How to get rid of all this furniture?
June 20, 2011 8:23 AM   Subscribe

How do I arrange the disposal of a decent quantity of furniture from a house that's going on the market in a way that maximises profit and minimises hassle?

My mother is trying to sell her house near Chicago (NW suburbs), and one of the tasks I have been assigned with to help her in this process is to figure out how to unload all the big pieces of furniture she wants to get rid of. (There's more than enough to furnish the place for showing once all these are sold, so that's not a concern). After some research I'm leaning toward an estate sale or auction, for a couple of reasons:

--There's enough stuff to warrant it -- probably an apartment's worth of big pieces (dining room set w/china cabinet, bedroom set, upright piano, assorted other standalone items). And while none of the furniture is amazing quality/antique/etc., it's good solid wood stuff in good condition, and not junky (i.e. nothing from IKEA, made from particle board, that sort of thing).

--Craigslist/yard sale isn't really a good option, both due to the amount of stuff and the hassle that would come from trying to sell a number of big items piecemeal. I don't want to lug all that furniture out into the yard, nor rendezvous/haggle with 20 different CL shoppers. (Mom's pretty stressed about all of this as it is, and there's a limit to what she can handle, even if I end up doing most of the handling.)

So how does one go about unloading things under such circumstances, and what am I looking at in terms of logistics? Should I be looking for some sort of agent who organises estate sales, gives realistic prices for the items, handles advertising, &c, or do I just try to set a date, put out a few ads, guesstimate prices and hope for the best? Are there auction houses or some other type of agencies that would come here, pay a lump sum for everything, and cart it all away at once?

I'm not expecting to make a fortune, but I'd like to get her as much money for this stuff as I can, and with as little hassle for her as possible.
posted by the luke parker fiasco to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are people who specialize in holding estate sales. Maybe someone like that could help you.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:29 AM on June 20, 2011

If you really want to minimize the hassle factor, you might look at donating the furniture and taking an income tax deduction. In many cases, the value of the tax deduction rivals or even beats what you could net by holding an estate sale. Local possibilities for pickup are The Ark (scroll to the bottom of the page for thrift shop information) and Salvation Army, both of which will take and resell furniture in good condition.
posted by DrGail at 8:40 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Similar experience here, having to empty an elderly relative's house, furniture also solid wood and good quality but not especially glamorous or appealing to your average buyer.

Nthing the suggestion to donate; I used a local outfit associated with the National Furniture Bank Association ( It appears that they have a couple of locations in Chicago. They will pick up and give you a receipt for tax purposes.
posted by Ginesthoi at 9:10 AM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: Note the OP said "I'm not expecting to make a fortune, but I'd like to get her as much money for this stuff as I can" - donating isn't going to do that.

You do want an Estate Sale, done by a reputable firm. I would suggest you contact the Illinois Auctioneers Association to find a firm to work with. Their website has a search option. Once you locate some likely prospects using the search, check their websites. You want an auctioneer who a) regularly sells items similar to those you have, and b) has regularly scheduled auctions (typically weekly or monthly).

Next, pick three or four likely prospects and contact them. Ask about their fee structure. They will want to come and see the items in person before they can give you an estimate - that's normal. Ask up front about fees for removal. If they want to charge you to move your goods, you don't want them. You also want an off-site vs. an on-site sale. (ie: you don't want an auction happening inside the house or on your lawn.) Just browsing the IAA site, these folks jump out at me as a good example of a place you'd want to do business with - very organized, auctions are scheduled regularly and have a good amount of non-antique "household goods". (It seems like they do both on- and off-site auctions, so that would be at the top of my questions to ask them.) Note I am not recommending them, but if I were searching they'd be a good example of a place I'd put on my list to call and talk with.

Feel free to mefi mail me if you have specific questions; my grandparents ran estate sales for decades.

Good luck - this is one of the hardest things to do.
posted by anastasiav at 9:28 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

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