What’s the best way to deal with an estate?

When I was getting started in the auction business I occasionally worked for an auctioneer in the area. A family contacted him to sell the estate of a deceased family member who lived near our community. None of the other family lived here. As he began working on preparing the estate for sale he soon discovered the magnitude of the job. The individual’s home literally had a path  to walk through with items stacked from floor to ceiling. The garage was the same way, and the family later found a storage unit that was packed as well. What was even more amazing was that most of the collection consisted of valuable items that brought very good prices. It took 17 auctions to sell off that man’s estate!

A neighbor passed away and his son soon contacted me. Again, he did not live in the area and was uncertain what to do with the estate. At the time I was not yet licensed as an auctioneer, but I walked him through his options: have an auction, come each week to hold yard sales until the stuff was done, get a dumpster and throw everything away, try to sell everything online, or just sell the estate to a single buyer who would be responsible for taking everything. The auction made the most sense to the family member so I suggested some auctioneers in the area, and the estate was settled.

Some people fear if they have an auction their items will sell for pennies on the dollar. While that is always a possibility, it seldom happens. I’ve actually seen items sell for more than they could have been purchased new. Usually, quality items bring quality prices, and junk brings junk prices. I tell sellers to not look at what one item may have brought but look at the total sale. While an individual item may bring less than you thought it was worth, chances are the total sale will please the seller. More than once I’ve had executors of estates tell me they never dreamed the estate would bring that much money.

Yard sales take a lot of time to set up, and except for very small estates, will require more than one time to sell off everything. Especially, if you do not live near where the estate is located that can require a lot of travel time. The same is true of selling items online. In either case, you will still have a lot of items left over that will need to be hauled off. Also, don’t make the mistake of selling all the good things yourself and trying to find an auctioneer to sell your junk. Most won’t touch it. We’ll sell your less desirable items only if we can sell the better items as well. I’ve walked away from many potential auctions because that was what the seller had done.

It is possible to sell your estate to an individual buyer, but you must take into account that they will have the expense of moving the estate and storing it until they can sell it. That adds up to a lot of money in labor, fuel, time and storage, and they have to take that into consideration in their offer. Plus, they will be absorbing all the risk. They will also not factor in the sentimental value you may have in certain items. That dresser that belonged to your great-grandmother didn’t belong to anyone else’s great-grandmother. The sentimental value you have for that item is likely far more than what anyone will pay for it. To possible buyers, it’s a dresser period.

An auction is a quick and efficient way of disposing of an estate. It helps the family to have closure at the loss of a loved one. It also helps mitigate some of the grief as you are not having to personally dispose of the items. Someone else is doing that for you.

If you have an estate that you need to sell, I encourage you to contact an auctioneer in your area to see how he or she might be able to assist you. If you live in southern Indiana or northern Kentucky, feel free to contact me. I would love to talk to you about how our company might be able to help you.


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