We estimate over fifty percent of the homes we list for sale are either a probate home or a home held in a family trust that has heavy content. That means homes with a lot of clutter. An outsider may perceive a heavy content home or clutter as hoarding.
The reasons vary from client to client however common elements of a heavy content probate home or cluttered homes are:
Elder parents have owned their homes for a long time. Whether a probate home sale or a successor trustee of a family trust selling the home, in most cases the accumulation of content over the years means there may be a lot of personal possessions that need to be taken care of before we can get the home ready for the market. While some people may see the accumulation of possessions as junk, cutter, or hoarding, the possessions are family treasures.
Adult children move back into their parent’s homes and bring their families with them. This creates a lot more “stuff” or clutter in the home. The more people residing in a home the more possessions in the home. And outside the home as well with an increased number of vehicles parked in the driveway or on the street.
People raised in the Great Depression era grew up in much harder times than what we live in today. Many have the mindset of saving for a rainy day, not getting rid of anything in case they need it someday, and/or not replacing anything until it needs to be replaced. If it is not broken, leave it alone. Or, if it is broken, can it be fixed versus replaced?
We see and sell many dated homes that are in very good condition. People from the Great Depression era took care of things. Today we see people tearing out perfectly serviceable homes and renovating them. Their mindset is different because they were born in plentiful times and have a mindset of abundance.
Some people renovate these homes with the intention of residing in them and others intend to sell them once the renovations are complete. We frequently get requests from people and investors looking to purchase probate homes off-market.
What we see is not always what our minds want to believe. If we see a home in the condition shown in the video below, our first thought might be … hoarding!
The backstory of the home shown in the video is that the family moved their elder parent out and into a nursing home. The home then became a “dumping ground” for all of their unwanted possessions. The mortgage was not paid and the home was foreclosed and sold at a trustee sale. The investor who purchased the home hired a hauling company to remove the contents. Once the home was cleared out, the investor renovated it and sold it.
Disclaimer: We respect and protect our client’s privacy. The home in the video was not our client and not listed by us. Access to the property and permission to take photos was granted by the onsite hauling manager.
Selling a Heavy Content Probate Home
We worked with a successor trustee whose parents resided in the home for sixty-four (64) years. The amount of content in the home was very heavy. Several of the adult children were storing their personal possessions in the home as well. That added what we refer to as “heavy content X factor.” It results in more things the family needs to deal with. And it takes more time to sort through it all.
It takes our clients several months to sort through things and decide what they want to keep, donate, sell, or throw away. Often times the sorting becomes a family project. If clients are still working, the process becomes their second full-time job.
Most of our probate home clients manage the clearing of personal property on their own. It is more common for our out-of-state clients to ask us to manage the clearing out after they have visited the home and removed important papers such as legal documents, bank records, financial statements, unpaid bills, etc., and any personal items they want to keep.
Some of our clients that attempted a garage sale or yard sale learned that no one wanted their parents’ furniture and other personal items. In many cases, the items are in good condition but old and dated.
Charities are growing increasingly pickier about what they will accept as a donation. That leaves many people no option other than hiring a hauler to clear out what cannot be donated or sold.
Not all probate and trust estates are the result of an elder parent or person dying. The reality of life is that people die at all ages and stages of life. When this happens, and the home is full of items of value, clients may choose to hire an estate liquidator to hold an estate sale.
What does an Estate Liquidator Do?
An estate liquidator places a value on possessions and turns the possessions into cash. Not all estate liquidators work the same. Options for an estate representative to consider are:
- Have the liquidator manage the estate sale from start to finish
- Estate liquidators price items and clients hold their own sale
- Hold an online auction
- Hold an on-site auction (Covid -19 considerations remain in 2022)
Alternative options could be:
- Selling items at a consignment store
- Sell on the Internet
What do estate representatives need to do before hiring an estate liquidator?
- As mentioned above, all of the important/personal papers and family treasures such as jewelry, family photos, firearms, etc. need to be removed and secured.
- Items that will be kept need to be moved out of the house. This avoids any confusion or misunderstanding about what will be sold.
- All alcohol and prescription medications need to be disposed of. We do not recommend flushing any medication down the toilet. Local pharmacies have secured bins to dispose of pills. They need to be removed from the bottle and sealed in a plastic zip-lock bag.
- Needles should not be thrown in the trash. They also need proper disposal. Many veterinarians will accept unused needles and some prescription medications.
- Prescription glasses can be donated by dropping them off at an eye doctor’s office.
- Freezers and refrigerators need to be cleaned out.
- Unless it is truly trash, do not throw anything away. What some people may see as trash could be another person’s treasure.
When selling a probate home, or home being sold by a successor trustee, the probate and trust real estate specialist will want to make available at the estate sale, a stack of business cards and a property flyer. People at the estate sale may be interested in buying the home.
What do estate liquidators sell?
Other than animals, firearms, prescription medications, alcohol, ivory, pornography, dangerous or recalled items, everything.
Think of the things we have in our homes that can be sold at an estate liquidation sale:
|Mirrors & lamps||Clothing||Recreational Vehicles|
|Holiday decorations||Clothing accessories||Books|
|Dolls||Jewelry, fine and consume||Rugs|
|Sports equipment||Electronics||Kitchen items|
|Office equipment||Toiletries||Towels, linens, bedding|
|Office Supplies||Food (unopened & not expired)||Games & toys|
|Garden equipment||Appliances||Fine art|
|Tools & other garage items||Cleaning supplies||Decorative art|
Content Heavy Homes | Collectibles
We have several clients, even non-probate clients that have a house full of stuff. Lots of people do. It is their personal possessions that they enjoy having around them.
Some people, especially minimalists, see a house full of stuff as “hoarding.” We do not. One of our non-probate clients has several rooms filled with collectibles*. They are heavily financially and emotionally invested in their collectibles which are worth a lot of money.
Walking into a home and seeing entire rooms filled with dolls, books, and action figures, the room feels “heavy” because the room is full. We view rooms filled with collectibles as people showcasing the items they are passionate about and treasure.
Kathleen’s sister’s home is content-heavy with collectibles and big furniture to accommodate a large blended family. Her sister loves what she collects, including antique furniture. Her now-deceased husband and she used to get up very early in the morning and travel to garage sales in their town. They scored many items worth a lot more money than what they paid. Families just look for ways to get rid of things and get whatever money than can for what they do not want or need.
One of our probate clients had an entire room filled with adult books, movies, toys, etc. It looked like an adult store. We see so much providing probate real estate services.
Our focus and our job are helping people liquidate estate homes. We are all about honoring and respecting people. Judging people for how they live is not in our job description.
We understand that personal private lives are revealed when people die. Families learn things about their loved ones they never knew about them when they were alive.
For families, the process is overwhelmingly emotional. They see things they do not understand. They wonder why their loved one saved so many bags, where they put the key to the filing cabinet, and why they did not have estate planning documents like a will, trust, health care directive, and power of attorney.
Some people feel embarrassed for us to walk through the home of their deceased loved ones. Once they meet us and get to know us, they know we are not looking at all the “stuff.” We are looking at the physical structure of the home and noting what needs to be done before it can be listed for sale.
Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist
Once we have toured the home, we create a proposed marketing schedule for our clients. It is intended to help them meet the completion date they set. In other words, the date they would like the home to be listed for sale.
Preparing a probate home for sale. 100% of our clients underestimate how long it will take them to clear out a home in preparation to sell it. This includes our non-probate clients as well because many of them have years of accumulated possessions too.
We assist all of our clients with whatever they need help with. Sometimes what they need is support in dealing with the magnitude of their task while mourning the loss of their loved one. If they need resources, we have resources we recommend. If they need us to manage the clearing out, we manage it.
We had one out-of-state client that was so overwhelmed as successor trustee, that after over six months of working with an eviction process, that ended with a sheriff eviction, was left with a huge task, and a costly task, of clearing out the home. The plan from day one was the home would be cleared out, inspected, and professionally cleaned before listing it for sale on the Multiple Listing Service (“MLS”).
Living out of state, dealing with their own life, children, and grandchildren, they just wanted it DONE and asked us if we could sell it “as is” with all the personal property and possessions in it. Doing so saved the time and expense of an auction process to auction off the property that was left behind by the evicted party. It also saved the time and expense of paying haulers to haul away everything not sold at the auction.
We make recommendations to our clients and provide options. Ultimately our clients decide what they need and want from us and that is what we deliver.
If you have a heavy content probate home or a home with a lot of clutter that may be perceived by others as hoarding and need our help in delivering results, contact Kathleen Daniels and request a consultation. We understand the magnitude and emotions of preparing a heavy-content home for sale. No job is too big for us.