Timing is Everything When Downsizing

Sometimes the mind and the heart are simply not in sync, especially when it comes to the daunting task of downsizing. It seems the older we get, the harder the process of downsizing can be on us, as we have grown accustomed and comfortable in our surroundings. This includes the endless bric-a-brac, books, paper items, glassware and all the miscellaneous things in closets which seem to multiply when we’re not looking. We just keep buying, collecting and “stuffing.”

Procrastination or dragging our feet is a very human characteristic, but it is not at all helpful when many decisions need to be made and there is much to do. Hence, a blog about “timing.”

When it comes to downsizing, an up-close and realistic look at all we own is needed (no rose colored glasses here). Having a plan in place is necessary to ensure we remain on schedule and accomplish the items on the to-do list. Sticking to that plan is paramount for a smooth move and our sanity.

Sadly, what we experts see are distorted expectations, both in our client’s time frames as well as their possessions. They believe they can:

Empty a home,
Make all necessary decisions,
Get professionals lined up and organized,
Move and get settled in to their new place within a few short weeks.

They have forgotten they have been living in a home for 50 years and have large accumulations of items that need to be carefully sorted, distributed, sold, donated, discarded, etc. This does not happen in the blink of an eye.

We need to take into consideration:

The Timing to sort through and select what will be kept.
The Timing for family to come get what they would like to keep (set a deadline).
The Timing for an estate sale or partial sale.
The Timing for donation and finding the right charity to come pick up.
The Timing for a hauler or junk man.
The Timing for a handyman or other contractors to do their work.
The Timing when getting rugs cleaned or house painted.
The Timing to secure your valuables such as personal documents, jewelry, silver, etc.
The Timing for your own doctor’s appointments, meetings, etc.

None of these things should interfere with downsizing professionals or estate sale professionals, as they have a huge job to do and the proper space/time should be given to them so a good job is done for all.

There is a time for everything, and the time has come to part with possessions no longer used, needed or you know will not be claimed by loved ones. One cannot take a dining room table that sits 8 into a one bedroom assisted living apartment. That just doesn’t make good sense anyway you look at it. How miserable our clients are when they take too much, or furniture that is of a large scale going into a small residence!

For years I have seen clients struggle to: 1) make the decision to downsize and then 2) take the steps necessary to put this plan into action.

Even if you are just thinking about downsizing now, reach out to those who can help you begin the process. It is worth the extra time, money and effort to ensure the next move goes as smoothly as it can.

©2017 The Estate Lady® Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is a national expert in dealing with personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.
No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent. Email her at julie@theestatelady.com.

Estate Experts Can Find Value In Places You Didn’t Even Think About

Note the word “Expert” in the title. Hiring an expert will help you identify what you have in an estate, how to sell it, who are the best resources for selling and most of all, how to maximize what you have. Experts have trained eyes and detective noses that can uncover and discover what has value.

It’s Always Better To Be Safe Than Sorry

I was recently hired to consult on several estates which I will describe as modest. The furnishings were from the 1980’s and not of much value. The adult children were convinced there was nothing of value in the home and at first glance, I would have to agree. However, the daughter mentioned in passing that her parents were world travelers and never spent much money on household furnishings so they could travel.

World travelers for 60 years. Visions of far-away places. A light bulb went off in my head.

“Did your mom have any jewelry, silver, coins, etc.?” The daughter disappeared for a few minutes and brought back a huge box of jewelry and coins. She simply said, “ It’s all junkie stuff she bought in different countries.” I sat down at the table, a lamp near my head, my jeweler’s loupe and my jeweler’s scale.

Within 20 minutes, I felt like I found a small gold mine, literally.
I found more value in the jewelry in front of me than in the entire
rest of the house put together.

Much of the “junkie jewelry” turned out to be genuine gold from Asia, India and the Middle East. I was able to quickly identify other genuine antique gold and silver pieces that belonged to previous generations and offer them a time period and values so they understood what they had before making any decisions.

You see, in all the little nooks and crannies of these estates we do find treasures. You just have to know where to look and understand what it is you’ve found. This is one very important reason why you should always find out what you have before making any decisions with it, including giving it away or tossing it.

A second important reason is there are people out there who will attempt to take advantage of you. To avoid this, hire a professional who is honest and ethical and can either sell these items for you or find the right buyers who will pay well for your gold or silver. Don’t give it away or just sell it to any jewelry store on the corner. First, know what you have.

Sometimes the most value can be found in the little forgotten things you don’t give much thought to. Take it from one who knows.

It is a wonderful feeling when I get to deliver the news “It’s real and has value.” My clients light up and now have peace of mind knowing they did the right thing in hiring an expert. Seek out experts in your area, so you too can have peace of mind.

©2017 The Estate Lady® Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is a national expert in dealing with personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.
No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent. Email her at julie@theestatelady.com.

8 Tips – When A Loved One Dies and You Are Responsible For The Estate

1. When a loved one has passed away and you are responsible for handling and eventually liquidating the estate, change the locks on the estate immediately to prevent unscrupulous heirs, neighbors, etc., from entering. While this will ruffle some feathers, it is the right thing to do to protect the assets from disappearing. It is the fiduciary responsibility of the executor to secure the estate and contents.

2. Secure the valuables; jewelry, coins, sterling, etc. in a safe deposit box, or if the executor has a safe at home, or other secure location with the understanding placing it there is just temporary. It is not advisable to leave valuables in a vacant home as it will become a target. Also, this is not an excuse for an heir to “help themselves.” The executor will need to create an inventory list of the valuables and be accountable for caring for them. It might be prudent to let the heirs know these items are in your care only temporarily to secure them and create a photo/video record and written inventory in the event there are any questions.

3. Look for a cash stash. Many people may hide money in places you might never think to look. If memory impairment is/was part of the situation, leave no stone unturned because items of value (such as gold coins) can surface in the strangest places such as in shoes, coat linings, old purses, toilet tanks, freezers, etc. Remember too that sometimes a loved one with dementia will also give things away or throw them away.

4. Search for important papers: Will/Trust, tax documents, deed for the house and titles for car/boat, stock certificates/other financial assets, any inventory or previous appraisals to help identify items (usually the values are much higher than they should be so don’t get stuck on the $ figures), anything with family history documented, life insurance, etc.

5. Hire a professional personal property appraiser who is well respected in the community to review the contents of the estate and ascertain what has value vs. what doesn’t, especially if you feel there are items of significant value. Many appraisers can also advise on different levels and should not offer to buy what they appraise. Estate sale professionals and appraisers (sometimes one and the same) work closely together and are extremely knowledgeable in working towards maximizing proceeds, guiding and advising in numerous, beneficial ways.

6. If you know ahead of time that there might be contentious moments with family members or you suspect some turbulence when it comes to the division of personal property, use a new and updated appraisal to divide the estate as equitably as possible unless the deceased loved one left specific instructions otherwise.

7. Higher end personal property requires thought and advice from professionals in the industry. Not Aunt Mary’s cousin Bobby, who dabbles in flea markets. That is why you hire us. We can suggest upper tier auction houses that we have built relationships with, or at the very least know the options available for handling such pieces. If considering an estate sale and it contains good, desirable contents and plenty of small items, antiques, collectibles, unique items, etc., hire a professional estate liquidator. (www.ASELonline.com). They are amazing at lifting this burden from the family.

8. Interview two or three estate sale companies before making a final decision. Research the company, ask for and check professional references, and make sure their company is a real business in your county/state. Not every company is as it seems as more and more “pop-up” companies appear overnight. You want a pro you can trust.

When researching, you will be looking for serious red flags, not a complaint from an estate sale buyer who didn’t like the prices because “they were too high.”

An estate sale professional has a very challenging and serious job to do. Allow them the space and time in which to do it. Once they are hired, let go. They know how to price items; the family does not. Family has a tendency to place higher “values” on items then they are actually worth because of their attachment.

In 2017, the personal property market is significantly softer than the average client understands. Remember to discuss questions and concerns with your chosen estate sale professional. Proper communication can relieve a host of potential problems!

©2017 The Estate Lady® Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is a national expert in dealing with personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com. She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com. No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent. Email her at julie@theestatelady.com.
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To Bequeath A Burden

Many of us grew up with the notion we should leave heirlooms and other possessions for our children and grandchildren; a physical legacy of who came before us and where we came from. Not all of us, though, have the ability to objectively recognize what a “good inheritance” really is.

What was important to our elderly mothers and grandparents may have had meaning to them, but not necessarily to us, our children or their future children. We might be “related” but had no emotional ties to them. This can often disappoint some, while others accept it and make decisions based on what their children are telling them in the here and now.

Let me tell you a story…

Mom and Dad died years ago and the children are finally in need of emptying the storage units they put all of the home contents into 10 years ago. The money is about tapped out and they scramble to figure out how to sell what was stored inside the storage unit(s). They also know they must face the difficult task at hand. They are confident they will more than get back what they spent in storage. This is not usually the case because the market is completely different than it was years ago. Plus, they often discover the items are not in the same condition as they once were.

Some families seem to experience a type of paralysis when dealing with mom and dad’s estate. They immediately put everything into storage to “deal with it later” but later never comes and the bills pile up. Then one day, years later, it is finally time to deal with what is in storage because over $10,000.00 was spent, gone forever, to store these items which sadly have declined in value through the years.

In the last few client cases I have had regarding items in storage for years, the children believed the items inside the storage increased in value because they were taught to believe with the passage of time these “valuable antiques and things” would go up in value because they are rare.” This is NOT accurate 98% of time based on what I see.

It is heartbreaking to see the looks on their faces when they are told the truth; that the items don’t have much value, or even if a few pieces do have value, they may not recoup what they spent in storage fees.

I even see families who not only store for many years at one location, but then move it across the country to store it again. It is hard for me to imagine the kind of money and man power it takes to do this, then the families get upset with professionals in my industry who are telling them the truth about how values have fallen.
There are also times when the children look to the sale of mom and dad’s possessions to get them out of debt. When this doesn’t happen, we see a mixture of emotions such as anger, disbelief, sadness and finally the realization of “what is.”

It is more often that I would like to admit that I hear stories from the children who repeated the instructions their now deceased parents gave them: “These items are very valuable. They were appraised in 1985 for over $150k. You need to know how rare these items are.” So, the children are left scratching their heads when they learn the real scoop.

Then the children reveal the truth: “We told our parents we didn’t want any of this but they did not listen!”

One of the chapters in my book, The Boomer Burden, is titled, “I Will Never Do This To My Kids.” I wrote that nearly a decade ago and it still stands.

I realize that everyone is different and our emotions are unique, but things like this need to be dealt with, not put on the back burner. Sometimes they are put on the back burner so long, the decision maker dies too, passing the buck to the next generation who has no interest whatsoever. Sad, but true.

©2017 The Estate Lady® Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is a national expert in dealing with personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.
No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent. Email her at julie@theestatelady.com.

The Mysterious Case of the Antique Monogrammed Silver

 

An uncountable amount of antique monogrammed silver pieces have crossed my path in the last 25 years. Most of my clients have one thing in common; they do not know who the relatives were that owned the antique silver based on the monograms or how that silver came to be in their family.

 

When items of perceived value are passed down, it helps to know the name of the relative it came from, the time period it came from and the value so you can pass this along to your family members.

 

There’s only one problem with this…most of us don’t have that information.

 

Many of my clients cannot identify their long-ago relative or match that relative to the antique monograms on the assortment of silver they inherited. They just know it was “always in mom’s home.”  Sometimes, their mother’s don’t even know where it came from or mom has passed away and that information is now lost.  Often I will hear a client say, “I have no idea who ‘CHR’ was.”  As an appraiser, I can help them identify the age of the silver and who manufactured it, but not who owned it.

 

It is not unusual for my clients to actively begin searching their genealogy tree or get connected with Ancestry.com, but the answer to the silver monogram mystery is rarely found there.

 

Perhaps it came from a relative by marriage that no one can recall, or two best girlfriends that exchanged their monogrammed silver spoons with each other as a symbol of their forever friendship.

 

This was common practice back in their era to offer a beautiful gift that the recipient would always cherish. In these two cases, the silver trickled down to my clients, never to be identified.  Sometimes when I hold these spoons or serving pieces, I too, wonder who “Lilly” or “ADM” were and imagine the time period in which they lived.  But the image in my mind is only speculation of the young women who once owned these pieces.

 

In many cases, there may only be a few odd, antique silver teaspoons that do not have much value. My Boomer clients say, “If it is not from a relative, or I didn’t know the relative, I really have no attachment to it” and the antique silver is generally sold to someone who will have more of a desire for it.  These days, even if they do know the relative, many will opt to sell it because we no longer live in a formal society.

 

From pre-Victorian times to Edwardian, to Art Nouveau, to Art Deco, sterling silver has been considered a very important possession every young woman should have.  As such, it was highly revered.  Through the decades (or century), these sets have been divided among other relatives or friends that came long before you.

 

Will the mystery ever be solved? One never knows but if you have an imagination like me, you will conjure an image of an elegant young woman in a long, white linen dress who truly treasured her silver back in the day.

 

©2017 The Estate Lady ® No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at julie@theestatelady.com.  Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is a nationally known expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising/consulting, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

7 Characteristics of Diminishing Value

For many years, I have spoken about the characteristics of value when it comes to our heirlooms and other personal property.  Contrary to popular belief, the “age” of an item, is not necessarily the most important characteristic of value.

Appraisers look at objects from many different perspectives;  condition, rarity, the market, an item’s desirability, materials and craftsmanship, the artist (if known), provenance/history, quality, style, etc.  As you can see, determining a fair market value is NOT as simple as looking on ebay and it is certainly not an asking price or a retail/gallery price.  It’s more complex than that.

Most do not realize that condition issues can really put a dent in the value of an item, especially if the piece has been altered from its original condition;  painted over, stripped, refinished, married pieces, etc,. all of which have an impact on value.  However, there is more to the story on what can have a negative impact on values.

Think “damage.”

Here are some other things to take into consideration when you believe great-grandmother’s curio or desk might be worth a fortune:

1)  Moldy/Mildewy = Stinky – Mold and mildew are active fungi and grow in colonies.  They reproduce by spores carried by air so it spreads.  It not only destroys the material it lands on, it can also cause mild to severe health issues. Many estates are locked up for a long time, whether in storage or a home that has not yet been sold.  Often the air conditioner and heat are barely on and the home can take on an awful odor, in storage too.  This musty smell takes time to develop and is a sign the piece(s) have been exposed to dampness and active decay is taking place over time.

2) Leaky – Many pieces we find may have water damage from simple water rings to evidence of sitting in water after pipe damage, leaky roof, etc.  Water is an enemy to household furnishings and once the damage is done, it is hard to un-do.

3) Mousey/Buggy – In estates, we see what mice leave behind in the way of poop and find bug problems as well.  It can range from simple to quite complex.  Mouse poop is an extreme health hazard and can cause the Hantavirus which is potentially lethal for humans.  Bugs too can cause all types of damage to both wood furniture as well as the home itself.

4) Heat/Cold Exposure – Exposure to extreme heat or cold in the attic, basement, direct sunlight, etc., can have a devastating effect on our belongings.  Heat can cause the finish on furniture to “bubble and crackle” and trap dust underneath it once it cools.  Heat expands wood and cold contracts it.  This would explain why some veneer pops up, falls off or the piece becomes warped with time.

5) DIY Stripping and Refinishing –  All of us have the best intentions when it comes to a DIY job of stripping, sanding and refinishing.  The problem is most people do not do a quality job (most likely because it is tiring work) and this can have a serious impact on value.

6) Missing pieces – such as finials, relief carving, legs, pieces of veneer, original knobs, etc.  If pieces are missing, the value goes in only one direction;  down.  People who are looking to purchase these items are definitely looking for all original pieces.

7)  Something Old, Something New – People can get pretty creative with damaged antiques, especially if a piece is missing or the owner wants to create a different looking piece by adding new legs, a new shelf on top, etc.  We see a blending of one piece with another, and often one piece is old and the other piece is newer.  To the owner, it looks great.  To a professional who is tasked with the selling of such an item, it certainly hurts the value.  In the industry, we call putting two or more unoriginal pieces together being “married.”  It works for people, but not necessarily objects.

Damage of any kind will hinder the selling price of most items, unless the prospective buyer likes the “look.”  Sometimes our clients are a bit shocked when it comes to the seriousness of how much value a treasured piece can lose due to any of these circumstances.

 

©2017 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising/consulting, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at julie@theestatelady.com.

What’s in Your Plan?

We all know we need to plan ahead for a time when we won’t be able to speak for ourselves.  A crisis can occur at any time, regardless of age or current health.  Sadly, it can happen in the blink of an eye.  In my career of handling estates, I have seen young clients pass away suddenly, as well as crisis situations occur with our elderly loved ones who fall, have a stroke, or can no longer care for themselves.  So much can happen; if we are honest, we simply choose not to seriously think about these issues until they are upon us.  Sometimes, that is too late.

When your time comes to an end. A scroll of a Last Will & Testament, tied with a black ribbon on a mahogany desk, with pocket watch set to midnight: the end of time.

Have you thought ahead to make a plan for your cherished possessions, or at least gift them prior to passing away?  I encourage everyone to make a plan and put it in a legal document.  Write an addendum to your Will, or place certain items in a Trust if they are special to you.  An estate planning attorney can help you put these documents together fairly quickly.  Put these documents in a safe place, discussing the contents with the executor.  The attorney will keep a copy.  Let a close, trusted friend know what you are doing and where the originals are kept.

Things to think about:

  • Plan for special possessions.  It is not realistic to think our kids will want all of our possessions.  First, find out what they would like to have, then have those items appraised for fair market value.  Create a “wish list” and keep it equitable; leave guidance on who gets what.  It’s all spelled out in my book, “The Boomer Burden”, available at online booksellers.
  • Plan for your animals should you pre-decease them.  We adore our furry and feathered family but rarely do we make a plan for them.  This leaves them in limbo.  It’s not fair to them or the loved ones left behind to make painful decisions.
  • Consider gifting while living.  This minimizes future feuding and cuts down on challenging issues when the children/heirs have to divide the estate.  Seeing the joy on the recipient’s face is an added bonus!
  • Make sure someone knows the location of all private files, passwords, keys, titles, deeds, safe deposit boxes, safe combination.  This information should be entrusted to your executor (someone you trust implicitly).  Note: Multiple executors can often mean more complications and differences of opinions!

I have clients right now who put together a “master binder” of all the things we are discussing here, including written directions on where private documents can be found, such as social security card, Medicare information, life insurance policy, original Will/Trust, etc.  They prepaid their own funerals.  They asked me to write current appraisals for their furnishings, collectibles, and jewelry, and have made copies for each child.  They were even nice enough to direct their children to me when they pass away, to handle the contents of their home, since all their heirs are long distance.  Quite literally, they left a “Guidance System” for their children.  How wonderful!

Think ahead to special possessions you have received and collected over your life.  While no one can make plans for everything in their home, make plans for these valuable items now so no one can feud over them later.  When the decision is made ahead of time, you’ve simplified the life of your executor.

©2016 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at julie@theestatelady.com.

Time of the Heavy Heart

How Can We Change That?

Lately, I am sensing a heaviness of spirit in almost everyone I speak with, from good friends to colleagues to clients.  We carry this heaviness due to the times we live in; 24-hour news and social media and seeing the worst of the worst around the globe.  I personally feel a heaviness in how we see people treating one another.  The dark appears to be overtaking the light every time we turn on the computer or TV.  While they say the economy is stronger, in my world I see a much softer market and weaker economy.

I also see my clients outliving their money; tough decisions need to be made by their Boomer children.  I have heard stories from colleagues that buyers and clients have turned threatening if they don’t get their own way.  These threats are from middle-aged people who know better and have lost their way in the graceful art of problem solving.

Geopolitical issues are a whole other topic which requires nerves of steel to discuss.  Wherever we look, there is stress.  But lately, I have come to look at all of this in a different way.

After noticing I have a tendency to worry, my father once asked me if I am personally capable of controlling issues like mentioned above.  No, I cannot make the economy strong again and I cannot make people treat each other with respect.  I can’t even provide the financial means for everyone who needs it.

However, I can control how I respond to these troubles.

I can find my own unique and personal ways of contributing more good and more light.

By contributing, I mean solving the problem, finding peaceful resolutions, finding compromise in a world of “gimmee,” being reasonable, and at the same time trying to help others who need it.

When on earth did everyone become so entitled?  Haven’t you noticed we are all starting to slump over, as if the weight of the world is on our backs?

We have a choice.  Not one of us has been eliminated from carrying some kind of burden: health, finances, children, work, etc.  I have a theory that this world is a classroom and we are the students; we should learn a lesson and then go teach others.  Problems and burdens will always come and so will the bills.

  • Keep lists of what needs to be done and cross them off one at a time.
  • Feel good about what was accomplished.
  • Help others accomplish what they need help with.
  • Do something fun and show your grin as often as possible.  Someone is always watching and may need that smile.
  • Learn to find “you” again.
  • Lastly, just be kind because the world already has too many thugs.

In a world so full of dark, don’t you think it would be wise to turn on our inner light?  That’s my take on it!

©2016 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at julie@theestatelady.com.

Dangers of Choosing a Company Based on Their Low Commission

Everyone loves to save money, but cutting corners on some services is just not advisable.  One such service is when you hire a professional estate liquidator due to the relocation of a parent, downsizing, or the loss of a loved one.

The emphasis here is on the word professional.    The estate sale professional is one who has dedicated much time, care, concern, diligence, devotion, education, research, plus so much more to attain the skills required to conduct a successful estate sale for their clients.  This professional works countless hours and endures many sleepless nights for their clients, constantly learning and navigating an ever-changing industry and dealing with an increasingly difficult public of buyers.

Conducting an estate sale is not just about organizing and displaying, nor as easy as it appears.  Genuine professionals do it well and make it look easy, even though it is really very hard.  They truly earn their commission because of all they know how to do, including how to maximize sale proceeds.

Saving those few dollars selecting the wrong company could end up costing you!

Consumers Beware

This industry is inundated with pop-up or fly-by-night companies that appear out of nowhere.  While there are exceptions to every rule, we see the following often:

  • Many of them have little to no industry training, skills, or understanding of the scope of the work that lies ahead of them.
  • They often know little about today’s market and what items will sell for.
  • They often sell at very low prices and then depart.
  • Some don’t even price items or research the value of higher-end pieces.
  • Sometimes they leave a mess behind for the client to pick up and handle.
  • The sale proceeds are often quite low, because they didn’t make the effort to make the sale as successful as possible.
  • They may not pay the client in a pre-determined time frame or offer an accounting of what was sold.
  • To get the contract signed, they undercut with a low commission, claiming they will do the same things as their professional competitors, but will they?

PLEASE do not hire a company based on commission alone.  Find out what the commission includes, research the company, and make your decision based on sound information and facts.

If the commission is very low, one must ask how they can afford the proper resources: enough staff to organize/display/watch the crowd effectively, security to minimize theft, advertising, appropriate prices, proper signage, social media, and more.

Lower commission can also bring lower effort.  Unless it is a very simple estate sale, what normally suffers is quality:

  • Quality of care
  • Quality of service
  • Quality in research
  • Quality in diligent preparation

These qualities are attributes of a professional, not a bargain-basement business.

KNOW WHO YOU ARE HIRING!  The time it takes to find those true professionals is time well spent.

©2016 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at julie@theestatelady.com.

 

The Many Hats of an Estate Liquidator

I first published this article on The American Society of Estate Liquidators® (ASEL) website in October 2014.  I thought you’d appreciate the information as you select a professional estate liquidator to help you downsize or clean out a parent’s home.  If you’ve already used an ASEL liquidator, I’d love to hear your comments on the many hats they wear.

Many Hats Estate LiquidatorMany people are under the impression that an estate liquidator is someone who puts on glorified yard sales.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Professional estate liquidators wear many hats on any given day with a common goal for their client as well as for themselves:

  • to maximize sale proceeds,
  • lighten the burden of our client families,
  • treat each other with respect, and
  • help our clients move forward.

In the process of doing so, we must possess a great deal of knowledge to guide our clients along the way.  We don’t just organize and set up for a sale.  We:

  • clean items that haven’t seen the light of day in decades,
  • tirelessly research these items,
  • make calls to private buyers that we know will be interested in a particular item or collection,
  • figure out the best way to set up to maximize the sale,
  • price items appropriately,
  • coordinate sending high-end items to proper selling venues,
  • coordinate all crews,
  • manage our clients, and the list goes on.

Often the client is not aware of just how much back-breaking work and time is invested before the door ever opens for the estate sale.  We take 50, 60, 70 years of accumulation and sort through it, research it, clean it, organize it and sell it within a week or so.  That’s amazing in and of itself!   It is up to us to educate our clients so they do understand that we truly earn our commission and do our very best for them.

Below you find just a sampling of what professional estate liquidators engage in every single day, early mornings to late evenings, and seven days a week.

We have bled, sweat, and cried our way through some estates, and dealt with poor working conditions too.   There isn’t much we’re afraid of; we tackle the task at hand like a linebacker.

We wear this challenging badge with honor because we love what we do, no matter how much we get beat up in the process.

Detective – We sort through years of long forgotten items that have been crammed in boxes and cubbies.  Often family cannot find important papers (titles, Will) or a sentimental item, but many times we find them.  We know where to look, have a good idea of where things could be hidden, and we know what these items are, or how to find out.  This is the fun part!

Archeologist – We dig and dig and dig.  By the end of the day, we are covered in dirt.  We unearth one layer at a time searching for old artifacts and treasures.  We handle carefully and lovingly the items we uncover which have value or meaning.  This is painstaking, but necessary.

Magician – While it appears to the client that we made it all disappear as if by magic, we know the levels of complexity it takes to empty the estate.  “Can you do a sale this weekend?”  There is no magic.  Only hard work, the ability to professionally multi-task, knowing the right people, and selecting the right staff.

Bellhop – Who’s carrying the family baggage; the client, you, or both?  Stay focused and advise as necessary.  Our ears are bent with family lore (and who did what to whom)!

Firefighter – Estate professionals put out fires every day, whether it comes from prospective buyers or the sellers, or anything in between, including the emotions our clients go through.

Police/Law Enforcement – We keep peace and order in these estates, enforce our ethical policies, “law down the law” according to the rules for how each sale should be run.  These are in place to ensure a pleasant estate sale day, encourage good behavior, and keep the flow moving.

Counselor/Clergy – We listen, validate, encourage, support, and hear confessions and stories.  It is part of our job to offer support, including emotional support within reason.

Accountant/Administrator – Pay the bills/employees, handle the contracts, handle brokering details, tally estate proceeds; we do it all.

Umpire – Calling “safe” and “out” for not only attendees and clients, but also monitoring our staff conduct and ourselves as well.

Train Conductor – We prevent derailment, get everyone on-board, and get the clients where they need to be.

Psychic – Can you predict human behavior based on all of your estate experience?  Yes, you can.  We’re very good at reading people and understanding motives.

Nurse/Doctor – Not only do we help heal many of our clients who are heavy laden and would have a very difficult time going through the process alone, we must remember the most important rule:  First, do no harm.  Clients come first.  In the literal sense, we have all mastered first aid, as we bleed in nearly every estate!

Construction worker – We build this business from the ground up and create a very strong, honest/ethical foundation to weather the storms.  If the foundation is not strong, we need to rebuild, remodel, tear down, or bring in a new addition.

Referee – Keeping the peace on all sides, at all times.

These are just a few of the many hats estate sale professionals wear on any given day, but there are many more that often go unnoticed;  employer, exterminator, garbage man, dumpster gal, recycler, haul/drop-off person, organizer, companion, cleaning service, broker, miner, etc.

How much can one truly professional estate liquidator accomplish?  It’s all in a day’s work!

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at julie@theestatelady.com.