Selling Parents' Estate

Updated on October 20, 2010
T.F. asks from Wellsville, PA
9 answers

After years of taking care of my mom in her home, my siblings and I are unable to continue and have placed her in a nursing home. We now have the task of cleaning out her house. She has a huge houseful of stuff - antiques, knick-knacks, and furniture. I don't think there is anything of extreme value or big ticket items, however we want to get the most out of it so that she has some money for odds and ends in the future.

So my question is, what is the best way to go about selling everything? We could have an auctioneer, but then we take the chances of bad weather, bad turnout and finding an auctioneer to do it (I've heard they can be rather particular.) I know we could also have someone come in and buy the whole lot, but then I'm not sure we'd get a fair value of the items - but then how would we know?? Also, do we go through things and organize them before we have anyone come in? Any advice and prior experiences would be appreciated. Thanks!

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answers from Dallas on

First, if your mother is still aware of her surroundings, see if there are any personal items that she wants in her new home. A familiar lamp or a painting or something should be taken out before you dissolve her home. Ok, how many siblings do you have and is there anything there that has sentimental value to them? Work out a system of how to divide those things. One child might want your mom's silver; someone else might want the flag that your father had framed. One child might want the quilt that she kids made for Grandma. You mentioned some antiques--you might want to make a list of all of those items and suspected items and photograph them and have them evaluated by an antique dealer. When we dissolved my mother-in-law's home, we took pictures of all of the furniture and set prices on it and put it on craig's list and posted it at church and a nearby college campus. We had a sell by date on the list and then anything that was not sold was included in the garage sale. We had a big garage sale and enlisted the help of a lot of friends. We had tables set up with $1, $5, $10 items and then had other items individually marked. At the end of the two day sale, we had a charity pick up the remaining items. My friend went the auction route to empty her dad's home. They came out and boxed up everything and sold it by the "lot" (like the contents of a drawer was a "lot". The furniture was auctioned off separately. It did not get as high a price as we got for some of our furniture, and then they had to pay the auctioneer a percentage of the sales. You might want to figure out how much help you can count on from family and friends and consider that in your decision.



answers from Portland on

This, I've experienced. My mother handled my grandparent's home and belongings. She check out the value of items that she thought might be valuable by looking them up in books from the library. There are books that list items and their values in a way similar to catalogs. Ask a librarian about them. Then she hired a women who specialized in running estate sales. The sale, its self, was like a garage sale except everything in the house was for sale.

I worked for a woman who ran estate sales in Phoenix, AZ. She was also an antiques dealer and seemed to know the value of things. The sale was held in the elderly woman's home. We went thru the home, closets and all, item by item and put on price tags. Then on the days of the sale it was run similar to a garage sale except the entire house was open with everything on display.

I suggest that you can go to a couple of estate sales and see how they're run. You don't have to have valuable antiques to hire someone to run a sale. My friends moved to a much smaller place and hired a woman to put on a sale after they'd moved out what they wanted to keep.

One thing to be aware of is that the person running the sale does take out of the sale everything that she/he wants to purchase and she decides the value. It's only natural that she MIGHT undervalue it. Also, you should remove everything you want to keep before you bring anyone into the house. Don't trust anyone. Stay on top of situation.

You don't need to organize everything before they come in. They're experienced and can do it much more efficiently. In fact, they'd probably reorganize what you've organized. :)

You can go thru the house and take out items to sell directly to dealers. For example if they collected crystal, silver, china, or other things you could sell that lot at wholesale to a specific dealer.

You can also box up everything and take it to an auction place who will then sell it by lots.

You can do a combination of things. Have a yard sale for small items, sell specific items to dealers, and hire an estate sale company.

I've seen a book that gave info about selling an estate. I don't remember it's name but you can probably find such a book at the library or in a book store. I have good luck with Amazon as well as smaller book sellers on line in finding books based on my entering the topic.



answers from Pittsburgh on

i would not have an auction you don't get the moneys worth out of the stuff. I have been to them before and they really sell stuff cheep.
I would put the stuff on E-Bay they have people who will list the things for youa nd even packae the stuff up and sell it.
try that
god luck


answers from Erie on

Where in PA are you located? My husband specializes in helping to liquidate estates and takes pride in educating families on how to evaluate what you have that's of value and what may not be so valuable BEFORE calling in an auctioneer (who sometimes are not too trustworthy). Education is everything when it comes to this stuff! Some little knick knack thing might be worth a ton when a piece of furniture might not be anything :) We are located in Erie...not sure what part of the state you are in. If we are too far away, I could see if he would do a phone consult with you just to talk about what types of things to look for. Just message me if you're interested. But research will be your best bet and eBay is a great source to see what the going marke prices on things are. Just make sure you are searching completed listings (not active listings) when you are searching for an item.



answers from Las Vegas on

I work with auction items and we used to hold auctions at a physical address, with an auctioneer, who charged a percentage. That was about five years ago. Today, it is all done online.

You can consign large furniture items in a consignment shop, ebay, craigslist, or turn it all over to an auction company. I don't know of any on your side of the nation to refer you to. There is no one solid good answer, so you will have to do some research from the advice you get here and see what works in your best interest.


answers from St. Louis on

just like with any major financial decision, please get 3 quotes before proceeding with any sales. When you meet with these "estate sale" or auction companies, ask for specifics....ask them to list which items they deem to be valuable......& keep notes on everything they suggest.

What seems like "not much" to you....may actually surprise you! I have spent the last 30+ years enjoying & appreciating antiques & vintage items. Even tho' the market is currently "down", by using EBay or a local grapevine, you will be able to make quite a bit of $$$ if you chose not to use an auction or estate specialist.

Please, at the very least, have a local antiques dealer come in & help you price the items. !!


answers from Philadelphia on

They have people that specialize in estate sales. They will help you set up to sell things.



answers from New York on

Hi - just went through this with my mother's estate - we had an appraiser come in and give us a fair market estimate on items such as artwork, light furnishings etc. (anything we thought might be worth something - the rest we donated to charity and got a reciept for) and she told us she would be able to help us liquidate any items of value whenever we are ready to do so. You may want to check out appraisers in your area to see if they offer a similar service. Good luck!


answers from Pittsburgh on

Although I have never been though this myself, my parents moved from Ohio to Tenn. a couple a years ago and decided at that time to purge their belongings. My Mom called an auction house. I'm not sure exactly how it worked, but it boiled down to them comming to my parents home looking at the items they had set for them to look at. The auction house them made them an offer on the "lot". My Mother seemed to think their prices were good and it was the easiest way for them. Good luck!

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