Going through Grandmother's house - where to sell the items?
September 17, 2012 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Where to sell items - craigslist?

My grandmother is happily in assisted living (yay!). However, we now have an entire house full of her things that she mostly no longer needs. At some point, we're going to have to go through a 3 bedroom house plus partially finished basement and get rid of some of these items.

Due to the nature of us having to go through it over time, I don't think we want to sell everything as an estate (or do we?). My mom may be moving into the house and house-sitting it, so we don't necessarily want the house to be empty of furniture and all items.

Also, we'll need to go through it, and make sure that none of us want an item before it is sold. I know there are some items that could be taken care of pretty easily - for example, there's a refrigerator, old stove, and full freezer in the basement, and I don't think that my dad or uncle would want it (and we don't have room for it). How would we go about selling these items? Craigslist is the obvious answer, but I wasn't sure if there were other potentially better options.

We may have a yard sale at some point, but I honestly wonder if it isn't just easier to have the kidney foundation or somewhere come and pick up all of those items at that point, instead of spending the time and effort to have a yard sale for not much money.

Also, how do we figure out how much to sell the items for? It's everything from light fixtures from the 70s to appliances to old Avon products.

I don't expect to get a ton of money for most of the stuff, but I think that the effort to go through it, post pictures, and sell it will probably help pay the utilities for a little while, and extend her cash.

I do have an eBay account, and could sell some of the items through there - maybe the items that are possibly collectible, like the Avon?
posted by needlegrrl to Human Relations (8 answers total)
Craigslist can be a frustrating and unfruitful venue much of the time. I've successfully sold items on CL, but a lot of things also went unsold month after month, and the scam-to-legitimate responses were easily 4-1 or worse.

There are auction services that specialize in exactly what you are looking to do.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:03 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is what I would do:

1. Go through the house and note all the big/obviously high-dollar items. Set a limit for "high dollar" - say, things that will net at least $50 when you sell them. Look at older/vintage clothes too, especially good old coats, bags and dresses. These are the things that you could sell first, because they will be rewarding when sold individually. Sell the clothes on eBay and the heavy stuff on Craigslist.

2. Note anything else that seems to bear investigating, like the Avon or any old books that seem unusual/kitschy/nicely bound, and use the Ebay advanced search function to see what similar items have sold for in the past. Decide which ones are likely to repay sale.

3. If your neighborhood has a garage sale day, put all the other sale stuff out there at low, low prices - you won't make a ton, but it will clear some things out.

4. Box up everything else and get it picked up by a foundation.

It will make you nuts trying to sell a house full of tiny things piece by piece - start with the big ticket stuff and that way if you start to be driven mad by the sale process later on, you can just stop and give everything else away.
posted by Frowner at 9:06 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Estate sale companies and auctioneers will do smaller-than-a-household lots, if the lot is good enough. An auction house might pull together three or four seller's lots together and do one consignment auction for them if none are big enough for their own dedicated sale; the auctioneer I attend regularly does this a lot. But, be aware that either an estate sale company or an auctioneer may decline to sell stuff like a basement freezer that smells, or an old fridge with coolant that's currently prohibited, etc. It generally doesn't cost anything to have an estate sale runner or an auctioneer evaluate what you've got, so it may be a good place to start anyhow. Both cases take a portion of the sale, but you'll have that with eBay as well -- but the amount of work to sell hundreds or thousands of separate items on eBay is a lot of time and listing fees.

As for figuring out what things are worth: an estate sale company will tell you, or auctions (online or realworld) sell for whatever the highest bidder will give you. Worried that you'll sell it for less than it's worth? Don't fall into that trap: your objective is to get it cleared out as fast as possible while making as much as you can get; that doesn't mean full retail price. Full retail price means sitting on inventory until the right buyer comes by, which doesn't get your grandma's house cleared out. Your best customers will probably be antique or fleamarket resellers, who won't want to pay retail for it. Also, if you go with an auctioneer or estate sale place, *don't* pull out all the good stuff to sell on eBay and think that the auctioneer is going to be happy selling all the cheap stuff.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:08 AM on September 17, 2012

Consider selling clothing and furniture to thrift/antique stores in your area if her stuff is applicable. You may not make much money on the venture, but it can be less of a hassle than ebay or Craigslist.
posted by Shouraku at 9:12 AM on September 17, 2012

I had to clear out my mom's condo a couple of years ago under similar circumstances. I live a few states away from my mom and I had to get the property ready for the buyers in short order. Here's what I did:

1) I went down to PA the minute I knew Mom wouldn't be returning to the condo, and got low-weight valuables (jewelry, for example) and important papers - checkbooks, financials, legal docs - out of there. I threw some stuff in Mom's safety deposit box for safekeeping and hid at least one item that wouldn't fit! I also cleared out the refrigerator and freezer.

2) A couple of items went to trusted relatives and friends close by who had a key to the condo. I don't recommend giving out the key if people don't already have it.

3) Once the condo was under agreement, I made a couple more trips down over the course of the fall and stayed for a couple of days each time. Each time, I threw some stuff in the back of the Honda Fit and drove it home with me. This included a rocking chair and a 1951 Singer cabinet sewing machine! What I could box up, I did. What could be given away or thrown out in the course of a couple of days, went that route. At that point, the cabinets got cleared out of all crackers, baking supplies, etc.

4) A local auction outfit took quite a bit of stuff and sold it for me. They were able to box a good bit of the stuff up for me, which of course means that we didn't get as much money for it, but time was at a premium.

5) Salvation Army took some stuff. Beware, though - the dispatcher may say that the truckers are supposed to pick stuff up but then the truckers come out and say they "can't." Sofas are a particularly bad bet.

6) A local "get rid of your junk" guy took care of most of the rest, including the sofa. I hope he was able to sell it, frankly - I loved that sofa.

7) Into the dumpster with the rest of it. I made sure nothing was left over that I couldn't carry out myself.
posted by Currer Belfry at 10:13 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here are some things to consider before heading down any path:

Is your mother staying in the house because she wants to or because someone needs to? What's her timeline for staying there, and how long do you want it to be quasi-furnished?

How much time are you (the family) going to devote to cleaning out the house? A few days? A few evenings? A week or two?

Do you need money or time more?

Estate sale companies are the best way to reduce your workload, and depending on what you negotiate, may also box up any remainders for charity. Even if your mom is going to live there for awhile, you could pull out the things the family wants and then keep a room or two for her and sell the rest around her. Most estate sales I've been to have at least one room locked up which presumably has the things that aren't for sale in it.

Local antique store owners might come visit and offer on pieces in advance.

There are now people who will list your stuff on CL or EBay on consignment, splitting the sale price with you

Personally, I preferred to donate most clothing and household goods rather than deal with the time investment of Craigslist or a garage sale. A donation tax receipt could be as valuable to your family as the cash from a complicated and tedious selling process.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 10:20 AM on September 17, 2012

My mom will be staying in the house because we do not want to leave it empty, and we will be selling the house she is currently in. I do not think my dad wants to sell both houses that my grandmother owns, and this will make sure someone is living in it/taking care of it.

She is currently jobless, and searching, so she could start staying there at any point, and could stay there indefinitely - if she finds something, we may have to reassess. She does have furniture that we could move into there if needed.

We probably need the time more, but - I am thinking this will happen over the course of months, going through the items - much of it can simply be donated, like old clothing, but some things may have sentimental value to my family. None of us really have the luxury of taking a couple of days off just to sit and go through everything, especially if we don't absolutely have to.

I also don't think my dad will agree to just get rid of the stuff, or let someone else come in and do it. There may be valuables hidden in clothes, etc.
posted by needlegrrl at 12:16 PM on September 17, 2012

I recently went through this with my uncle's (and formerly grandmother's) house, and was going to chime in, but I cannot improve upon Currer Belfrey's summation of a productive approach to the process.
posted by cool breeze at 12:56 PM on September 17, 2012

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