewing companies with an eye to having an estate sale in the fall. I thought the process would be pretty straightforward, but they seem all over the map in terms of how they handle the sale, percentage of sales they take. And apparently there is a darker side with some people overpricing items, then when they don't sell, taking them to resale stores they own and selling them at what they should have been originally sold for.


Any successful experiences and input would be most appreciated. I am in Arizona. Thanks!

My MIL lived in Fla. A woman was recommended to my BIL. She had done estates sales before but wasn't with a company. Just her and a daughter. All the sons lived in different states, us NJ, one GA, the other Miss. We were told we could trust her. MIL would not be returning to her house. At the time she was in rehab. We and BIL/SIL alternated staying in MILs house. While there we did a clean out. We took what we thought we would use. Then cleaned out the junk. Then I organized her kitchen. She was a seamtress so organized all that. My MIL passed. So now the house had to be sold. This is where the lady came in. She got everything organized and set the house up for the sale. After the sale, she took what hadn't sold to thrift shops in the area. All with BILs permission.
I think she took 30%, I would have given her more. But then we had done most of the dirty work. She was paid extra to clean the house.

The only problem we had was some greedy neighbors. My MIL had the habit of if someone said they liked something " Oh, you can have it when I die". Now these neighbors had talked to my BIL and never said thing. The one couple had bought some things. But when the estate lady was there, these same neighbors came over and said my MIL told them they could have certain items, one a full bedroom suite. The woman stood her ground and said the Executor left no instructions to that effect.
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tornadojan Aug 19, 2020
Thank you for sharing. I had one company say 35% and I had to be out of the house for 10 days prior so they could set up. Another was 25%, but I read really awful online reviews about her even though she is the "de facto" estate seller in this retirement community. The latest operates on a sliding scale with the minimum they will get being $2,500.00.
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If you have NO expectations of making a ton of money from mom's estate, and you go with the flow of just wanting to get this done and gone--you will have a MUCH better experience than if you spend days upon days sorting, categorizing and getting emotionally involved in the drama.

I tried to help a 'friend' (we no longer even speak!) de-junk her big house as she was being foreclosed on and had to sell everything that didn't walk....we de-junked and organized and while I pushed HARD for a professional to come help, she wouldn't do it.

We had 2 days of an 'estate sale' and netted less than $50. Her stuff was quality and lovely, but she was way too attached to it to let it go for less than what she felt it was worth.

After 2 long, hot days, we moved everything back in to the garage where it resides to this day, covered in mouse and rat feces, slowly deteriorating in the hot sun...if she had accepted one man's 'swooping offer' she would have had about $10K. Yeah, her stuff was probably WORTH 4 times that, but she wouldn't accept offers for anything less than full price.

Somehow she avoided foreclosure, but I do not know how. After the 4 months I spent cleaning, boxing and packing her junk, then the epic fail of the estate sale--I told her I couldn't support her crazy any more and I walked away.

Problem with her was that EVERYTHING had incredible value to her. If you can't use or appreciate an item, it's basically worthless.

She has added to her hoard and someday, when she really and truly loses the house, I will not be there to watch her fall to pieces.

People go to estate sales to get great bargains, not to ague over half a set of mid-range china.
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tornadojan Aug 19, 2020
Thanks for sharing your experience. I am doing a pretty good job of being objective. I mainly just don't want to get totally ripped off. My neighbor is trying to get me to just do a mega garage sale...says she and her friend will help. Tempting, but I feel pretty confident I need a professional service. Most of my mom's stuff is pretty good quality - she had good taste and took care of her items - but I also understand that the goal is to move stuff through and that, as you said, people are expecting to pay nowhere near full price.
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I think if you go into it looking at the sale as a way to dispose of things rather than sorting and cataloguing yourself and then paying someone to haul everything away you will be satisfied, it you are hoping to do more than break even you will likely be very disappointed. People just aren't interested in paying more than pennies on the dollar for second hand items and at least in my area the younger generation are not interested in antiques or collectible (and you won't attract those who are unless there are a considerable # of those items at a well advertised sale). If there are any pristine, valuable items you would undoubtedly do better selling those items individually.
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I also explored this idea but I wasn't impressed with the companies.   To be fair, though, I had tools and work equipment to be sold, and they had no experience with that.   The only company I could find was an industrial supply company that handled estate sales, but had a minimum requirement of at least $15K worth of equipment before it would consider involvement.

What I decided to do instead was donate the equipment to either of 2 trade schools, both of which were 501(c)(3) companies, so I would get a tax write-off (which I wanted for trust purposes).

You may have to contact a lot of companies before finding one that meets your needs.    Or, you can consider a charitable donation.  At this particular time, I'm thinking that my plan of donation is probably a better societal option than dealing with estate companies, and allowing them access to the premises.   The clothing, furniture, and probably appliances will likely all be donated.
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Consider a company that does on-line estate sale auction. You will get a wider audience, there will be fewer people trampling through the home, and the bidders set the price.
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I cried my way through the sale of my mother’s things, and for my present Lo’s personal effects, I used a woman whom I know from Church who runs a franchised business.

I was much MUCH happier to have it done by someone else.
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tornadojan Aug 19, 2020
Thank you for sharing this. I am 6 months in and feel I am just now starting to experience grief as I move from going through the "objective" items to the more personal and sentimental items that are bringing back memories of the years before dementia took over. So, yes, I agree, I would much rather use a professional. Just trying to find the right one.
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I am sorry for your loss. I am also going through this. It is very difficult to get siblings together to get their things they want from the house out, but we finally did it. I have interviewed several estate companies they all want 40 to 50% Of the sales. One had a hidden cost in the contract that said I had to pay their workers on top of the percentage. Needless to say I am not using them. I am currently waiting on the person we chose to come in and set everything up for the sale which they said would take at least 3 to 4 weeks to organize . Then they will remove everything from the house at the end of a three day sale wipe down countertops vacuum and close the door. To put everything in the house up for a garage sale would be madness for us.God bless and good luck
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tornadojan Aug 24, 2020
Thanks for your input! When is your sale scheduled? My scenario is a little trickier because I am still living in the house, but with about 80% of the contents being sold. Would love to know how it goes. Good luck!
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All those things will happen if you use a company. Treasures and collectibles will also be pilfered.

For the best financial results, remove all the potentially valuable items first. You don’t have to be an expert —eBay and other resale sites will help make this assessment straightforward. Don’t look up list price for items currently pending for sale, look for the realized price for items already sold. Items which might be sentimental to others (vintage toys, military or political memorabilia, even attractive plastic jewelry, or first edition books) can sometimes be worth more than fine jewelry). The estate sale companies know this and probably make these items vanish quickly.

if you haven’t sold on eBay, it is simple and can be done mostly using a cell phone. Fees are lower than paying estate sale companies. Shipping can be contactless (print shipping labels and leave for carrier pick-up). A lower price will often guarantee quick sales. U.S. Federal tax laws allow no income tax for the first $20k sold online or at estate sales annually (allowance for “garage sale” income). If you hold your own estate sale, you still have to worry about state sales tax (online resellers like eBay take care of this for you).

Cherry-pick what you can to keep or sell and when you get tired of this process and no longer “care” about the rest of the items, then call the company. When you get to that inevitable point, nothing more will bother you.
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There is help with this kind of situation, that I used when I was moving from a house in a senior park to an apartment in a nearby city to be closer to my family when my husband was in last stages of Alzheimers, and I needed help with weekly visits etc.
I heard of this way from my sister, and one day I was browsing for apartments, a message with picture popped up, it was: A Place for Mom. From the website I was on, they called me immediately when I clicked on their icon on the Internet. Wasn't sure I liked them having my personal info, but I talked with the lady anyway.
I asked her if she knew of any movers who took care of moving seniors out of their home, and what to do with contents, and move me to a place closer to where my husband might be.
Indeed she gave me several moving companies. And they are special ones which I will explain.
These movers pack things for the loved ones new 1 room at a facility; they pack for moving caregivers to a new place; they will pack for estate sale and will handle bringing these estate sale items to a sale, you don't have to do anything for this; they pack and deliver to a storage area, they will pack and deliver anything for donation to whatever facility you choose, all on moving day. On the estate sale, however, you and the mover share the sale price. I only gave them a few pieces, and tho I would have liked more for the item, not everyone values your stuff as you do, so I didn't squabble on getting less than I thought my item. It was worth it someone handled that for me. I was not going to have another "yard sale" for something I felt precious, but thought if I could get a buck, why not. At the estate sale, only one item sold out of about 4, and the ones that didn't sell went to donation.
On my moving day, my husband was still going to be at home, what I thought would be a good while, but it lasted only 2 months and he had to go to a facility. I did not use these packers to move his stuff, since I hadn't arranged for that.

But what did happen on my moving day from house to apartment:
1) they visited me to see what I had, explain what they do, and what I wanted done. 2) they visited me a week before pack-out day and marked every box, chest, bed, knick knacks, TVs, appliances, clothes, bins, hampers. How did they mark? Used different colored masking tape/duct tape for different tasks: one color for deliver to my apartment; one color for donating; one color tape for estate sale, one color tape for storage. They delivered to my storage facility, unloaded and came back with the key. They delivered all boxes for donation to a facility I asked them to use. They delivered all items marked for my apartment, set all furniture and carpets up, one person unloaded all my china and kitchen ware into my kitchen cabinets in a very usable manner. My home was ready to relax or go to bed in the evening. Yes there were boxes I had to unload myself as I asked them to as I didn't know where I would put all the computer stuff that wasn't already in a drawer. They even put my extra pillows on shelves in the walk in closet, This is not your usual movers; this type mover is to help senior transition to another place with the least amount of worry or energy.
Was it worth it? Yes it was. Was it cheap? No, but not more than I had moved 15 years before when I didn't have anything for donation, storage, etc. and those movers didn't unpack. At that time I had many more pounds of stuff to move. I downsized as years went on. So price comparison of before and now, this "
senior" moving procedure worked for me and was worth all the headache I didn't want to deal with boxes sitting all over and furniture just dropped in the room. It was all in place and looked nice.
If you are interested, either you'll have to call several movers to see if they do this kind of move, or just call A Place for Mom (tel no on Internet), and ask for your city/state movers for seniors moving.
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AlvaDeer Aug 24, 2020
I had no idea they did this. What good information.
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I had no idea that A Place for Mom did or could hook you up with someone who does what JoAnn described. I am so glad to know this, and think this kind of information is what the forum does best.
As someone who, with my bro, dabbled in Antiques and Collectibles all my life I can tell you one thing. The market has crashed. Unless things are of a "Midcentury " type thing, they aren't going well out there. In some Southern States there is still a healthy interest in Antigues and collectibles, but overall you are going to look at things and think they are worth a good deal more than they are. My advice is that anyone who loves something KEEP it.
My brother left the last of his treasures to someone with a shop to sell them; in return he cleaned out everything else for me. And the profit on the treasures goes to him. That worked well for me. What I wanted was out from under in Covid times of something I couldn't have handled any other way than 1 800 junk.
I sure would go JoAnn's route if that is an option. Then call some of the antique and collectible shops in your area and ask them if they have any interest in being first in to pick things. I again caution you that things that you treasure they may feel they are doing you a favor in taking. Many shops not open. People are tightening their purses. And no one is having much luck in this market now. Saddens me as I have many happy memories and two collections left.
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kbuser Aug 24, 2020
So true, I just tried to sell a handful of my mom's antiques after doing a little Internet research. Both antique dealers were annoyed I even approached them. It is a bad market, decided to just keep everything.
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