It's over! And we did very well.
It was a ton of work and we couldn't have done it without Sandy, Samantha, and Brandy, but we reduced seven rooms, a full basement, a garage, and a shed down to a few items on tables in the garage. The house is completely empty except for a few piles in the basement to throw away.
And though my Dad sold a lot of the best items in the house before he passed away, we still cleared about $4,500 - way more than we ever dreamed. And an amount that will allow us some additional flexibility on what improvements/updates we may or may not make and what price we can ultimately accept on the sale of the house.
And we met a vast array of characters. It was interesting enough that I'm going to write some details for posterity.
We worked non-stop for a week to price everything, and we still weren't done by the time the sale officially started. We moved everything out of the basement, so there was no need for anyone to go down there potentially risking injury. We moved everything out of the back yard shed, so there was no reason for anyone to go in there.
We put signs up everywhere there was a step - "Please watch your step. Not liable for any injuries."
I put an ad in the local newspaper that ran for seven days in their online classifieds and then for three days in the actual paper. I posted a more detailed ad on Craigslist with a dozen photos, and then posted a link to that ad on Facebook. Photos on Craigslist really perked up the interest.
In the ads, I posted sale times of 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday knowing that people would be showing up at 7:00 a.m. or earlier. I also posted "Private showings available by appointment prior to official sale times". We are using our secondary phone number (on our AT&T) GoPhone as the contact number for the sale of the house and the estate sale, so people could call or text for information or appointments. When this is all over, then we can let that phone number lapse or get a new number.
I had five phone calls or texts before 7:00 a.m. Wednesday asking for private showings. Having watched my Mom do the yard sale and flea market circuit for years, I knew that the serious buyers looking for bargains want first crack and are willing to buy in bulk. That's what we needed to sell the multiple tools - we had over a dozen regular hammers, thirteen needle-nosed pliers, and various combinations of every other hand tool you can imagine. I had four corded drills that all worked - one had never been out of the box (I think it was one my Mom had hidden).
I was concerned about being able to sell all those tools, so I contacted a local charitable organization. "We take all tools that don't have any rust or cracks that work", the lady said. "Well, how much rust is too much? Can you have someone stop by?" She repeated what she told me before and said they couldn't "sort" the tools. "I've got a lot of tools, and I'd just like someone to come by and give me an idea of what I can donate." "We don't do that." Well, allrighty then.
I needn't have worried. Several guys showed up wanting tools, no matter what condition. The first guy that showed up for a private showing bought $2 worth of stuff, but the next guy made an offer for two full tables worth of hammers, pliers, wrenches, files, punches, and whatever else I squeezed onto those tables. He spent well over $200 and got a great deal at that. He said he was "addicted" and couldn't help himself - said he never looks in the paper for sales, but just happened to look this morning.
Another guy showed up, and he picked out a few of the rustiest pieces we had. He asked if there was anything in the shed. I said we brought all the stuff into the garage, but told him he could look if he wanted. I showed folks interested in the house the basement, and they went through our piles of trash pulling things out. It's absolutely crazy what people were buying. The old saying "One man's junk is another man's treasure" is certainly true.
Another gentleman called looking for Tiffany-type lamps and gnomes. We had neither, but then he asked about frogs. My Dad and one of his neighbors had an ongoing transfer of frogs back and forth, so we had some frogs. But I told him it's mostly quarter and fifty-cent stuff. He didn't care - his wife collects frogs and she wanted to come. They were a very sweet, funny, older couple - Barry & Paula - and they ended up spending about $40 on stuff other than frogs.
Even with no signs in the yard, if we had the garage door open, people stopped and shopped. That happened Wednesday and Thursday until we just had to close the garage door so we could get everything done. Some family came by and I gave them anything they wanted, and was glad that many of the things my Dad made ended up in the hands of friends, family, and the wonderful neighbors.
Linda took Thursday afternoon for some "me" time, as she got her hair cut with her favorite stylist and then went and had her nails done.
Thursday evening, I did flyers detailing the statistics of the house and the pricing and I printed out "Handyman Wanted" signs to post around the house.
Friday morning, we arrived before 7:00 a.m. and sure enough there were three cars/trucks waiting. We funneled everyone in through the garage and they had to come back out the garage where Linda was set up as cashier. We had signs pointing directions. We had small stuff in little baggies with prices. We had everything of like kind grouped together.
Sandy worked the kitchen, living room, and dining room, while Samantha worked the bedrooms. We had everything out of the bathrooms and made them off limits. I floated negotiating prices and showing folks the closed off areas of the house.
Earlier in the week, Linda & I put on the basement door, and I added a hook and eye at the top to make sure no one, especially youngsters, opened the door and tumbled down the stairs.
Friday morning was unbelievable. Stuff was moving like crazy. All the flea market folks knew each other. And Alice showed up. Alice is hunched over with a cane and stands four foot something. She shuffled up the driveway, asked my name, and said "Howard, will you help me?" I did, and she started picking up stuff and telling me to put it in a pile. She didn't look like she had a penny to her name, but everyone seemed to know her.
Alice turned 85 in March, she has had a stroke, she can barely walk (although she says she doesn't have any pain), and after every 20 minutes of shopping, I held her hand and walked her back to her car so she could sit and have a cigarette. Eventually, she went inside and Samantha took over with her.
Alice says she buys stuff and gives it away to people out in the country. And she said we were the nicest people she had ever met at a sale. She came back twice and offered to bring us free food after she spent a couple hundred dollars. Her mind was sharp as a tack, and she knew when I gave her a little discount, and when I had forgotten to load something in her beat up car that was stuffed to the max.
One guy started a pile, and walked around for two hours. Eventually, he paid for his big pile of stuff which came to $12.
We didn't worry at all about anyone stealing anything, and surprisingly few people asked us to lower prices unless they were buying a lot. Many of the things we knew had value, we looked up on Ebay and then priced them at half the Ebay asking price. Some said it was the most organized, easiest to shop sale they had ever been to. Thanks to my gals for that - they were amazing.
By the afternoon, we pulled everything out of the bedrooms and re-positioned it so it looked like we still had a lot left. We would move stuff around and it would sell. People were asking for prices on stuff we had no intention of selling. More people pulled items out of the shed and the trash piles in the basement.
By the end of the day all the furniture was gone except an antique dresser, a desk, and a couple glider chairs that we had priced pretty high. While I watched the cash box and checked people out, Linda and Sandy dug stuff out of the trash piles and started putting prices on everything that wasn't bolted down. We needed it to fill in the gaps of empty space so we'd have something to sell on Saturday.
We probably sold another $100 in stuff we were going to throw away and another couple hundred in items out in the yard we were going to just leave with the property. We didn't have anything in the yard for sale - people just went out there and decided they wanted the bird bath, the yard art, the bird feeders, etc. People were taking down curtains and asking for prices. It was insane.
Apparently, since it was Good Friday and Easter weekend, we were one of only three or four yard/garage/estate sales in the whole city and everyone came.
Earlier in the week I was worried about how much junk we were going to have to haul away at the end of the sale. By Friday evening I was worried we didn't have enough junk for the people showing up on Saturday. A good problem to have for us, but I felt bad for the Saturday shoppers who had seen all the photos on the ad and almost all of it was gone.
After closing the garage door and re-arranging stuff for Saturday, we finally went back to our rig. We got showers and went straight to bed a little after 9:00. We slept until 5:00 the next morning, but we could have used more sleep. Linda said she felt like she'd been run over by a truck.
With so much gone on Friday, Sandy took the day off on Saturday. Samantha and her sister, Brandy, arrived before 7:00 to help. There was no one there early, so we got to ease into the day. It was evident it was going to be much slower. But we still had a good deal to get rid of on "make offer" day.
We were still selling things we were planning to throw away, and two ladies wanted the concrete bench in the back yard. All I know is that the grass cutters are going to be happy that aren't so many things to have to cut around anymore.
Later, a guy rode up on a bike with a gas can on the back. "Sir, you realize that bike doesn't take gas?" That's all it took. He was a military veteran of 39 years and he told me the number of months and days as well. He was loud and frantic as he went around grabbing things and putting them in a pile - "There's another 50 cents wild man!" He picked up a stuffed animal and asked Brandy how much. She was startled, and he said "Great, I'll give it to a little kid in need" and he kissed her on the cheek while she stood there in shock.
He went through the house doing the same thing, going into our "off limits" bathrooms, and he came out with a bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid that we were using in the kitchen and added it to his pile. I had to rescue that and get him calmed down as he was freaking everyone out. He paid me, got on his bike, and said he'd be back with his girlfriend's car.
When he came back, we got him loaded up, but he wanted to make an announcement. He went inside and wanted everyone to gather around. He shouted his credentials and some little girls started crying. He went on finally saying "I don't care what God you pray to, but please pray for our military" and he left leaving everyone speechless and a little stunned. The guy was harmless, but a friend who was there at the time had protection ready just in case. Sheesh.
After that it was a pretty uneventful day. It was slow, but there was a steady stream, and the stuff continued to flow out, and we continued to consolidate what we had left.
We got story after story about how nice my parents were. Several people from my Mom's senior exercise class came by. Over two days, many times I heard "Your mother gave me a start ....." of some flower or plant in the yard. Neighbors, some of whom didn't know about my Dad's passing, had tears in their eyes talking about him. Some bought items just to have the memories, and we gave away several others to people we knew.
Toward the end of the day, a guy that was there early Friday morning came back. He walked out of the house shaking his head at how much we had gotten rid of. He said he usually comes back at the end of a sale and cleans up, but we had hardly anything left. He offered $1 on a $15 item, and we wouldn't budge on principal. If he'd offered $8 we probably would have given it to him for $5.
Our most expensive furniture item was my Dad's antique dresser. We were told we could get $350 to $450 out of it, but we priced it at $250 and then dropped it to $175. One lady asked "What's the least you will take?" I said "What's the most you will pay?" Silence. I dropped it to $150 and she said "Well, I really don't have a place for it anyway." And I thought, "I'd probably go as low as $75, but not for you".
Big bargains could be had, but not for those that rubbed us the wrong way.
Later I sold the dresser for $100, but I sold it to someone my Dad knew who lent us a table and offered to haul some of our trash away for free.
Once the dresser was gone, there wasn't a single piece of furniture left, and we moved everything to the garage. We sold all the tables except those we had borrowed and one card table for us to use the rest of the month. One trip to a consignment store and/or donation drop-off will probably take care of the remaining items. Absolutely amazing, and we are so thankful and relieved.
Sandy and her husband, Dale, arrived after 6:00 to pick up their tables and a couple of other items. Around 7:30, we opened the garage to load their tables and two more cars stopped and people came in. We sold another $8 worth.
In the past, my parents joked about leasing out their corner lot to those that wanted to have yard sales. It gets so much exposure, and most of the people that stopped today hadn't seen an ad for the sale.
Anyway, we've a hard, emotional week, that ended with a hugely successful estate sale. Some people, including realtors, told us they wouldn't do a thing to the house, but we still feel like we want to put money back into it to make it look nice. With it now empty it will be a lot easier to do that. Painters start Monday, and we got several leads on Handymen (and Handywomen) that can help us get it ready before we leave at the end of the month.
Now, we're just going to take a deep breath, enjoy our Easter Sunday, and then get back to work on Monday. Glad that part is over. :)