It seems like a simple concept to most...one man's trash is another man's treasure, right? What one person deems of value and has been seeking for years may be sitting covered in dust in someone's garage. But, if you have ever dealt with the management and consolidation of a large estate, you know that parting with possessions is far easier said than done. There are 3 main obstacles we encounter during the estate sale process:
1. The AMOUNT Of Items. The Depression Era generation accumulated the most amount of possessions, and often associates a deeper relationship with material things because of the scarcity they endured. Thus letting go of possessions, even those no longer used or needed, is even more difficult for these individuals.
2. The TYPE Of Items. There is a declining market for antiques and collectibles across generations, from Baby Boomers to the millennials of today. With the 50+ aged population retiring and downsizing, they often do not have the space nor desire to house great-grandma's old mismatched china pattern. And let's face it...the younger generation is not interested in that 10 person, 2 leaf dining room table, 'dinosaur' television cabinet or that crystal vase collection.
3. The SPACE Of Housing Items. We all know that housing and affordability are two words that do not go together. Especially here in the Bay Area, the cost of living and the wages paid are not rising at the same speed. Space is at a premium, and from condo living to shared housing and roommate situations - we all know that storage is harder to achieve these days than ever. If you are fortunate enough to have a spare room, chances are you are renting it out for income, or about to welcome your kids home from college while they find their first job. Even if you wanted Uncle Henry's antique lantern collection, chances are you would have no place to put it.
The challenges above create one ultimate scenario when clearing out an estate: you have a large selection of items with no one in the market to buy them. Yet, these possessions are often the result of hard work, determination and some very proud purchases made by your parents or grandparents. You may even feel guilty that your loved ones paid full price for these items that now feel seemingly useless, under-valued and impossible to get rid of. You may have hoped to have more of your family legacy to show for than $700 you made at a garage sale, right?
We understand as we face these sentiments everyday, whether helping a senior downsize or assisting a client after the passage of a loved one. While there are no easy answers or simple solutions to dealing with the emotional and physical toll of the process, there are some basic strategies to start with. For years, our team has enlisted the help of Judy Johnson from Unexpected Treasures: Estate Sales & Property Clearing. Access to a trusted professional who specializes in this process has some unmatched advantages - such as determining the feasibility of an estate sale for the home in question, access to nearly 50 types of specialists for pricing items and vetted advertising avenues based on collection type.
Given the ability to Google nearly anything and the temptation to list everything in Craigslist, we see many families tempted with a do-it-yourself approach. Yet the result is often a great deal of time and energy spent in researching value, much coordination with flakey potential buyers and a low return on investment. If your ultimate goal is a defined process with definitive goals, some measurable monetary results and limited frustration - a combination of family-driven activities and professional resources is probably your best solution.
Now that you have a basic idea of the climate of the estate sale environment of today, you likely have more realistic expectations and information about what the process could look like, the time it could take and the resources you may need. Be sure to check back in a few days for 'Estate Sales: Shouldn't This Be Easier (Part Two)'. You will learn 3 key questions to ask yourself before getting started, as well as learn when garage sales, private buyers and consignment stores are best utilized.