“Estate Liquidation” is a term few people have heard, unless they have faced the prospect of clearing out a house full of possessions — their own, or a loved one’s. In a nutshell, Estate Liquidation is the process of finding a new home for every item in the house. Furniture, cleaning supplies, coffee cups, clothing, garden tools, all must go somewhere, but where? What to sell, and how? What to donate, and where? Who is going to haul away everything else? I have put together this resource list to help you wade through the sometimes daunting process of lovingly, responsibly, and intelligently setting free a lifetime’s worth of possessions.
You don’t have to do it alone
Rather than dealing with a lot of stuff piecemeal, many home sellers choose to go straight to an Estate Liquidator. An Estate Liquidator is a one-stop shop for dealing with absolutely everything you want to sell, donate, or dispose of. The Liquidator (sounds like a bad movie character, right?) will visit with you at the house to put together a custom plan for your needs.
A good Estate Liquidator may sort (or help you to sort) all items to determine what you will be taking with you, what should be given to family or friends, what should be donated and what needs to be hauled away for disposal. They may photograph any furniture or collectibles that you want to sell or consign, and distribute images and information to consignment stores, auction houses and others, as well as coordinate the pick-up or delivery of the items to the appropriate vendors. They may want to hold an estate sale at the home (like a garage sale, but with higher quality items, and inside.)
For high value items that you want to sell, they may coordinate with an estate agent to come to the home and evaluate the items. They will pack, coordinate with movers, and if you are moving yourself, they can even work with you and/or your family to settle you into your new home. The overall cost of the Liquidator’s services may be one flat fee, or it may be based on time and materials, or it may be based on a portion of the proceeds of items sold.
Sorry…your things are worth less than you think
I’ve seen it a hundred times. Everybody believes, at first, that their possessions are “worth” a certain amount, and they are invariable discouraged the reality of estate liquidation sets in. In general, the open market does not provide the sort of payoff for previously-loved items that one would expect or hope for. If you know somebody who is panting to increase their collection of vintage jade brooches, you may be in luck. Otherwise, be prepared for the possibility that Aunt Myrtle’s jewelry collection, though of high emotional value, may have a very modest market value.
To evaluate possibly-valuable possessions, I recommend calling estate agent Jesse Mazzio at Lux. You may invite a representative from one of the auction houses, Clar’s or Michaan’s, to the house to view the items. Ohmega Salvage will buy pre-1955 architectural salvage, as well as various items from older homes.
Just remember, if you adjust your expectations up front, the whole process will be much less disappointing!
Who wants books any more?
Books are getting harder and harder to give away (or sell), but if you live near Berkeley, there are still several great resources that will receive books from an estate liquidation.
- To evaluate rare books (or other possibly valuable items), I recommend estate agent Jesse Mazzio at Lux.
- Moe’s Books will buy books, but they are selective. They are primarily an academic bookstore but are always interested in quality fiction, particularly paperback.
- Pegasus Books will buy a wider range of popular, academic and literary books.
- Goodwill accepts books (and lots of other stuff too), and they have several East Bay drop-off points.
- Friends of the Berkeley Library accepts donations. They will take just about anything in good condition, including textbooks and encyclopedias.
- Finally, the University Press may buy or accept donations. They like to go through the libraries of retired professors.
Donating pays off big!
You may not add dollars to your pocketbook, but you will feel like a million bucks when you change the lives of others through donation. Also, since you can deduct the “value” of the goods you donate when you liquidate your estate, your tax savings may even exceed what the items would actually sell for. The East Bay offers many very worthwhile donation options:
- The Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale accepts all kinds of “gently used good quality items,” and they have a van for free pickup year-round.
- Dress for Success is a great way to donate business wear for women.
- The East Bay Depot for Creative Re-Use benefits teachers, artists, and anybody seeking creative materials on a budget. They accept a surprising wide array of household materials.
- Bambino Thrift Shop benefits Children’s Hospital.
- Craig’s List is a great way to find new homes for used household items, from patio furniture to cleaning supplies. Posting a free ad will almost result in some grateful recipient zipping over to take the items off your hands.
- NextDoor is similar to Craig’s List, just more local. You can post a notice that says “Free vintage sewing mannequin on my front porch now,” and somebody will walk over to pick it up pronto.
- Goodwill and Salvation Army are oldies but goodies, and may send a truck to pick up your things.
Can’t sell it or donate it? Recycle it.
Most of your stuff that has not found a new home through the estate liquidation process can still have another life. Keep it out of the landfill, and recycle it instead.
- Ohmega Salvage is interested in pre-1955 architectural salvage, as well as various items from older homes.
- The El Cerrito Recycle Center accepts an amazing variety of stuff, including electronics.
- Berkeley Recycling is a little more picky but still a good resource.
- Urban Ore is something everybody should experience at least once…even if you don’t need to recycle, go there as a field trip.
Hazardous materials have their own place
Often estate liquidation results in the irresponsible disposal of toxic materials, simply because people don’t know what to do. Leftover household hazardous waste should never be thrown in the trash or recycling bin, flushed down the toilet, or dumped down the drain or storm sewer. Alameda County and Contra Costa County offer multiple free, convenient options for properly and safely disposing of these materials.
What to do with the rest
When you have fully liquidated your estate, and whittled down your household full of perfectly good stuff to a very small pie of debris, it’s time to call a hauler. My list of favorite haulers is short and sweet — Newton’s Apple. Newton is just the best. All of my clients love him. He will haul whatever you want, wherever you want it — donation, recycling, yard debris, toxic waste drop-off, or just a good old garbage run. He makes it all disappear, cheerfully, quickly, and professionally. You can find him on Yelp, or just call (510) 682-6369. Tell him Holly sent you.
What about keeping stuff to “stage” the house for sale?
If I am going to represent you in the sale of your home, and there is a possibility that we are going to work with your own materials to “stage” the home, then make sure to call me before you start liquidating the estate. However, if you only have a few nice pieces, and you will want me to work with a professional stager, it’s best to go ahead and move everything out of the house. Professional stagers don’t like to mix and match, so if they are involved, they will want a clean slate.
I can hold your hand
When disposing of a household full of items that may represent a lifetime, people often feel overwhelmed, confused, and distraught. If you are feeling these emotions, congratulations! You are a normal human being. If we work together towards the sale of your home, my team and I will be your support crew, and you can lean on me throughout your estate liquidation. I will hold your hand every step of the way, so you won’t have to make your way through this challenging transition in the dark.