Estate liquidation professionals help Tri-Citians clear out clutter

Have unwanted stuff lying around? Perhaps a whole houseful?

Tri-City estate liquidators can help, offering a variety of selling formats including traditional tag sales, auctions and direct purchases.

Estate sales aren’t just for the elderly, or even estates.

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Rick Craig, owner of Craig Estate Sales, has been running in-home tag sales throughout the Columbia Basin for 28 years. In addition to the estates of people who have passed away or need to downsize before moving into assisted living or a nursing home, many clients are simply moving out of state.

Linda and Rick Craig

“Mainly Hanford workers,” he said. “Nuclear families are like military families: they come and go. They don’t know how long sometimes, so they’ll sell everything and buy new when they get there because moving is so expensive.”

Craig runs at least one sale per week.

On Monday, he and his team arrive and begin sorting.

Tuesday and Wednesday they organize the items and take pictures to post on Thursday on their website to advertise. Friday is the first day of the sale and everything is priced as marked.

Saturday everything is half off and Sunday is make-an-offer.

“We always open at 8 o’clock sharp. People say we’re the most expensive in town, but we’re trying to make the most money for our clients first. We do really well,” Craig said.

After it’s over, all unsold items are sorted and taken to charities, thrift store donation centers or the dump accordingly.

Craig Estate Sales charges 25% to 40% of the total sale in fees depending on size, condition, value of the estate and how much work is involved in cleaning and preparation.

Craig’s wife, Linda, a Realtor with EXP Realty – The Phipps Team, will represent the house if needed and orchestrate carpet cleaning and other basic tasks to prepare the home for sale, making it a full package deal.

Craig started running estate sales as a side gig for a banker friend who was later promoted to the trust division of his institution. The company saw the estate sales as a conflict of interest, so Craig took over.

“I had gone to a couple of other estate sales and it was horrible. If it was my grandma or dad, I would have been really upset. So, I decided to help senior citizens in the worst time in their lives,” Craig said.

Business took off and the retired Marine made estate sales his full-time job.

Not your grandma’s estate sale

Musser Bros. Auctions and Real Estate decided to throw its hat into the estate liquidation arena when, during the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, a family friend was dealing with an estate.

The house needed to be sold, but also colossal collections of baseball cards, tools and coins. The friend knew they were valuable but wasn’t sure how to proceed.

Teresa Musser and
Jacqueline Musser Gering

“Scott (Musser has) been in the business for 40-some years … but he’s never really dealt with the estate side of it because it’s a lot of pots and pans and small stuff,” said his wife, Teresa Musser. “But at the time, all the usual places to sell collectibles were closed. We decided to just take it on.”

They predicted they’d make $3,000 to $4,000 at auction for everything.

It brought in $25,000.

“There was something there,” Teresa said.

She and her daughter, Jacqueline Musser Gering, decided to develop the concept.

And so, Musser’s newest brand, Estate Details, was born.

How it works: The items in an estate are sorted, split into lots, photographed and uploaded to the Estate Details website.

Anyone can browse the lots, create a free account and bid on items until the lots close.

Estate Details also holds monthly consignment auctions where anyone can bring in items to auction. Some smaller estates are rolled into these. Additional marketing for listings is available for a cost.

Overall cost for handling an entire estate varies based on complexity.

All items are also subject to a 15% buyer’s premium as well as sales tax.

After winning an item, buyers sign up for a pickup slot and collect their items at either Musser Bros.’ Pasco office or the house where the estate is located. Shipping is also available. Additional fees apply for items held beyond pickup day.

“What makes us different than the tag sales is that, with us, we sell almost 100% of what’s there,” Jacqueline said. “Tag sales often get negotiated. At an auction, the price never goes down, it always goes up.”

Of course, the caveat is that  unless a reserve price has been set, which must be met for the item to sell, one runs the risk that items might not fetch the price one was hoping for. It all depends on the right buyers showing up to bid.

This is true, too, of tag sales.

“Some people don’t want it at their home,” Teresa pointed out as one advantage to the online auction format.

Estate sale flip

Another option for people who don’t want to hold a sale at their house is to simply sell their entire estate or a selection of items to a single buyer.

Liz Thompson, owner of ET Estate Sales in Kennewick, buys items, partial and whole estates, then resells the items in her retail shop at 422 E. Columbia Drive.

The 18,000-square-foot store is open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays.

Liz Thompson

Thompson said her bread and butter is the fast-turning two to three truckloads of furniture she gets each week. But ET features a little bit of everything from antiques to jewelry, housewares, collectibles and more, depending on what she and her team run across during the week.

People with items to sell give Thompson a call. She then views items by appointment on Mondays and decides if she wants to make an offer. If her offer is accepted, her team comes with a truck Tuesday or Wednesday.

Once the items are set up in the shop, photos of the new arrivals are taken and posted to ET’s Facebook for the public to preview.

“What clients like about us is the privacy part of not having people come through their house and they know exactly what (price) they’re getting,” she said.

Thompson and her husband have been in business for 17 years, at their present location the past nine.

She said her grandfather’s passion for collecting inspired her.

“Collecting has always kind of been in my blood and then my husband collects antique marbles … When we first met, he had a jar of them on his table, and now we have this big store.” Thompson has an affinity for perfume bottles.

She said the “matchmaking” of items to new owners is the best part of the job.

“I get goosebumps sometimes.”

When asked about the strangest items they’ve run across, Craig took the cake with a World War II 15 mm mortar round found in a trunk in the basement of a Richland rental – pin in. Military personnel arrived from Yakima to disarm it.

Thompson’s favorite item was a press kit for John F. Kennedy’s 1963 visit to Hanford.

Hidden cash is a real thing when it comes to estates.

Thompson and Craig have found $20,000 and $15,000, respectively, in furniture pieces. They returned the money to the families.

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Estate liquidation professionals help Tri-Citians clear out clutter

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