Liquidating or Dispersing Household Contents Following a Downsizing Move
or to Settle an Estate.

We're often asked, "What can I/we do with what's left after the move?" There are several options to consider when household contents need to be liquidated after a downsizing move (or to settle an estate). Making the necessary contacts and decisions prior to the move and having your liquidation plan in place is part of a successful downsizing transition.

Please review the various household liquidation options listed below. We consult with our customers regarding the best available option(s) and can provide guidance and assistance with aligning the right services to meet their needs.

Gifting or Selling to Family and Friends.

Gifting or selling items to family members and friends is a wonderful way to liquidate some of what remains in the home. Once you know what you won’t be taking with you, we suggest inviting family members and friends in to get a feel for what they may have an interest in. We also recommend that if possible, you talk with each person individually and keep a list or mark items as you go through the house.

In our downsizing seminars we’re often asked about the importance of each child receiving items of equal value. It would be nice if that were at all possible, but in most families, it just isn’t. Depending on the family dynamics, we find that most children and grandchildren will make emotion-based choices over monetary ones; that special personal connection to something, not the dollar value. And of course there are times when “drawings” can be used when more than one person shows an interest in an item. A downsizing move can be stressful and we encourage people to use creative ways if necessary to avoid additional stress in the family.

Here’s our cautionary statement for this section. Please don’t assume that what you have earmarked for a family member or friend will always be warmly accepted. To avoid having your feelings hurt or being disappointed in any way, we suggest that you ask before you give (get a feel for the interest level). Most people have more than their fair share of stuff to deal with and may not want anything additional in their homes. And many times even a difference in decorating styles or tastes can keep the person from accepting something as a gift. It is not uncommon to see family china turned down as today’s young adults do not entertain in the same manner as their parents or grandparents. Whatever the case may be, we recommend asking first when it comes to passing things down through the family or gifting to friends.

Sale. Auction. Donate. Consign.

If there is enough content left in the house once you’ve moved, and if you’re truly downsizing there should be, you may decide to have a sale or an auction to liquidate what remains. There are different types of sales and each one is content-value-driven with garage sales being at the lower end of the money-making scale.

All sales must be advertised in order to draw buyers, so don't forget to figure in the cost of advertising. It's wise to also check with your community regarding sale-related signage and any restrictions or permits you may need in order to hold your sale. Playing by the rules of your city is smart and could keep you from having your sale shut down on the first day. Take the time and ask the questions.

Garage Sale

Garage sales consist of general or everyday household, garage, and basement items priced fairly low in order to sell the merchandise as quickly as possible. These sales are typically managed by the seller (or family) and will net far less than a moving or estate sale, or auction. If you are considering a garage sale, keep in mind the time it takes to put a sale together. As you are sorting and paring down you may want to consider separating out and pricing items for the sale. Presorting and pricing of items may also be a time saver if you will be having a moving sale.

Moving Sale

A moving sale has more items and an overall larger content value than a garage sale. This type of sale will also be managed by the family and will include furniture in addition to general household items. There are usually several rooms or areas in the home that have items for sale. Following the sale, the remaining contents are usually donated to a charitable organization.

Estate Sale

An estate sale, or a living estate sale, will consist of a variety of higher-priced antiques and collectibles in addition to the everyday or general contents of the home. If the sale has a good mix of quality items, it will net the owner much more than a moving sale. Most generally, estate sales last several days and are managed by companies that specialize in estate-type content. These companies are very knowledgeable about antiques and collectibles and they have a good reputation in their community with a strong dealer following or loyalty (very important!).

Estate sale companies will vary as to their fee structures but most will charge a percentage of the sale proceeds in addition to other charges. Many companies will not hold a sale unless there is a minimum content value because of the amount of preparation work involved in setting up a sale. Best advice is to take the time to discuss and understand how the company does business--their fees, advertising, and general policies and procedures. Also try to plan in advance when hiring an estate sale company as their schedule may not be able to accommodate your sale when you need it.

Auction

An estate auction is the selling of the household contents for the highest price and if on-site, within a few hours. Today, many auction companies will not sell the contents of the house without also contracting to sell the real estate or the property. Depending on the seller’s situation and/or the estate, selling the property and contents in this manner may be advantageous as the entire sale is completed in a short amount of time. In addition, there are also auction houses that will pick up the contents (usually for a fee or an additional sale percentage) and will sell it at, or within their place of business. Auctions can be the quickest way to liquidate an estate, but as with any major decision, it pays to thoroughly investigate your options.

Donate

Another fairly quick way to liquidate remaining household contents is by donating to a charitable organization. Again, investigate as some things have changed in the donation or thrift store business. Call ahead and ask what the organization will accept and if they have pick-up services. Some thrift stores (at least in the KC area) will no longer pick-up and some will make a pick-up only if there are pieces of furniture in good, usable condition. Many no longer want or will accept electronic equipment such as televisions or older technology like computer monitors, scanners, printers, etc. We had an organization tell us recently that they were no longer accepting any holiday items because they had no place to store them.

If you're needing a receipt for tax purposes you should compile your own list in advance and apply the value you believe the items are worth. The organization will also apply their values in most cases and then send you the receipt. Remember to ask questions of the donation center in advance in order to avoid misunderstandings or unnecessary work.

Consign

For good furniture, tasteful decorative items, and higher-end fashions, consigning to a shop that specializes in selling quality used items may be another consideration. Consignment shops typically work on a percentage of sale basis and may or may not have a sale time limit applied to the items consigned. The owner will usually confer with you regarding a fair market value price for the piece(s) being consigned in their business. If they have a time limit as to how long they have merchandise on their floor and it doesn't sell, they may request a mark-down on price(s). If the consignment item(s) does not sell following a reduction in price, they will request the item be picked up. Remember to check around to determine the shop that best fits your selling needs. You may also be responsible for transporting furniture to the shop--something else to think about.

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