| Read Time: 4 minutes | Elder Law

by Rosemarie Davidson

One of the challenges people face when moving to a smaller space is trying to figure out the best way to downsize their homes. Today, there are more options than ever, including online auction sites, charitable donations, traditional garage sales and estate sales.

“The way individuals choose to get rid of their possessions can be a very personal choice,” said Rosemarie Davidson, Owner/Partner of Long Island. “It usually depends on how attached you are to your things, how much time you have to invest, and how much your items are worth.”

Traditional garage sales often require a lot of work and result in very low return, while online auctions and estate sales are typically more profitable and efficient. Online auctions will garner your items both local and national exposure, while estate sales will draw loyal followers.

“These days, most of our clients opt for an estate sale,” Davidson said. “In the long run, an estate sale has all the benefits of the other methods and usually produces a better return on the effort.”

Enlist the Services of a Specialist

For people who do not have a lot of time to invest, an estate sale can be a very positive experience. Estate Sales are managed by professionals, such as Caring Transitions, that coordinate everything for an administrative fee and/or a percent of total sales. This includes doing a home inventory, pricing, advertising and marketing, set up and clean up, donations, heavy lifting, transportation and shipping of items.

The estate sale specialist advertises to a target audience of regular shoppers in addition to broad marketing. The audience that comes to your sale understands the process and is usually ready to buy.

Estate sale specialists know the market and will review your property and determine the approximate value of the sale. Their goal is to ensure you can sustain a profit after the sale is complete. No matter what you have to sell, it is always worth calling a specialist; however, a low-volume sale may not be in your best interest. The specialist will assess the situation and make recommendations based on your unique situation.

Choose Your Service Providers Wisely

It is rare that you will have a “bad” sale experience, but as with any residential service, it is always best to know how to evaluate your providers in order to avoid pitfalls.

Ask for references from any company you employ. You may even want to attend another sale they are managing to see how smoothly it runs. Always use a professional company that specializes in estate sales.

DO follow these guidelines:

  • Hire the specialist you feel you can trust and discuss payment methods before the contract is signed. Some specialists charge an administrative fee or “minimum” to prepare the sale and others include the fees in their commissions.
  • Discuss the specialist’s process for turning over hidden valuables or personal items found in the sorting process.
  • Understand it can take days or even a couple weeks to prepare for a sale. Preparation includes sorting, cleaning, tagging, merchandising the sale, advertising and selling.
  • Be sure you receive an itemized list of the items prior to the sale, as well as a list of the items sold.
  • Allow the specialist to clean the items. Some items are delicate and cleaning may result in damage to valuables.
  • Understand that age does not always equal value in an item. Authenticity is the true guide to value and the item also has to hold its value in today’s market. Your specialist has many resources to help them determine the value of special items.
  • Be sure to reserve the items your family wishes to keep and make sure everyone has a list of those items so they are not included in the sale or sales contract.

DO NOT allow inexperienced friends or family to run your sale. Despite good intentions and best efforts, this rarely produces optimal results and may cost more in the long run as they will have to purchase materials and displays, buy extra advertising, purchase signing and research items. The result is usually something like a failed garage sale, leaving you with a lot of unsold items and very little to show for the items that did sell.

DO NOT throw things away as you get ready for the specialist’s visit. As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The specialist will sort though all the proposed sale items and help you decide what should be included in the sale. Does that include the oversized pea green vase? Yes! You never know who is going to love that green vase, even if you never have.

A skilled specialist understands the local buyer’s market and knows how to merchandise each and every item in the sale to optimize the return. They have display tables, blankets and quilts, jewelry trees, cases, dish displays and more to help create appeal for the buyer.

“Our sales are about honoring a lifetime of possessions and the history behind the home,” said Davidson. “Many of our shoppers find just as much joy sharing in the story of someone else’s life as they do finding the perfect bargain.”

After the sale, your specialists will remove the unsold items, arrange for donation, clean up the area and prepare the home for sale. Companies such as Caring Transitions will manage other facets of the process as well, including arranging for painting and repairs. Each service is slightly different, but true estate sale professionals work to serve you and help determine what is necessary to help you move ahead.

Rosemarie Davidson is Owner/Partner of Caring Transitions, 16 Park Drive Old Bethpage, NY
Phone 516-586-6567 www.caringtransitions.net

Author Photo

Andrew Lamkin is principal in the law firm of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., where he focuses his practice in the areas of elder law, estate planning and special needs planning, including Wills and Trusts, Medicaid planning, estate administration and residential real estate transactions. He is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey.

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