The Awakening

Just this week, I have received numerous emails from people who are very concerned about the falling values of their tangible assets and the soft market that we are currently experiencing.  These emails have asked me on a personal level how I feel about this and how I explain this to my clients.

This topic has touched a lot of nerves, which is why I have written about it recently, discussing what I am seeing at antiques shows and fairs, auctions, etc.  It appears that people are beginning to awaken to the message I have been hollering for years; my message is a simple one.  Don’t shoot the messenger because I am being upfront and honest with you, so that you can make solid, knowledgeable decisions regarding the items you want to sell (or not).

Whether I am conducting a formal appraisal report for heirs, consulting on an estate and working with the children or their elderly parents, my comments are pretty much the same. “Let’s sit for a moment and talk about your options, which options would be best for your estate situation, and the expectations you may have about your possessions.”

  1. The market is soft for several reasons, and the economy is just one of several problematic challenges we are all facing.
  2. Remember that as we lose our older loved ones, their possessions are, quite literally, flooding the market with traditional household furnishings.
  3. The problem is that there are not enough buyers for what’s coming on the market.  The boomers have too much stuff and are trying to downsize.  Their children have no interest in these items either.
  4. It all comes down to the Law of Supply & Demand.  Too much supply and no demand drive prices south.  Have something extraordinary?  Demand will be high since supply is low, and the price will be driven up.

The problem with this near-perfect synopsis of the current marketplace is what is extraordinary to you, and what is extraordinary to those of us in the industry, are two totally different things.  The average person out there thinks what they have is extraordinary just because it may be labeled “antique.”  This couldn’t be further from the truth and I need your help in spreading the message.

“Extraordinary” exists only rarely like a flawless diamond.  The earth provides them, but very seldom.  This type of item will always attract buyers with deep pockets.  A 150 year old Victorian marble-top dresser will not, because they are common, dreadfully heavy, and imposing.  This style has fallen out of favor and very few are buying these kinds of items.  When they do, the prices are low, far lower than the owner feels it should be.  Will they ever come back in fashion, or will they ever go up in value?  I’m not really sure.  I think it is going to be a long while before values start heading north.

Another example of extraordinary would be owning Joe DiMaggio’s uniform, with pictures of him wearing it while standing next to his wife, Marilyn Monroe, and a letter from Joe giving you this uniform.  THAT’S extraordinary!  You have a group of rare items along with provenance of where it came from; serious baseball collectors would be vying for it.

I have taken much time to communicate extensively with my colleagues across the U.S. to discuss the economy and its effect on our clients.  When times are bad, people turn to selling hard assets, and when they can’t sell them or they sell for very little, people have a tendency to get very upset.  Who could blame them?  We are all in agreement that exceptional items will always sell for exceptional prices, but these are few and far between.

Is there a solution to this terrible situation that has befallen us?  Sometimes I wish I had that crystal ball, but since I don’t, I would encourage all of you.  When you consider selling your possessions or heirlooms, first have them professionally looked at by someone who knows exactly what they are doing, not your Aunt Betty’s neighbor or friend who dabbles in stuff.  You need someone who understands not only the market, but the trends we are currently seeing from region to region.

Most of all, the best advice I can offer is to go into it with neutral expectations.  I know mom always thought it was worth a fortune, but chances are it was worth a fortune to her.  If mom paid $5,000 for a designer piece, look at the time period when she purchased it or had it appraised.  Those days are long gone!  Something is worth what someone will give you for it.  It has become a buyer’s market and buyers are more frugal because they know this.

No one person, especially an estate professional, is to blame for the many reasons our market is soft, but it is up to us to educate our clients and each other.  Looking forward to better days …

©2013 The Estate Lady®

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

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

How Did You Become “The Estate Lady?”

It is a question I am asked often; each time I have to smile to myself, knowing the course of events that transpired to get me into the estate business and evolve with it.  Allow me to preface this by saying I don’t think I chose “it”.  I think “it” chose me.

Wilma was 103 years old.  While I had dabbled in the buying and selling of antiques back then (25 years ago), she had heard about me and invited me over for advice on what to do with her beautiful European residential contents upon her death.  She said she was “ready for the hole” which I found amazingly blunt, but she was honest and genuinely worried about her things, as to not be a burden to anyone once she was gone.  She had outlived her husband and children.  We agreed I would return in a couple of weeks to discuss options, etc.

Upon my return, her beautiful home looked like a carnival had just trampled through it.  You can imagine my horror when it was clear to see that her neighbors and so-called friends came over and helped themselves, breaking fine rare German figurines in the process and leaving debris behind for her to clean up.  They had purchased her sterling, antique furniture, antique clocks, etc. from her for a dollar, $5, a few bucks here and there, and her possessions were worth a small fortune … tens of thousands at that time.

It was, for me, a moment of truth – an epiphany, if you will – about the inner workings of human nature.  Truly, I was disgusted by what I saw, and felt both a deep sorrow for her, as well as a disdain for the people who had done this to her.  How could they do that?  We’re supposed to protect those who can’t protect themselves.  From my best recollection, I lifted a silent prayer thinking about all the Wilma’s out there that needed advocates, to protect them from these unscrupulous people who knew her for decades and still totally took advantage of her, with little regard for their actions.  It was unconscionable.

She asked me if she had been taken advantage of, and I looked her straight in the eyes and said, “Yes.  I am afraid so.”  She nodded, knowing what had really happened and thanked me for my honesty.  What she said next was what led me to this industry and to my life’s calling.  “We old folks really need an estate lady like you!”  And right there, sitting on her remaining green velvet antique sofa, the light bulb went off and I received my life’s instructions.  “The Estate Lady” was born.  I quit a cushy pharmaceutical job and went to work for myself, figuring if I was working this hard for them, I might as well work this hard for myself.  It was a tremendous leap of faith.

From that moment to this, there have been many, many obstacles, plenty of tears for what I see in the industry (both good and bad), lots of sweat equity and even blood spilled due to its physical demands.  My back is riddled with arthritis and my once beautiful hands show the signs of hard work.  BUT … I’ve never once looked back.  I’ve never regretted a thing.  I am not rich, but in so many ways I am, because my clients allowed me into their lives.  They shared their secrets and pain, and somehow, no matter how small or large, my compassion, skills, and presence made a difference in their lives.  That is what allows me sleep like a baby every night, knowing I have served so many to the best of my ability.  It is the driving force of my spirit.

If you know someone interested in pursuing this industry, share this link with them:  They can expect lots of hard work with little glamour.  But if they are looking for a career in an industry that serves so many, and are willing to work hard and earn a decent income, it becomes a win-win.

Not everyone is cut out to do this kind of work.  It takes the kindness and compassion of a minister, combined with the grit of John Wayne.  If this sounds like you, I would encourage you to explore it.

I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life!

©2013 The Estate Lady®

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

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

10 Commandments of Estate Behavior

With great reverence for God’s 10 commandments, here are the basic rules which should be followed in any and every estate situation.  Often, we aren’t thinking clearly in the middle of the estate settlement and distribution process.

While there are no laws that pertain to human behavior when handling an estate and the distribution of property, these commandments should be “etched in stone” to remind us how we should behave.

  1. Thou shalt not worship material possessions.  They can be a monkey on your back and, ultimately, you can’t take them with you.
  2. Greed and the love of possessions can be false idols which can, and often do, ruin families.
  3. Don’t forget to take Sabbath for yourself.  We all need time and space to breathe and reflect.
  4. Honor your loved one that just passed away.  Take actions that would respect them and make them proud.
  5. Thou shalt not kill thy family relationships by destroying your chance to find peaceful resolutions.  Mend your fences.
  6. Do not cheat anyone, including yourself, in the estate distribution process.
  7. Thou shalt not steal anything, even if you think no one is watching.  Someone is always watching.
  8. Thou shalt not throw thy sibling(s) under the bus.  What goes around often comes around.
  9. Thou shalt not covet anything a sibling gets.  It’s not worth it; let it go.
  10. Stay true to who you are and walk as straight a path as possible.  Not only is immediate family watching, but your children and grandchildren as well.  Set an excellent example.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

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

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

Guilt – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Each day, I work closely with heirs attempting to deal with what their parents have left behind.  Some parents leave more than others, and some downsize long before their time comes.  Some are so attached to their possessions, they leave it all for their children to contend with.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear they use their possessions as an anchor to this world, not fully understanding that when you are called to enter the heavenly gates, you can’t take a thing with you.  You leave this earth much as you entered it, and we didn’t bring one material possession when we arrived.

On a daily basis, I hear middle-aged children tell me their mother “would kill them” if they sold or gave her possessions away, or that mom “always told me how valuable it was and to never sell it,” or that “I had to pass this down to the kids or she’d roll in her grave.”  They openly share with me that mother always stressed the importance of these things and they now feel badly, wanting to sell them.

Friends, this is what I call strategically applied guilt and I am offering you some helpful advice here with the hopes that you will read it, re-read it, and pass it along to those who need to read it!

  1. Every “thing” has a season.  That season of cherishing that item was during your mom’s lifetime, not necessarily yours.  Free yourself and make peace with this.
  2. You may need permission to let it go.  Here it is: It’s OK to let go and let someone else derive pleasure from it. There’s no sense in the item collecting dust, being stacked in your attic, or wrapped up in old newspaper in a box where it has remained since 1977.  Let it go!
  3. No, the kids and grandkids really don’t want it, most of the time.  Even if you have an idea in your head that they will want it in the future, most of the time they don’t.  Ask them what they would like to keep now.  If it’s not on their list, don’t force them to take it.  All you are doing is “passing the buck” to the younger generation that has no tolerance for “stuff.”  They prefer cash.
  4. Why would you clutter up your house with someone else’s stuff?  It’s not fair to you, your spouse, your children.  Make a pact with yourself that you will sort through it in a timely manner … not years, but weeks.  Hire an appraiser to uncover what has value so you can make sound decisions.  Get the kids on board and set dates for them to come get what they want.  If it is unclaimed, give it to a charity of choice; let it go to someone who will appreciate it.  It really is simple — you just have to make up your mind to do it, and forgive yourself for anything you think you are doing incorrectly.  Always look forward.
  5. I’m sure they don’t care about their material possessions in heaven.  Agree?
  6. Relieve yourself and your children of guilt.  Here’s how …

My mom gave me a great gift before she died (her death was not expected).  She took me to the guest room closet which had several packing boxes stacked.  She told me those boxes were filled with family photos.  “When I die, Julie, just throw them away because they are photos of people I don’t even know; I will not give you the guilt my mother put on me.”

When mom died unexpectedly and I was in her home cleaning it out, I walked up to that closet and replayed that scene in my mind.  I actually laughed out loud when I reached for the boxes, telling my brother what mom had told me.  Even though we went through the boxes, she was right and I had no trouble letting go.  I was incredibly grateful my mother gave me that “gift” and relieved me of that burden.  That’s love!

It’s OK to feel a pang of uncertainty.  It’s not OK to drag this stuff with you through life, allowing it to drag you down with it.  It’s not right to place it all on your children.  Learn from this painful experience.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

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

The Estate Medium

Give me a little while in an estate – any estate – and I will tell you more about that loved one’s life than most people who knew them.  Walking into an estate, sight unseen for the first time, can be compared to an artist starting on a new canvas.  We wipe the mental slate clean from the last estate and clear ourselves before going in to “receive” thoughts, feelings, and even a certain energy about the home and the people who lived there.  One can sense many things immediately, if they are open to it.

In my career, I have handled the estates of young and old alike: the mentally ill, the lost souls, those who end their own lives, the hoarders, the estranged, those with dementia, eating disorders, chronic disease, those who died rich, and those who died poor.  While these are all very different, I have come to the conclusion that in the end, we are all pretty much the same regardless of the situation that led to the eventual demise.

I went into an estate last week where someone ended their life.  This is not common, but I see it a few times each year.  The feeling is always the same once I have entered the home.  I walk in and instantly feel a wall of despair.  It is a profound sense of sadness.  As I walk through the home, I will see other signs that something wasn’t quite right; either the home is too clean (as in OCD clean) or I see hoarding tendencies.  Often scattered around in the strangest places, I will see liquor bottles coupled with a multitude of prescription bottles; you know what a dangerous combination this is.  I look at what their hobbies and interests were, which will reveal much about them.  And sometimes I can see conflict in their lives just by observing what was in their home.  Was it mental illness, untreated depression, drugs, etc?  We’ll never know.  It is not unusual to sense that at one time, they were a very bright light.

If we are in the home for any length of time, would you believe me if I told you that my staff and I begin to cry, or that we are filled with sorrow we don’t understand?  It’s as if we can feel what they felt.  We can feel that they were “stuck” in a dark place even though they had much to offer.  A very sad situation indeed.  We always end up praying for that person (for everyone, really), lifting lovely thoughts and words hoping that they have found peace at last, and that we are there to help the family begin to heal by handling the estate for them.

On the flip side, we can also sense lives and homes that are buoyant, colorful, joyful, and productive.  These homes are filled with light, usually lovers of animals and nature, and hobbies such as volunteering, bird watching, and gardening.  In these homes, we usually just feel a stillness that has no heaviness to it.  And in some cases, we start singing and are lighthearted while working in the estate.  We don’t always understand why the environment affects us and our feelings.

Two completely different experiences, and everything you can imagine in between.

I believe there’s a way we can incorporate a conscious change into our lives and homes, so we can positively shift the energy we carry with us, for it remains long after we are gone, and deeply affects our loved ones left behind.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

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

“Truck Carrying Heirlooms Stolen”

Can you imagine dealing with a loved one’s passing, dividing the estate, renting a truck to bring heirlooms home, and on the way back … the truck gets stolen?

This is a true story that happened last week.  Apparently, the children packed up everything they wanted to keep and headed home with a truck full, including $100,000 worth of jewelry in the cab of the truck, $7,000 worth of furniture, and $4,000 worth of power tools in the trailer of the truck.  The children started in Ohio and were heading home to Florida, when they decided to stop and rest for the night at a Microtel Inn.  By the time they woke and were ready to hit the road at 9:00 am, they discovered everything was gone, including the truck.

Sadly, there was no outside surveillance at this Microtel, but most economy hotels do not have outdoor surveillance.  The children seemed to be befuddled that the truck was stolen because it was “parked under a light in the parking lot” and they locked the truck.  Lights and locks don’t stop thieves.  The thief broke in and hot-wired the truck.

Call me crazy, but it seems to me they could have been followed from where they started.  Someone probably knew what they were carrying and decided to help themselves when no one was looking.  Besides the obvious pain of feeling violated and cheated by some thug out there, one has to wonder what they were thinking when they left $100,000 worth of jewelry in a small suitcase inside the truck.  It begs the question, “Why not take the jewelry into the hotel room with you for the night?”  That’s what I would have done.

Would-have, could-have, should-have will not be of any help in this case.  The damage is done!  The police will most likely not find the jewelry, as it’s my guess it was flipped for quick cash or it sits in someone’s safe for a while until the coast is clear.  They will find the truck, abandoned somewhere and completely gutted of its contents.

Estate Lady tips when transferring or traveling with valuables:

1.  Jewelry/cash needs to be carried on your person at all times (fanny pack, backpack, pinned inside garments, shoulder bag worn across your chest, etc.) until you arrive home and get it to a safe place.

2.  Furniture and other items, such as power tools, that add up in value should be moved professionally if the family can afford it.  Moving companies have insurance and if it were stolen/damaged under their care, they would have at least been given some replacement money.  Professional movers usually have checks and balances in place to ensure theft doesn’t happen.  Make sure to use a larger, well-known, professional mover.

3.  For smaller valuables such as figurines, small paintings, jewelry, etc:  Whenever we move, I take on the liability myself, pack the car with them and get to my destination in one day.  If I can’t do that, then they need to be professionally packed and moved, making sure you take out additional insurance and have the items appraised, just in case.  Or, I will sell items that no longer mean much to me and that lightens my load.

I realize people want to do it themselves because it is more economical to do so.  But as you can see, this cheaper option was overwhelmingly more costly.

I remember packing up my car from mom and dad’s estate and making the 10 hour road trip back home alone.  I never left the car, except to run in to use a restroom and stretch my legs.  Mom’s jewelry was on my person, hidden.  So even if my car had been stolen, because it looked like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies, at least the more valuable and sentimental jewelry items were safe with me.

Such a tragic story that didn’t have to happen!

©2013 The Estate Lady®

How to Handle Yourself During the Estate Settlement Process

It’s an observation worth noting: When it comes to dividing heirlooms and estate contents, everyone tenses up and no one wants to be the first to talk.  You can sense the apprehension in the room, and it appears as if everyone is trying to predict what the other will do.  Will my sister-in-law make a fuss?  Will brother want the same things I want, and if so, what do we do?  Will there be fighting and resentment?

From the perspective of this 20+ year estate veteran who has observed many families, we should be more concerned with our own behavior.  It is more likely that people will follow rather than lead, so if you lead by example, the others may very well follow suit, especially if you remain positive.  If every heir was in tune with their own behavior and had the ability to stay on the straight and narrow peaceful path, there would be a lot less fighting in the world.  Unfortunately this is not always the case.

When a parent passes, particularly the last remaining parent, true colors, a few fangs, and an entitlement mentality will eventually surface.  Most feuds break out for four basic reasons:

  1. A misunderstanding has taken place and has not been effectively dealt with
  2. Everyone grieves differently and emotions can be volatile
  3. A situation has been festering for years that probably took place during childhood and now will appear, causing all kinds of problems
  4. An heir perceives he/she is getting taken advantage of on the cash assets and/or heirlooms.

Here’s how you can contribute to a more peaceful resolution:

  1. Sit down and say what’s on your mind.  Beating around the bush confuses everyone and confrontation is not necessarily a bad thing.  My father always said that the day after a thunderstorm is usually clean, bright, and beautiful.  The storm clears the air and so does a confrontation that is more about sharing than finger-pointing.  Some heirs can’t handle this confrontation and I would definitely recommend some sort of mediation, if they want to save the relationship.  The down side is if they don’t fix this early on, the relationship will eventually be irreparable as the damage continues to expand and both parties live out their lives with anger in their hearts.
  2. It’s vital to do everything you can to keep the peace.  Regardless of what part you play in this, it will have an impact on you too, most especially a negative impact.  Even indirectly connected, you will be touched in some negative way.  To avoid this, do your best to take the “higher road.”  You’ll feel better doing so, even if it’s not always easy.
  3. Validate the other person’s feelings if they share them with you.  At least, listen.  Repeat what they said to you so they feel you heard them.  Both should agree to simply do the best you can to smooth it over somehow.  A photo of mom and dad sitting in front of you wouldn’t hurt.  After all, this is about honoring them and not about you.
  4. Encourage others to be a part of the healing process, if they would like to be.  It is not about taking sides.  It is about encouraging both parties to do what they can to heal the hurt, if the hurt can be healed.  It’s too easy to throw in the towel and quit.  Always remain objective and try very hard to see the other side.  Seeing both sides, or at least putting yourself in the other’s shoes, might very well lend some insight into the situation.  The problem is that we are generally too self-centered to do this, because we feel strongly we are in the right.  Promise yourself you will at least try!

Dividing heirlooms can be one of the most contentious experiences during our adult lives.  There is no way to completely eliminate family squabbles, but you can learn to put them out when they are smoldering, instead of when they grow into a full-blown forest fire.

© 2013 Julie Hall

An Estate is a Sitting Target

(Please send this to everyone you know is dealing with an estate.)

I just received yet another sad phone call.  A client’s deceased father’s home was broken into and 90% of the estate is now gone.  These thieves weren’t in any rush either.  They came with a huge truck, left odds and ends in the yard, drank beer as evidenced by beer cans left around the home, and proceeded to rob this family without care, concern, conscience, or karma.  Not only is she grieving, but now she has this to contend with as well.  The contents of this estate were sitting, waiting for a long distance sibling to arrive in town to divide it with his sister.

The old phrase “sitting duck” applies here.  It alludes to a duck floating on the water, not suspecting that it is the object of a hunter or predator.  Let’s take a closer look at this situation, so we can avoid it in the future.

Since the beginning of man, there have been thieves.  Through the millennia, man has stolen everything from other people held for ransom, to meat, to money, to gold, you name it.  But take a good look at the state of our economy right now.  Unscrupulous individuals, who feel entitled to take what others have rightfully earned and inherited, are moving in on the good side of man.  They saw a house sitting, they made a plan, and they helped themselves.  As times get tougher, we will see more of this.

Do you really think law enforcement is going to find these possessions?  My guess is no — they are gone forever — slipping into flea markets, personal safes, sold cheap, etc.  I’m not blaming the police, as they are overwhelmed with this sort of thing on a daily basis.  In my opinion, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I’ve said it before in my writings and I’d like to offer the best advice.  Don’t let the estate be a sitting duck.  Deal with it in a timely manner, get professionals in there to help you, and get it done.  The longer it sits, the more likely it will become a target.

With the permission of the executor (unless the executor already has done so), document and remove all the valuables from the home so they can be divided at a later date: sterling items and flatware, gold, jewelry, high-end electronics, expensive tools, etc.  Keys/locks should be changed immediately upon learning of a death, because you don’t know everyone who has keys.  Work through the estate and don’t delay!  Don’t become one more ugly statistic, like this grieving woman who only did what she thought was right by waiting.  Work closely with siblings, and find the time to meet to make decisions.

© 2012 Julie Hall

Selling Residential Contents to Help Pay for Your Parents’ Care, part 2


In the past, we’ve talked about supply and demand, how the younger generations don’t want grandma’s china, crystal, or antiques.  The market is getting flooded and everyone is trying to sell, sell, sell.  So the prices go down, down, down.

The bottom line is you need to have a professional come out and look at what you have, so they can advise you on the best way to proceed on the dissolution of the possessions.  There are good ways and bad ways to go about this.  Find a reputable personal property appraiser to do a walk-through consultation.  This consultation should include offering opinions of value in your region and in this market, advice on which resource is the best for selling the items, and if possible, what’s worth selling, what should be donated, discarded, etc.

Then, think about these options:

Estate Liquidation — Hire a professional estate liquidator who has experience, an outstanding reputation in your community, excellent BBB rating in your state, and who has been recommended to you by others.  They normally charge 30-40% commission and this may or may not include the clean out of the home.  The liquidator sets the prices but will often negotiate.  A plan must be in place to deal with the leftovers or remaining items that did not sell.

Ask the liquidator if they are members of any professional organizations, credentials, certifications, etc., and then check them.  Make sure they have no unresolved complaints against them.  Ask for professional references and check them.  If you cannot find a liquidator, call an estate planning firm and ask them for a referral, or contact us at (The American Society of Estate Liquidators).

An estate sale is not a yard sale.  The best estate sale is one that has primarily the entire household full of variety that will attract buyers, plenty of parking space on the road in the neighborhood and in a good area.

Auction Company — The same rules apply to an auction.  Check them out thoroughly.  The national average commission is 25%, but make sure you understand what that percentage includes.  Ask about pick-up fees, advertising, how long before paid, etc.  The public pretty much sets the prices based on what they are willing to pay for the piece, unless you request a reserve price on a particular piece, but this tends to scare off potential buyers.  Auction is an excellent option for many household goods ranging from antiques to farm equipment, if it is not a full house, if it’s located in a gated community, apartment, narrow streets, etc.

Consignment Company — The average consignment commission is 40-50% and most items will need to be sold within 90-120 days or you may need to go pick them up, or the consignment company can donate them for you.  They set the prices and generally go down in price as time passes.  Often you will need to bring the items by the store or provide photographs, so they can approve or reject each item.

Do-It-Yourself Estate Sale or Yard Sale — It is do-able, but a ton of work for not a lot of money, plus dealing with the public is no easy task.  The good in this is that you get to keep the proceeds without paying a commission, but you need to know the value on items before you begin the process.  You wouldn’t want something worth $1,000 to be sold for $10.  It happens frequently.

Ebay, Craigslist, other online sites — If you have the patience to deal with these painstaking options, go for it.  While I agree they have their advantages, you will need to know the correct wording and descriptions to get started and maximize proceeds.  The fees on Ebay are getting to the point where people can’t even make decent money, not to mention having to pack it up, send it across the country, and then find out that the buyer is going to make your life miserable, because she doesn’t like it and wants a refund.  It takes time, diligence, and patience.  You could always pay a student to do this for you, but they won’t have the knowledge to describe the item appropriately, and what could sell for hundreds might sell for $12.

Classified Ads — Well, it’s an option.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.  You have to be willing, like with Craigslist, to let strangers into your home, and many do not like that idea.

Create flyers and distribute on church/temple bulletin boards, friends, and neighbors.  Make sure you know what you have before you begin to sell it.

To get maximum proceeds from the items in an estate or home, enlist the help of a professional so they can steer you in the right direction!

© 2012 Julie Hall

Selling Residential Contents to Pay for Your Parents’ Care


Part of my job is paying attention to trends and values in the personal property market.  We are seeing changes, not only in the marketplace and in values, but also in how families are approaching the selling of items/heirlooms when mom or dad require long-term care.  They are running out of money because the high cost of care, and living so long, has taken its toll.

I have had an unusual increase in calls this year from boomer children asking me to sell almost all of the possessions in mom’s home because “we need to keep mom’s care going and we have to sell everything and we need as much money as possible.”  Mom might be in assisted living, nursing care, in-home care, etc. and the costs are so heavy; the children are now turning to the sale of personal property to cover the costs.

Let me be the first professional to be honest and as open as possible with you.  Families think the sale of the home contents might glean them $50,000 and this is far from the truth in better than 90% of the estates I see.  It might surprise you to know that unless you have something extremely rare and extraordinary that can be sold at an upper-tier auction house, chances are very good that you will be grossly disappointed in what the sale brings.  The average is $10,000 or less, and we know this won’t cover mom’s care for very long.  The biggest mistake I see is people selling sterling, gold, and jewelry for scrap.  First, if you have the luxury of a little time, do your research and don’t sell to the first person you go to.  Compare.  Look for a company as close to the refinery as possible.  Secondly, wait until these metals peak again before you sell (if you can).

The children pull out the heirlooms, or what they perceive as heirlooms because they are old pieces, only to be shocked that the Victorian oil painting is actually very common for that period, or have trouble believing the antique walnut table that’s 150 years old is only worth $300.  Believe it.  This is what we are seeing.

Each day, my phone rings with people asking me to come to the estate and separate the junk from the valuable “antiques.”  Today, many antiques are not worth that much and this comes as a shock to the family, who’s thinking they had a way to keep mom comfortable for another 6 months or a year.

Sometimes we do find treasure in homes, like the time I found three $25,00 vases in a basement.  The family was overjoyed at this find and it helped them tremendously, but this type of find is rare.  Sadly, some of these cable shows give the public the wrong idea.  They give the viewer the feeling that what they have is valuable, but we professionals in the field know differently.  True, you never know what you have until a professional comes out to look, but the majority of the time, it doesn’t amount to as much as you think it will.

Next week, I’ll share some specific options for disposing of your parents’ possessions to pay for their care.

© 2012 Julie Hall