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How to Clean Out a Deceased Loved One’s Home Without Burning Out Emotionally

May 2, 2019

wernerimages/iStock

After the loss of a loved one, the thought of sorting through that person’s belongings can be heart-wrenching. But in many situations, there’s no time to delay, especially if you’re in a time crunch to get a late family member’s house ready to sell.

Before you embark on the emotional task of sorting through a loved one’s possessions, check out these tips from experts on where to begin the process, how to find support and resolve disputes, and—most importantly—how to take it easy on yourself as you grieve.

Give yourself time, but don’t delay the process

At a time like this, sorting through your loved one’s closets and cabinets is probably the last thing on your mind. Don’t push yourself too hard to get started before you’re ready, but don’t put the task off indefinitely, either.

“It’s very individual, but if you can emotionally, it’s better to start cleaning out the house sooner [rather] than later,” says Vickie Dellaquila, a certified professional organizer and author of “Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash.”

“I’ve seen people that hold onto a house for years and years and work just a little bit at a time. For a lot of people, that’s harder because it keeps weighing on them.”

Dellaquila suggests starting with the easy stuff (e.g., things in the pantry or the garage). “Anything that’s low-hanging fruit that’s not emotionally charged,” she says.

As you begin sorting through sentimental items, give yourself time to grieve and experience your feelings; you don’t want to push yourself to make big decisions about what to keep and what to let go of before you’re ready.

“I remember when I went through my father’s items, there were days I just couldn’t bear to go through more of his things,” says Jen Robin, founder and CEO of Life in Jeneral, a professional organizing company. “There were some … items I was not ready to go through.”

If you find yourself hitting a wall, put items in a box and go back to them when you’re ready.

Ask for help

Clearing out a loved one’s home is a massive undertaking, but many people attempt to do it alone. Don’t underestimate the emotional (and physical) effort involved, and don’t be shy about asking for help when you need it.

“When we experience strong emotions, it’s harder to make decisions and think clearly,” says Lisa Zaslow, founder and CEO of Gotham Organizers, in New York. “Friends and professionals who are more objective about the situation can help get you through the process.”

Bring in a friend who can toss items like toothbrushes and expired food. For larger items, you may want to call in the pros. A professional organizer can manage the process from start to finish, while movers and trash haulers can remove the big-ticket items you don’t want, Zaslow says.

You can also work with estate sale professionals to help sell valuables, and shredding companies can come in to dispose of old papers and sensitive documents.

Keep it or toss it? How to decide when emotions are raw

When a loved one dies, the last thing we want to do is get rid of everything that reminds us of them.

“You don’t want to toss everything right away, because you’re not processing your emotions, so later you’ll think, ‘Oh boy, maybe I shouldn’t have let go of that,’” Dellaquila says. But, she adds, “you do not have to be a curator of your mother or your father.”

If you’re torn about whether to part ways with something, Dellaquila suggests holding onto just a piece of it—for example, keep a single place setting rather than the full china set. That way, you can hold onto an item that reminds you of your loved one without taking on something you don’t have space for.

Finally, resist the urge to keep anything out of obligation. If you won’t use it, let it go.

“One of my clients felt that she should keep some designer purses of her mom’s, even though she knew she would never use them,” Zaslow says. “Instead, I helped her sell them, and she donated the proceeds to a charity in her mom’s name.”

Get ahead of disputes

When siblings start sorting through a parent’s belongings, the situation can get tense. What if you both want that love seat or those crystal Champagne flutes?

One way to work through disputes: Take a gym class approach to divvying up items.

“The fair thing to do is put the items out and each person takes a turn in choosing one,” Dellaquila says. “I did that with my grandfather, who was an artist. We had a lot of sketches, and we went around and chose one, then somebody took the next turn.”

If you’re feuding over a single item that can’t be split up, you could attempt a shared-custody approach. But ultimately, you have to decide whether the item is really worth a bitter fight.

“Would your loved one really want you fighting over this china?” Dellaquila says. “It really is just a thing.”

For the living, death cleaning—a Swedish tradition that is catching on in the rest of the world—is one way you can spare your loved ones a future headache. The whole idea is to start cleaning out your clutter now. While you’re at it, you can even begin deciding who will eventually receive your possessions, beyond what’s designated in your will.

“A lot of people do that by putting little stickies on the bottom of items,” Dellaquila says. “Orange is for Mary, blue is for Mike.”

Give yourself space to grieve

As you make a plan for cleaning out the space, remember that you’ll also need time to step back to reflect and recharge. Biting off more than you can chew is a recipe for emotional burnout. Instead, give yourself limits from the start—maybe you clean only one room a day, or you work for just a few hours at a time.

“Creating a goal allows you to see small results and wins,” Robin says. “This is such a mentally draining process, so setting boundaries for yourself is very important.

“There is no easy process of getting rid of a loved one’s personal belongings,” she adds. “Make sure to take your time and allow yourself to feel all the emotions along the way.”

The post How to Clean Out a Deceased Loved One’s Home Without Burning Out Emotionally appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

The Very Best Real Estate Advice of 2018 That You’ve Just Gotta See Again

December 16, 2018

Navigating the home-buying and -selling process is kind of like diving into “Game of Thrones” for the first time: People speak in a language you don’t quite understand. There’s backstory you should research before you get started. And ideally, you’d have someone by your side who knows what’s coming and who can guide you through the experience.

Yes, buying, owning, and selling a home comes with its own share of drama and plot twists. But rest assured: We’re here to help guide you! That’s why we’ve doled out so much expert advice over the past 12 months on every possible real estate topic we could think of.

But what was most useful to you? In no particular order, here are our most-read advice pieces of 2018—the greatest hits that resonated with you the most and (hopefully!) have helped make your real estate journey a little less overwhelming. (Just click the headlines to read the full story.)

6 Home Maintenance Tasks You May Not Even Realize You Have to Do

Does anyone actually like the tedium of home maintenance tasks? We’re doubtful. (Although if you’re out there and single, call me!) But when you’re a homeowner, regular—and monotonous—maintenance comes with the territory.

And sure, you might think you know what you have to do to keep your house in order—mow the lawn, clean the gutters, sweep your chimney. But we guarantee there are some small things you’re overlooking—things that can create big problems and enormous repair bills.

Can’t-miss tip: Clean your refrigerator drip pan. Your what now? If you didn’t know your fridge has one of these, you’re not alone. It turns out, like with belly buttons, we all have one—and it can get pretty gross (and moldy) if you don’t clean it regularly.

But to clean your drip pan, first you have to find it. Just remove the kick panel at the bottom of your refrigerator, then use a flashlight to trace the defrost drain line to the pan. Pull out the pan carefully (it could be full of water), then empty and wash it with an all-purpose cleaner.

5 Mortifying Reasons Mortgage Applications End Up in the ‘Reject’ Pile

mortgage rejection
Don’t let your dream home dreams die with a mortgage rejection.

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

You’ve scrimped and saved for your first home, and you’ve already mentally moved in. But then, in a cruel and humiliating twist of fate, your mortgage application is rejected. How could this happen to you, of all people?

According to a Federal Reserve study, 1 in 8 mortgage applications (12%) is rejected. And often those rejections are the result of something you could have easily avoided.

Can’t miss tip: If you’re a Venmo-only kind of gal, or you’ve avoided using credit cards (debt’s bad, right?), it’s time to rethink your fiscal approach and swipe that plastic.

Credit cards allow you to establish a credit history—proof of a strong track record of paying off past debts. (Of course, don’t forget to actually pay those bills.) Without that credit history, lenders will likely be reluctant to fork over loan money they can’t be certain they’ll get back.

How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets—and What If You Don’t?

washing your sheets
Get thee to a laundromat.

iStock; realtor.com

Quick: When was the last time you changed your sheets? If you can’t remember, we won’t judge—you’re in good company (38% of Americans wash their sheets less than once a week). But after you read this, you might want to strip your bed, pronto.

This year, we launched a series where we put all aspects of homeownership under a microscope—literally. In “According to Science,” we take a look at the scientific reasons behind what’s happening in your home, the weird stuff that can be avoided, and, in this instance, what’s lurking under your covers.

“Body oils, sweat, and sloughed-off skin,” answers Bill Carroll Jr., an adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University. “We live in a world of pathogens, and not all are virulent enough to take us down. But can bedclothes spread disease? Kind of.” Yuck.

Can’t miss tip: We’ll let you read up on the bacterial Armageddon that’s happening every day you don’t wash your sheets. But if you want to slow down the invasion, just make a simple adjustment to your bed-making routine: Each morning, pull all the covers down from the fitted sheet and let things air out for a few minutes. This lets the sweat and moisture evaporate from your sheets.

7 Mistakes People Make Handling Deceased Family Members’ Estates

Don’t make these mistakes.

Punkbarby/iStock

This one might seem macabre, but dealing with a deceased family member’s estate is, unfortunately, a part of life. And not an easy one: Figuring out what to do with your loved one’s property and possessions, all while you’re grieving, can feel like a one-two punch. So it’s understandable that mistakes happen. We ID’d the biggest ones to avoid during this turbulent time.

Can’t-miss tip: When you’re going through a loved one’s belongings, it’s easy to overvalue the sentimental stuff and undervalue the things that are unfamiliar to you. Rather than unwittingly letting go of something rare and valuable, talk to an appraiser before you get started.

How Much Below the Asking Price Should You Offer on a House? Answers Here!

“I’d love to pay more for that house than I have to!” said no one ever.

Every home buyer wants to score a deal, and the most obvious place to start is with the house’s sticker price. Offering below asking is a common tactic, but not one that always works. How low can you go before you offend the seller—and ruin your chances of landing your dream home?

Can’t miss tip: In the same way you should know how long that leftover chicken parm has been in your fridge, you should know how long any house you’re eyeing has been on the market. If you’re familiar with the property history, you can get a better idea of demand for the house—and whether the listing is getting stale.

“Two days on the market? Probably not a good idea to go in with a lowball offer $50,000 below asking price,” Jennifer Carlson of Coldwell Banker in East Greenwich, RI, told us. “A whole year on the market, with price reductions? Go ahead and roll the dice. The longer a house has been on the market, the less of an upper hand the seller has in negotiation.”

The number of days on market is public on most online listings, and if not, any good real estate agent should know.

7 Decluttering Myths That Could Derail Your Dreams of an Organized Home

decluttering myths
Are your decluttering efforts doing more harm than good?

iStock

Decluttering seems like the last thing you’d be able to screw up. Isn’t it just sorting and tossing?

Well, sure, that’s a big part of it. But a good decluttering session (yes, there’s good and bad) hinges on more than just purging. And if you go into decluttering mode assuming you know how to do it right, you could end up with more stuff than you started with.

Can’t miss tip: We’ve been conditioned by organizing gurus like Marie Kondo to keep only the things that “spark joy” and to toss everything else. We don’t disagree entirely. But realistically, some exceptions should be made.

“Let’s be clear: My diaper pail does not spark joy, but it’s an essential item that is used every day in my home,” Laura Kinsella, owner of Urban OrgaNYze in New York City, told us.

Declutter with this thought in mind, she says: Is this item beautiful in my home or does it prove to be useful? If the answer is no, then it’s probably time for it to go.

The One Room That’ll Make Buyers Bail, Even If They Love the House

room that makes buyers bail
What dark secret is your home hiding?

iStock

You know the one. You’re touring a home, loving every aspect of it, and then bam! You turn a corner and see a space that just kills the whole home-buying mood.

Can’t miss tip: Got an empty room? You might think it’s a selling point: Look at all that space! The buyers can envision themselves in your home without your stuff in the way!

But “empty rooms can kill a home sale, especially if the other rooms are furnished,” real estate analyst Allison Bethell told us.

A room without furniture leaves the buyer wondering if it’s unnecessary space. Plus, any imperfections will stand out. If you have an empty room, stage it as an office, crafts room, or guest bedroom.

The post The Very Best Real Estate Advice of 2018 That You’ve Just Gotta See Again appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

So Nice We Did It Twice: The 2018 Real Estate Advice You’d Better Not Miss

December 13, 2018

Navigating the home-buying and -selling process is kind of like diving into “Game of Thrones” for the first time: People speak in a language you don’t quite understand. There’s backstory you should research before you get started. And ideally, you’d have someone by your side who knows what’s coming and who can guide you through the experience.

Yes, buying, owning, and selling a home comes with its own share of drama and plot twists. But rest assured: We’re here to help guide you! That’s why we’ve doled out so much expert advice over the past 12 months on every possible real estate topic we could think of.

But what was most useful to you? In no particular order, here are our most-read advice pieces of 2018—the greatest hits that resonated with you the most and (hopefully!) have helped make your real estate journey a little less overwhelming. (Just click the headlines to read the full story.)

6 Home Maintenance Tasks You May Not Even Realize You Have to Do

Does anyone actually like the tedium of home maintenance tasks? We’re doubtful. (Although if you’re out there and single, call me!) But when you’re a homeowner, regular—and monotonous—maintenance comes with the territory.

And sure, you might think you know what you have to do to keep your house in order—mow the lawn, clean the gutters, sweep your chimney. But we guarantee there are some small things you’re overlooking—things that can create big problems and enormous repair bills.

Can’t-miss tip: Clean your refrigerator drip pan. Your what now? If you didn’t know your fridge has one of these, you’re not alone. It turns out, like with belly buttons, we all have one—and it can get pretty gross (and moldy) if you don’t clean it regularly.

But to clean your drip pan, first you have to find it. Just remove the kick panel at the bottom of your refrigerator, then use a flashlight to trace the defrost drain line to the pan. Pull out the pan carefully (it could be full of water), then empty and wash it with an all-purpose cleaner.

5 Mortifying Reasons Mortgage Applications End Up in the ‘Reject’ Pile

mortgage rejection
Don’t let your dream home dreams die with a mortgage rejection.

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

You’ve scrimped and saved for your first home, and you’ve already mentally moved in. But then, in a cruel and humiliating twist of fate, your mortgage application is rejected. How could this happen to you, of all people?

According to a Federal Reserve study, 1 in 8 mortgage applications (12%) is rejected. And often those rejections are the result of something you could have easily avoided.

Can’t miss tip: If you’re a Venmo-only kind of gal, or you’ve avoided using credit cards (debt’s bad, right?), it’s time to rethink your fiscal approach and swipe that plastic.

Credit cards allow you to establish a credit history—proof of a strong track record of paying off past debts. (Of course, don’t forget to actually pay those bills.) Without that credit history, lenders will likely be reluctant to fork over loan money they can’t be certain they’ll get back.

How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets—and What If You Don’t?

washing your sheets
Get thee to a laundromat.

iStock; realtor.com

Quick: When was the last time you changed your sheets? If you can’t remember, we won’t judge—you’re in good company (38% of Americans wash their sheets less than once a week). But after you read this, you might want to strip your bed, pronto.

This year, we launched a series where we put all aspects of homeownership under a microscope—literally. In “According to Science,” we take a look at the scientific reasons behind what’s happening in your home, the weird stuff that can be avoided, and, in this instance, what’s lurking under your covers.

“Body oils, sweat, and sloughed-off skin,” answers Bill Carroll Jr., an adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University. “We live in a world of pathogens, and not all are virulent enough to take us down. But can bedclothes spread disease? Kind of.” Yuck.

Can’t miss tip: We’ll let you read up on the bacterial Armageddon that’s happening every day you don’t wash your sheets. But if you want to slow down the invasion, just make a simple adjustment to your bed-making routine: Each morning, pull all the covers down from the fitted sheet and let things air out for a few minutes. This lets the sweat and moisture evaporate from your sheets.

7 Mistakes People Make Handling Deceased Family Members’ Estates

Don’t make these mistakes.

Punkbarby/iStock

This one might seem macabre, but dealing with a deceased family member’s estate is, unfortunately, a part of life. And not an easy one: Figuring out what to do with your loved one’s property and possessions, all while you’re grieving, can feel like a one-two punch. So it’s understandable that mistakes happen. We ID’d the biggest ones to avoid during this turbulent time.

Can’t-miss tip: When you’re going through a loved one’s belongings, it’s easy to overvalue the sentimental stuff and undervalue the things that are unfamiliar to you. Rather than unwittingly letting go of something rare and valuable, talk to an appraiser before you get started.

How Much Below the Asking Price Should You Offer on a House? Answers Here!

“I’d love to pay more for that house than I have to!” said no one ever.

Every home buyer wants to score a deal, and the most obvious place to start is with the house’s sticker price. Offering below asking is a common tactic, but not one that always works. How low can you go before you offend the seller—and ruin your chances of landing your dream home?

Can’t miss tip: In the same way you should know how long that leftover chicken parm has been in your fridge, you should know how long any house you’re eyeing has been on the market. If you’re familiar with the property history, you can get a better idea of demand for the house—and whether the listing is getting stale.

“Two days on the market? Probably not a good idea to go in with a lowball offer $50,000 below asking price,” Jennifer Carlson of Coldwell Banker in East Greenwich, RI, told us. “A whole year on the market, with price reductions? Go ahead and roll the dice. The longer a house has been on the market, the less of an upper hand the seller has in negotiation.”

The number of days on market is public on most online listings, and if not, any good real estate agent should know.

7 Decluttering Myths That Could Derail Your Dreams of an Organized Home

decluttering myths
Are your decluttering efforts doing more harm than good?

iStock

Decluttering seems like the last thing you’d be able to screw up. Isn’t it just sorting and tossing?

Well, sure, that’s a big part of it. But a good decluttering session (yes, there’s good and bad) hinges on more than just purging. And if you go into decluttering mode assuming you know how to do it right, you could end up with more stuff than you started with.

Can’t miss tip: We’ve been conditioned by organizing gurus like Marie Kondo to keep only the things that “spark joy” and to toss everything else. We don’t disagree entirely. But realistically, some exceptions should be made.

“Let’s be clear: My diaper pail does not spark joy, but it’s an essential item that is used every day in my home,” Laura Kinsella, owner of Urban OrgaNYze in New York City, told us.

Declutter with this thought in mind, she says: Is this item beautiful in my home or does it prove to be useful? If the answer is no, then it’s probably time for it to go.

The One Room That’ll Make Buyers Bail, Even If They Love the House

room that makes buyers bail
What dark secret is your home hiding?

iStock

You know the one. You’re touring a home, loving every aspect of it, and then bam! You turn a corner and see a space that just kills the whole home-buying mood.

Can’t miss tip: Got an empty room? You might think it’s a selling point: Look at all that space! The buyers can envision themselves in your home without your stuff in the way!

But “empty rooms can kill a home sale, especially if the other rooms are furnished,” real estate analyst Allison Bethell told us.

A room without furniture leaves the buyer wondering if it’s unnecessary space. Plus, any imperfections will stand out. If you have an empty room, stage it as an office, crafts room, or guest bedroom.

The post So Nice We Did It Twice: The 2018 Real Estate Advice You’d Better Not Miss appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.