Priceless memories: the emotional cost of an estate sale

Priceless memories: the emotional cost of an estate sale


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So you’ve inherited a home or have found yourself responsible for liquidating a lifetime of possessions and you’ve decided to have an estate sale. One of the first things you need to decide is whether you want to do it yourself or whether you want to hire a professional company to handle the sale. Two of the main things you need to consider are cost and emotion.

The goal of any estate sale is to make money, whether the sale is run by the family or a private company. Otherwise it would be far simpler to donate your items to charity. But if you believe that there are items of value to sell, then selling them is what you do.

If you’ve lost a parent or are going through a divorce or a beloved aunt is entering a nursing home then holding an estate sale can be a really overwhelming experience. People don’t tend to make the best decisions when they’re feeling grief or are under emotional stress. This is especially true when it comes to financial decisions. Letting go is hard, and the items in an estate sale often have many memories and emotions attached to them.

For example, perhaps you remember building a model train set with your grandfather, but now he’s gone and that train set, long outgrown by you, sits dusty in the basement of the house he once lived in. Perhaps you don’t have room for it or no longer have interest in it and so you decide to include it in the estate sale. How much is that train set worth? It might be difficult to calculate because of your emotional investment in it. Further more, it might be difficult to watch strangers roam through your grandfather’s house poking through his things. A professional estate sale company doesn’t have emotional entanglements clouding their judgment. They will price the train set fairly and even help the new owner pack it into her car.

A private estate sale company usually takes a percentage of the sale (25-35% isn’t unusual) and/or charges a flat fee. The cost can seem very high. What you need to consider is what you are getting for that price.

Think about the items in your house right now, or even just the items in the room you’re currently in. Someone says, “You have to prepare everything in this room for sale. On your mark, get set, go!” Where would you start? What would you have to do? How long would that take you? Picture yourself sorting through items, pricing them, cleaning them if necessary, and presenting them in an organized way for shoppers. If the mere thought has you feeling exhausted, well, that’s why hiring a pro is such a popular option.

But make sure that you’re getting what you pay for. Don’t assume a company will clean up the old riding lawn mower and tool collection in the garage, for example. There are many questions you should ask before hiring a company, and definitely read through everything before you sign anything. While time is often a big concern when it comes to hiring a company, holding the sale, and cleaning out the house, rushing your decision about who to hire could be very costly.

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