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Should you pay an estate sale company to clear out your parents' home?

If you need to downsize or clear out a relative's home, estate sale companies say they can help.
Posted at 7:29 AM, Jul 24, 2023

At some point, you may want to start downsizing your home. Or you may have to sort through your childhood home after the death of a parent.

It can be time-consuming, emotional and intimidating trying to unload years' worth of possessions and memories. As a result, estate sale companies are becoming more popular than ever, helping you downsize or sell items belonging to a late relative.

But should you hire one? 

Mellissa Haas is glad she did.

Haas is dealing with the loss of her mother and trying to sort through a lifetime of possessions, like her mom's vintage stove from the 1950s.

"Getting rid of these things is very difficult," she said.

A consignment shop's furniture is shown.

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Haas decided to hire an estate-selling company, Caring Transitions, to help ease the emotional burden. Franchise owner Rosie Harris says the company handles everything for you.

"It's an emotional process," Harris said. "It's difficult for them to go through each and every drawer and closet in the home and reminisce on those items."

So her team of appraisers goes over everything from furniture to collectibles.

"We take pictures of the items in the home, and we put them on our auction site, and people go online and bid," she said.

Plus, Harris now does it all online, avoiding that busy yard sale of years past.

"It's also a lot less traffic in the home," she said, "so you don't have the public knowing the address where the house is, or maybe the house is vacant."

You can find similar companies to Caring Transitions on EstateSales.net and EstateSales.org.

What to ask upfront

When hiring an estate sale company, the nonprofit Consumers' Checkbook suggests these key questions to ask:

- How and where will the company advertise your sale?

- When will you get paid?

- Do they take a percentage of the sale or a set fee?

- What happens to leftover items after the sale? Do they return them, keep them, or donate them?

- How do they secure valuable items like jewelry?

You also want to make sure their workers are qualified to appraise certain items, and check the company's website for quality photos.

Haas is happy she's hiring Harris' company, so she doesn't have to do all this work herself.

"It's like dismantling my mother's life, which is very hard," Haas said. "And to know that someone else might appreciate a teapot or a painting or a chair just warms our heart."

As for her mother's old stove? It's still in the family house, and Haas hopes a new family will love it.