Why it’s better (for both of us) if all the items the family wants to keep are out of the house before we start setting up for the sale.

Before I get to the subject of today’s blog, a few comments about the previous blog “So Why Do You Ask For That”. I’ve been told that the tone of that blog is “rather testy” “bitchy” and “cranky” … even after I modified the blog. [Note to self, do not post blogs written while really tired.] So let me try again to clarify a few things.

First, I’m still going to ask to see your ID and the power of attorney or court order that authorizes you to sell the contents of the house. Please don’t take this personally, it’s just that after 20+ years of working in the legal field with all types of estates, I’ve seen what can happen when you’re not careful.

Second, while I won’t personally wrestle live raccoons out of the attic, I will GLADLY make all the arrangements to get rid of the critters. Same with leaky cans of some unknown substance in the garage that is eating thru the floor, black mold in the basement, and pulsating hives of killer bees in the cupola. I will however remove dead mice, rats, squirrels, (well I won’t personally, that’s a job for the guys on my crew), and ruthlessly swat any creepy crawlies that we run across.

Third, I don’t automatically assume that you/your family/neighbors are going to abscond with the contents of the house in the middle of the night, but I also am a firm believer in the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so I am going to ask that you and I are the only ones with the key & garage door opener to the house.

O.k., now that we have that out of the way, on to today’s blog – Why it’s better (for both of us) if all the items the family wants to keep are out of the house before we start setting up for the sale.

You call me regarding an estate sale. We make arrangements to meet at the house and view the contents. As we walk thru the house, my first question is “what do you and your family want to keep,” and I write down a list of those items. Based on what you tell me is to be sold, I am going to mentally calculate my costs (labor, advertising, post sale cleanup, etc.) and estimate what the sale proceeds will be. I then quote you a fee, and if you agree, we sign a contract.

So far, so good. We start setting up for the sale and pricing items. Your brother shows up to pick up the roll top desk (which you told me was not going to be included in the sale), but while he is there he sees the Seth Thomas mantel clock that we’ve brought up from the basement and cleaned up. Brother had forgotten all about the clock, but now that he sees it he remembers winding that clock with your grandfather and he wants the clock. Which is fine – and let me emphasis this, I want him to have the clock because of the memories connected to it – but here’s the problem – I’ve based my fee on what you told me was for sale, and according to the terms of our contract if any item is removed from the sale after we sign the contract, I reserve the right to value that item and deduct my commission from the proceeds. Now you are stuck between your brother who wants that clock and the terms of our contract. Well, you say, I’ll just tell my brother that he has to pay for the clock. Believe me when I tell you this is just going to cause trouble. Brother is going to argue with my estimate of the sale price of the clock, or past family arguments about who got what are going to rear their ugly head. In the end no one is going to be happy.

Another variation on this theme. We start setting up for the estate sale and pricing items. This can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. One morning we arrive and after a few hours I realize that things are missing. I know there was a Rookwood vase on the bookshelf and a small oil painting hanging in the bedroom that I wanted to research further. Both are gone. I call you and you tell me that your sister was at the house to pick up the dining room set and you didn’t have time to meet her at the house so you just gave her the key. I ask you to call your sister, whereupon you find out that your sister brought her kids with her to pick up the dining room set, and your niece wanted the vase and the painting. Your sister is willing to pay for the vase, but the oil painting was something your mom bought at a garage sale for $10 so that is all she is willing to pay for it. I ask your sister to bring the oil painting back so that I can take a closer look at it and conduct research if necessary, but your sister doesn’t want to do that and a family argument starts.

All of this can be avoided if every item that the family wants is out of the house before we start setting up for the sale. I know this isn’t always possible, and in those cases we will move (if possible) any item that isn’t included in the sale to a separate sealed off room. But I’ll also ask that you and I have the only keys to the house and that one of us is present if a family member comes by to pick up an item that is not included in the sale. 

Next Blog – Why you don’t need to worry about what I might find in the house (‘cause I’ve seen it all).   

Visit us on the web at www.SomersetHouseServices.com.

About Somerset House Services

Somerset House Services works with Executors, Guardians, Trustee's, POA's, individuals, and family members that need to sell, cleanout, or inventory the contents of a house or storage unit. Our services include Estate Sales, Estate Cleanouts (including 'hoarder' houses), Inventories & Appraisals, and Asset Research Services.
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