Due to my father’s sudden onset of dementia and the fact that my mom is in a wheelchair, it was time to move them out of their house and into a retirement community. This is a very hard decision. Fortunately for me and my sister, they were not moving out of our childhood home so we did not have as much emotional attachment to the house. However, my Dad designed the house and for him it was an especially hard decision.
Several weeks before my Dad became ill, my parents visited Brookdale so that is where we started. I made a lot of mistakes on this move! I was a total mess when I went to visit Brookdale but I was fortunate to have a dear friend go with me to help me look and ask questions. My friend took great notes on the facility and the services provided but neither of us thought to write down all the promises that were made. I had to fight tooth and nail for every promise that was made to us. Please be sure to write down everything! They told us that they repaint every unit in between tenants so we assumed their apartment would be repainted. They let us use the same colors from my parent’s house and that was very important to my Mom. When it got down to it, they said they would not be painting their apartment because it was a sample unit and no one had lived there. I held their feet to the flame and made them paint but they made us provide the paint since it we were not using Brookdale colors. That was fine but then they wanted us to pay the painters too. Not in the plan but since I did not have it in writing I had to wear them down. This was just one example and there were many many more. I won most of the battles but if I had had it in writing it would have not felt like a war! So take notes. I did document every phone call with an email and that paid off in the end.
Once you have their new home picked out and spruced up do not drop your guard. The bill will arrive and it will be WRONG! It was wrong for at least four months. They tried to charge us for 12 days before my parents moved in. Fortunately I had good emails and Brookdale had no proof that they had told us the apartment was complete and ready to be occupied. Stay on your toes and watch every bill.
Now we have found a place for Mom and Dad to live and we needed to sell their house. Did I mention that I am an accountant by degree? That means I am not a Realtor . . . so I hired one. We had three contracts before the house was really ever on the market. We sold it “as is”. We repaired a clogged sewer line but that was it. Find a realtor that you trust and let him or her do the work. Believe me, you will have plenty of other stuff to do.
After my parents decided what they wanted to take with them to Brookdale, my sister and i went through the remaining furniture and took what we wanted. We were able to store some items that my college girls will use in the coming years and the rest was going in the estate sale. If I had unlimited funds and all the time in the world, I would have taken all of the contents in the house and put it in a warehouse. That way when my mom called and said, “Where is the blue and white buttermilk pitcher that your great grandfather carried to school each day?” I could simply reply that it was on aisle 4 shelf three. But that was just not possible. (but we found the blue and white pitcher!)
I am certain there are things that we parted with that we should have kept but my sister and I touched everything in that house and did our very best to save everything that was sentimental to us. I will be honest though, for weeks after the estate sale, I would think about small items that we sold that we should have kept. We did the best that we could and that is all anyone can ask of us. I am very glad that we did not hire someone to have the sale for us. While it was exhausting at the time, I might have missed something if I had let someone else price things.
So if you decide to have an estate sale yourself, here are the things I learned:
- Everything is at least a dollar. Do not waste your time with change.
- Find the estate sale listings in your area and spend the money to advertise your sale.
- If you have local trading sites, post some of your big items for sale online. This allowed us to clear some things out in advance of the sale. We needed space.
- Friends will offer to help and you SHOULD let them! Have some wine and some markers and have a pricing party. You will get a lot done and you might have a lot of fun going down memory lane.
- If you have sterling silver pieces that you do not want, do not sell them in the estate sale. Take the sterling to a jeweler and sell it there.
- We had to let people in the house for the sale but we did not want them to have full access. We closed doors and blocked off all but two rooms. We also hired an off duty policeman to stay in the house during the sale. Well worth the money!
- After the sale, we called the Community Furniture Bank and let them take the left-overs.