Ideas how to sell house contents in another state? Can go there.

cinnamonsworldAugust 20, 2007

I inherited my mom's place in a mid-sized city all the way across the country from where I live.

Does anyone have creative ideas on how to efficiently sell furniture and the rest of a house's contents when you don't want to use a professional estate-sale company but can't be there for a really extended period of time?

I have about 1 week that I can be there in Sept. and then could probably take the whole month of November to be there.

(One thought was to take photos and notes during my weeklong Sept. visit, and list some larger items on Craig's List or eBay to coincide with my return in November, with garage sales planned then too.)



To add to the logistical delights, I will need to move at least some items that I want to keep across the country somehow. Because that's likely to involve a mix of just a few smaller furniture items, and china, pans, sewing machine, etc., I need to get a trustworthy professional small-load moving company arrangement or somehow justify the rental of a truck and a drive cross-country (which doesn't really sound like a time-efficient solution however).

One option depending on cost, to make the house vacant, would be to sell as much furniture as I could (hopefully all) and then just move the rest of the contents (smaller items that I want to keep as well as smaller items that I'd ultimately sell) back home to where I live.

We're not talking antiques or very $$$ items, but some nice things that I would want to seek a respectable price for if selling.

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I live in FL and there are estate (yard sales) sales every day of the week. There is a woman that runs some of these sales in my area. At the last one I attended it seemed as if the man and woman (family member) who were there had taken things that they wanted and covered with sheets and blankets then just left everything else in place. They just opened the kitchen drawers, they pulled things from the cabinets and put them on the counter and priced them. They pulled things from the linen closet and laid them on the bed. The art on the wall was priced and left in place. In conversation they mentioned that anything that wasn't sold was going to be donated.

If the things you are keeping are small you could take them to a pack and ship store. The things would probably be at your home waiting for you.

You said you had one week in Sept. and longer in November. You could go in Sept and decide what you want to keep and arrange for transport. You could also price everything else in preperation of a big sale in November. Be sure to advertise. If there are antiques be sure to list your sale as an Estate Sale. The dealers will come out of the woodwork and offer low prices, so be sure to do your homework.
Wishing you good luck.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 3:24PM
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MsMarion's suggestions are on the mark about antiques and listing your sale. Advertise both on Craigslist and in the local paper as an estate sale.

Craigslist can be an amazing venue for getting rid of furniture and appliances such as washers, dryers, dishwashers, toaster ovens, etc. Listings with PHOTOS get far more responses than those without.

If your mom's house is in a city with a university AND you can handle potentially buyers in September, it's a great time to craigslist non-antique furniture to college students who are setting up housekeeping.

That said, people often buy household items in November, in preparation for entertaining during the holidays.

eBay is best for items that you start at a minimum of $9.99 (otherwise, not worth your time), aren't particularly fragile or heavy, and won't be a pain to ship. The holiday buying season is big in November through the first two weeks of December. Please check out the link below for helpful tips and guidance that a generous eBay seller has compiled. It's rather exhaustive, but you can skip over parts that are irrelevant to your selling.

BTW, be sure to learn about . With this photo hosting service, you legally can add as many pictures to your auctions as you like without having to pay eBay for each one after the first one (which is free). In some categories, buyers are far more likely to buy when there are lots of pix.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tips for eBay sellers

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 5:35PM
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I think that, if it's so far away, \you should reconsider the idea of getting outside help. Also, a home sitting empty and unattended is very vulnerable.

My vote: go in September, get the things you *know* you want. And ask at the courthouse, etc., to see if you can find a liquidation company of some sort. See if they'd give you any input on how much $ you could get.

You can do some selling yourself in November, but you may need some sort of pro at the end. for the stuff that you cannot sell. (look into stuff like whole-house donations, for the stuff that's left; maybe some organization that helps people get set up after fire, etc., could use a bunch of ordinary stuff?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 7:48PM
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Thanks for the responses so far.

MsMarion, great ideas re how to handle the estate sale, and ParrotPhan, likewise re: CraigsList and eBay. TalleySue, house is not unattended and don't wish to use outside professional service, though appreciate your view on what might be a good kind of organization to donate some things to.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 9:59PM
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My husband's aunt belongs to a church group, non-professional, who sort, price and sell items in small estates for a nominal fee to their church. Also, for shipping, you can get bids (and they'll pour in, too) from a Web-based shipper called You can see how others rated the shipper, etc. You can even set a price for what you wish to pay and seek a shipper who'll accept the job.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 10:27PM
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I think we are in the same situation! I have a house 1800 miles away that I have been very slowly cleaning out for the past year (needless to say, it has been a very painful and sentimental task). Since I can only go out at a week's time, I have spaced out my trips every 4 months. There are items I want to keep, but most is good furniture that I want to sell at a fair price. Here is what I have done and my experiences:

1. Yard sales. Can be good, but very, very time consuming. Especially if you are going it alone. Good way to get rid of the small stuff. Promise yourself that whatever doesn't sell, DO NOT box it back up, but instead truck it over to a local charity.

2. Ebay. I have found that you really need to be on-site for at least 2 weeks: lots of stuff to do prior to auction end (writing the listings, taking initial photos and extra photos as requested by potential buyers, answering emails) and after auction end (waiting for payment, boxing and shipping items, followup emails). An example: I sold parts from a collector truck that my late husband dismantled. Listed as a 3 day auction, started most bids at 9.99 with a buy-it-now price, and (very important!) required payment within 3 days via Paypal (no checks - takes too long). I boxed/shipped small items and left large items (such as doors, windshields, engine parts, etc) to a professional shipping service to box and ship. Whew! It was a 2 week whirlwind of dirty truck parts that I knew nothing about, but it was a success: got most of the truck sold within my tight timeframe.
An alternative is to use a Ebay agent: they will list, pack, and ship. I believe they charge around 30%.

3. Consignment Shops: good for big ticket items such as furniture. Most will pick up item for a fee, but if not sold within a specified timeframe, either you need to pick up yourself or they will donate it. Usually a 60/40 split, with most going to you. However, the longer it is in the store, the ratio may change.

4. Donate, donate, donate: Some items are just better to give away and get a tax beni than to deal with selling it.

5. I haven't used it, but am looking into it: renting a POD. They drop one off, you pack it at your leisure, then they move it to whatever state you want. Another similar option is ABF moving (you pack, they drive) - we used them to initially to move out west. Once I get most of the stuff cleared out that I don't want, large pieces I cannot move myself I will have POD or ABF handle. For the valuable, sentimental,breakable, etc things, I will take with me on a "cross-country adventure move" (have to play it up somehow).

Since you will be out in September, use that short time to take photos of items for Ebay, maybe get stuff into consignment stores (you can pick up the stuff in November if it doesn't sell), call for quotes on movers (starting in October is usually their slow time so rates will be cheaper than the summer), check out the local ebay agents (in phone directory). Prior to your November trip, get your Ebay listings written with photos so you can list them on your first day (I have found people will email you throughout the auction asking for more info including aditional photos, so I have found that I really need to be where the item is during the auction.)

Good luck to you. It can be very overwhelming, so try to break things up into manageable tasks.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 5:46PM
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I should like to reiterate a suggestion made above about considering the vulnerability of the unoccupied house.

We were unable to get insurance on a house in Nevada when we had to take MIL off to assisted living.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 1:39PM
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Albert, thanks for your thoughts - the house is not unoccupied and has valid insurance. (The moving of items would be in anticipation of renting it vacant, however.) You do raise an excellent point for those in such situations, however - and I don't think the issue's widely understood until people wind up in the situation!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 2:36PM
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Rosesr4me, thank you for your wonderful suggestions and for taking the time to write them! (I'm very apt to take several of your suggestions and had been thinking of about half of them.) I would love your further comments on two parts if you have a moment, because what you mentioned really struck home with how I feel about some things and some options I'm considering:
>For the valuable, sentimental,breakable, etc things, I will take with me on a "cross-country adventure move" (have to play it up somehow)I'm thinking this for the treasured family photos and mementos that can't be replaced if they go missing or got damaged in a move. It's too much to carry on a plane even across several trips - especially iffy considering the x-raying that would take place. I found that renting a small or medium-sized truck is actually far less expensive than the pod option (which was really appealing)... so am considering going day by day from the East Coast to New Orleans, San Antonio, Phoenix and then on to California - 4 days of about 8-9 hours a day of driving - it's more ecnomical even considering moderate lodging and gas. (But not time off.) That would let me take some furniture and mementos back in one fell swoop. So my question really is, how hepped are you on this idea and how not, yourself? Would love to hear what you've been mulling over and any 'if I do this I must remember to also do this' kinds of thoughts.

Also would welcome your input on this harebrained thought I had:

Beyond what I'd move and some things I know I'd sell or donate, another idea I'm pondering but not 100% sure about is this: Since I'd like to rent the house out vacant, I could just move select bare-bones non-very-valuable furnishings into an inexpensive self-storage unit so that, a year or two down the road, those items could be moved back in to make the house 'not vacant' again (for family to stay there or to stage it for sale). It might cost $1200 per year in the area where the house is for storage unless I could get a deal, but that might be far cheaper than trying to refurnish the house again from scratch, even with used items. (I figure that way, if I decide that furniture's not needed, I could just get it to a consignment shop.) It's not the most economical approach but does offer flexibility. (For what I'd store, think of the contents of a sparsely decorated ski condo that has only basic furniture, linens and plates/pans/utensils. Things that I couldn't really expect to get full value out of if I sold, which would have more value to me to keep for use... if I try hard to ignore the storage cost.)

Also, just something I wanted to mention to you regarding the pods, I see that there are a number of different companies with the pod approach, and a variety of prices - I think the most reasonable was the one you mentioned, associated with that moving truck co.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 3:01PM
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Yes, I have mulled over stuff plenty in the past year! I will definitely renting a truck to drive cross-country, just a question of when and how large of a truck. Even considering having to take time off, the comfort level in knowing that I am handling the sentimental stuff myself is well worth it (ok, maybe I am a little controlling, but I have heard too many horror stories regarding professional movers). I am not surprised that the POD is more expensive than driving yourself - it is a alternative if you have to move items out of the house within a certain timeframe and store them somewhere (ie. renting or selling the house) until ready to move. I am figuring a 4 day "adventure" - it took three 12-hour days from FL to CO, but that was both of us driving 2 large Uhaul trucks (it cost around $5000 for rentals, gas, food, and hotels).

Will you be driving by yourself? I will be, so safety/self protection measures must be considered: stay in well-lit hotels with interior rooms, drive only during daylight hours, keep an extra car phone battery always charged (via ac/dc charger or an inverter),etc. If you have or can borrow a friend's dog, even better! Let someone know of your route before you leave. Check with your local police/sheriff's office for their tips in driving cross-country by yourself.

IMO, real estate these days is just too expensive to store items that are not considered valuable. Especially if you are unsure if you will ever use the items again. My recommendation would be sell off the inexpensive stuff and be done with it. IF you decide later down the road that you would like to furnish the house for guests, you can pick up used furniture very cheaply. And if you want to stage the house later on to sell it, I would recommend hiring a staging company. They usually have really nice, barely used furniture, they professionally decorate the house, and, (and this is a really big plus) you don't have to move any furniture in and out of storage!

Another option to consider while cleaning out the small stuff: you can box stuff up and mail them to your home. Can be expensive though: I usually average around $20 for a 3x3 box. Good for stuff you may really need now, but can't wait for the big move.

I think I answered your questions. Let me know if you need more info. I am sure I will think of more ideas later on.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 5:18PM
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Thanks for your thoughts! And again, also for the first batch of stuff you mentioned - truly helpful and it will be employed. Best wishes on your own moving adventure. :)

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 9:14PM
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I would also suggest a consignment store. My son who lived in Seattle (moved to China) sold many of his belongings that way & he pocketed more on some items than he'd paid originally new. His items were all contemporary, in excellent condition and less than 3 years old and he did the 60/40 split as mentioned. He didn't say anything about an upfront fee. A very few of the items haven't sold (4 months later), but it was such an easy process to have them pick everything up & be done.

My daughter in Ohio sold items from a storage unit on craigslist which also worked well; however, I was concerned about her safety as a single gal meeting strangers in a not-very-public location. I'd be similarly concerned advertising or bringing strangers into a house that strangers knew was or soon might be vacant.
I'm not sure what part of the country you're in. We're rural midwest where elderly move out & leave items in their home planning/hoping to come back. Makes them easy targets for burglars & so I'd be concerned about leaving things long-term. I'd find someone to check on it periodically. A good friends mother had moved to long-term care and a water main broke flooding her home. No one realized till the water came out her basement trap door, down the street flooding another elderly woman's basement. It emptied the water tower!

Salvation Army might be willing to pick up items that you're willing to donate.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 9:37AM
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Agree it is cheaper to sell furniture now and not incur storage fees. My sister recently furnished a rental place near the beach totally via craigslist for maybe $600. That's cheaper than an annual storage fee. The Habitat for Humanity's Re-Store in my area also offers very decent furniture for extremely low prices -- that might be an option too, if you need it.

For donations, I'd check when I was there in September with Salvation Army or Purple Heart or another charity that picks up. I'd make an appointment for a pickup in November -- I bet you'll get your choice of dates at this point. That way, I would know that the leftovers, whatever they turn out to be, will be carted out after the other sorting & selling is done.

I've taken long driving trips alone too. My hints for safe travel are common sense, keeping the cell phone charged, and getting settled into my accommodation before dark, if possible.

Also, I won't travel without a simple pair of foam earplugs -- I've used them more in high end hotels on business than in modest motels. They have helped me get a good night's sleep many times.

Here are two last hints. Liquor stores are fabulous sources for free boxes. Stores that sell new furniture or office supplies can be great places to obtain once-used, free packing materials, such as bubble wrap and that flexible, flat foam.

Good luck, Cinnamon. What you're doing is a challenge, but you're wisely figuring out an approach before you start. Let us know how it goes.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 1:17PM
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I second Habitat for Humanity Resale stores. When I originally posted my reply suggesting furnishing with used furniture, I actually had my local HFH ReSale store in mind. They are a great resource for used (and sometimes new) items - they sell everything from china to furniture to building materials such as doors, kichen cabinets, etc (builders will donate their excess - new- items). I found an antique (Eastlake ca 1890's) table for $10 in great condition.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 10:34AM
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