By Mary Holmes
I have noticed more and more articles recently regarding how adult children of seniors do not want to be gifted or inherit their parents’ possessions. Most recently, the New York Times published this article: Aging Parents with Lots of Stuff and Children Who Don't Want It. I find this phenomenon both interesting and sad. In many cases, it will be the end of the line for some beautiful family furniture and collectibles that have been handed down for generations, as they will now end up outside the family. What makes things worse is that quite often a senior will think they can make a lot of money from the possessions their children don’t want; but, they may be in for a rude awakening – most likely, they will get a lot less for these cherished items than they were hoping for or than they originally paid. The reasoning for this recent issue is that there is a high level of baby boomers that are now downsizing and flooding the market with the possessions they can’t take with them. On the flip side, the next generation doesn’t want these items – so values are being driven down. Also, what is valuable one year may not be highly regarded the next year – depending on the whim of the market.
Integrated Move Management can help in this situation. We have vast knowledge of various outlets for all types of items, as well as a large database of resources to call on depending on what you are trying to sell. Here are some things to think about:
Assessing/Organizing – One of the first steps to downsizing is to understand what you have that needs to be sold. Once this has been determined, we can help you categorize the items as a starting point to finding a good home for each item. We are currently helping a family in Falmouth, ME who was left a large volume of collectibles when their parents passed away. They had been working on dispersing these items for several years and felt completely overwhelmed. After an initial meeting, we had categorized a majority of the items and put a plan in place to get them sold and removed from their home.
Honesty and Expectations – The old adage “honesty is the best policy” really comes into play when you are talking about family heirlooms and collectibles. Although the value may have been high when they were first purchased or at some point thereafter, it doesn’t mean the item is valuable today. Almost every time we are working with a client who would like to sell some of their possessions – we hear “this is a very valuable (fill in the blank).” Of course, there is some sentimentality playing into this comment. But we feel our job is to gently explain that the item is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it at this point in time. Setting false expectations will only cause more heartache later.
We recently worked with a client in Cumberland, ME that was downsizing and moving into a retirement community. There living space was decreasing by about 75% - so they had a lot of items to disperse. As we inventoried the items they wanted to sell, there was a farm table with three leaves that the homeowner felt a strong attachment to and thought it may be valuable. At auction, the table did not bring in a lot of money – but other items that they didn’t know were currently valuable brought in much more than expected. One way to cushion the blow from the farm table was for this client to look at what they received in total for all their items – and not focus on any one item in particular.
Vast Resources – We have developed many relationships with individuals and companies in the area that are interested in everything from books and record albums, fur coats and interesting fabrics/paper, antiques, vintage and midcentury furniture, and art and collectibles (and many other categories). We also have experience in utilizing dealers, auctioneers, consignment stores, and having tag/estate sales. We have developed a solid understanding of which type of outlet is right for each type of item. Lastly (and most importantly), our one and only priority is to help you achieve as much as possible for your possessions. We are your representative and ensure that we are working with honest and ethical business people on your behalf.
Diligence – Although it is possible to do most of this yourself, Integrated Move Management will act on your behalf with diligence and follow through – which is what it takes when you are trying to liquidate a house full of possessions. Quite often, numerous phone calls or emails are needed to ensure a successful sale. For example, if Craigslist (or another online sales outlet) is the appropriate way to sell an item, we will set up the listing and field the responses. We will also tweak the listing and renew it as needed. Another example - if you have a lot of clothes to sell, working with consignment stores can sometimes be challenging. One store might still be taking summer clothes, one might want early fall and one is accepting winter articles. Additionally, they may like different styles of clothing. We will work to bring the correct items to the right store and follow up on the progress of the sales. The majority of people don’t have the time it would take to achieve the highest possible proceeds from the items they would like to sell.
Once a person realizes what is involved in this process and has not been successful, they may go another route. For example, they may rent a storage facility to “temporarily” hold these items. Unfortunately, the temporary time frame typically drags on and it will be nearly impossible to recoup the amount paid in storage fees from the sale of the items. I have also seen people throw items away once frustration sets in from lack of success. If you decide to forego selling items and instead decide to donate your possessions to a charity, we have an extensive network of national and local charities that will come pick up at your home.
In Summary - You will most likely be able to sell some of your possessions, but it will take effort and you may not receive as much as you may have thought. We can help navigate this process to ensure you get as much money as possible. We do not take a percentage of the proceeds of items that sell; we charge an hourly consulting fee to manage the sales (no matter the outlet). That said, we are very conscious of ensuring that the net profit you receive from sales is worth the fee you are paying our company.
If you would like more information on this or with other aspects of downsizing, moving or estate clean out, please Contact Us.