When an elderly parent dies, their children are often left to ponder the future of the remaining parent and the parents’ lifelong family home — a typical three bedroom, two bathroom property — common in subdivisions found throughout Florida.
One probably envisages a tidy, well-kept property but often there’s an overgrown garden and peeling paintwork. Inside, though, is a different story. There could be a treasure trove of belongings the couple has gathered throughout their longterm marriage.
The offspring, who left home and have since cultivated relationships and careers in other parts of the domestic US and sometimes overseas, are left as executors and sole beneficiaries in this scenario. They often say: “Although it’s where I grew up and went to school, I know I could never go back and live there.”
Many people find the emotional stress of selling the possessions of a parent or loved one heart-wrenching and, purely for that reason, many families now turn to estate selling services that will sell the contents of a home for them.
“If one parent dies or a parent has to move into a nursing home, there are a lot of decisions to be made, and quickly,” said Maggie Herrera, owner of Indian Bay Estate Sales located in Spring Hill, Florida.
“Relatives, mostly the offspring, have the task of selling the home’s contents — often a home they have never lived in,” said Herrera. “Other options can be very costly— like maintenance of the home or storage for example.”
Former customer, Paula Graham, said “I contacted Maggie Herrera following the death of my aunt.” “And I was so impressed with her professionalism.”
Graham described how Herrera assessed the contents of the homes, taking photographs and how she would handle the preparation of the sale.
“On the days of the sale, Graham said, “everything was so organized. Parking cones were placed on neighbor’s lawns to prevent damage to lawns and she even managed to sell my Aunt’s car for full asking price,” she said.
Originally from New York where she worked for ABC Television and Radio, and now working as a state tax auditor in Tampa, Herrera said she bought the Indian Bay Trading Company in 2006 after working there on her days off for the previous owner. Named after Indian Bay in Aripeka, Herrera renamed her newly bought company “Indian Bay Estate Sales.”
Herrera explained she always had a love for browsing antique and junk stores in New York so had acquired a good eye for what would sell and at what sort of price.
“I enjoyed working at Indian Bay Trading immensely,” she said, “and to my delight during the very first week there, I discovered I could accurately price items. It just came naturally.”
Herrera tells of homes where the family has lived for decades filled with treasures acquired on their travels around the world.
“Entering one of those homes is a time-warp experience of interesting items, curiosities, as well as war memorabilia,” she said. “Sometimes we find the decor, like wallpaper and furniture, has not been updated since the 80s.”
Recently, in preparation for retirement, and to complement the scope of her business, Herrera acquired her Realtor’s license. She is affiliated with trusted company, Keller Williams Realty and has access to over 110,000 associates nationwide to help sell a property.
“Now, she said, “when I meet my families, I’m in place to not only sell a home’s contents, but also with selling the home itself.
“I listed my first home with the assistance of John Mamo, also from Keller Williams,” said Herrera. “It was the home of Wes Whaley who had originally contracted me to carry out his estate sale.”
In a testimonial letter to Indian Bay Estate Sales, Phyllis Moody, now Mrs. Wes Whaley, stated, “The house was sold within a week from listing it. Maggie is honest and determined and I was delighted to be her first listing. Keller Williams is fortunate to have her on their team.”
Herrera says some of her clients come to Spring Hill just for a couple of days so it makes it very convenient for them if I can take care of selling the home too.
“Some don’t even come to Spring Hill,” she said. “I’ve had clients from as far away as Germany and Ireland. They send me the keys to the house and I take care of everything.”
Herrera says every home tells a story.
“I can instantly tell if a home was a happy home, whether the occupants read books, loved music or cooking, or were well-traveled for example,” explained Herrera.
“Sometimes, though, I feel “darkness” in homes,” she said, “and that’s when I call my husband to go with me until I feel OK.”
Rolando Herrera, Maggie’s husband, formerly a CBS executive who recently retired from the Hernando County School system, said, “I’m not involved in the business as such but I am always on hand when Maggie needs help of any kind, especially just before the sale but never on sale days.”
When Herrera is contacted to conduct an estate sale, she often finds the owners or their offspring have never valued the home contents so they’re unaware of what is valuable.
“Some think jewelry is where the most value is but not always,” said Herrera. “Others think it’s technology that’s valuable because they outlaid a lot of money — that’s a huge mistake too,” she said. “It might have been an expensive purchase but it depreciates rapidly and depends on advances in technology.”
“Sometimes though I have to call in the experts,” she said. “For things like antiques, stamps, coins, jewelry and unmarked collectible items, but I’ve yet to come across a Picasso.”
Estate sales, said Herrera, are fascinating. “I get to meet all kinds of people,” she said. “And I get to see some really interesting items like church pews and Stations of the Cross that a banker from the UK brought over with him.”
“In one estate sale about 10 years ago, the owner once worked in the Woolworth Corporate Building in New York as a mailman and used to deliver to some well-known cartoonists who worked there,” she said. “And they would give him their unwanted or unfinished original cartoons.”
When a family contacts Herrera to conduct a sale, she first meets with the family and then makes a general inventory of the home’s contents that both parties agree upon. Some of those contents include cars, boats, RVs and antiques.
“Once the contract is agreed and signed, it’s only then that I, and my team of helpers, can get to work on preparing for the sale,” she said. “Once, I needed a team of 10 helpers for one of the larger sales and once, I needed a sheriff’s deputy to help with traffic control.”
Herrera’s team of helpers are also her longtime friends and neighbors who have been with her from the beginning.
“They are the best and most trustworthy people you could ever know, said Herrera.
When Herrera and her team set to work, they allow plenty of time to sort through the merchandise. They go through every attic, closet, storage shed, cupboard, and drawer. They remove everything and each item is given a price sticker.
Research is the key to pricing goods for an estate sale. Herrera said it is important for her to keep up to date with current design trends. She uses resources like Pinterest, eBay, Etsy, Craigslist and regularly visits antique malls and used furniture stores. She also has a large library of books to help her identify specific pieces.
“We make sure we keep private letters, medical records, and financial paperwork separated from sale goods, as well as family photographs and memorabilia,” she said. “We have found hidden money, jewelry savings bonds too.”
Retired Realtor, Linda Mezzacapo formerly of Century 21 Alliance Realty, said “she had the pleasure of working with Herrera whose services were a lifesaver.”
“Maggie is a kind, compassionate and reliable person and is honest, fair and very knowledgeable,” said Mezzacapo.
“I could always depend on her and would recommend her services without hesitation.”
Then, the house is thoroughly cleaned and everything displayed attractively in preparation for sale days.
“This whole process takes a lot of work to set up and execute,” she said. “It can take up to a week to complete and even longer on larger homes and I couldn’t do it without my team of dedicated helpers,” she explained.
Indian Bay’s estate sales are conducted over a 2-day period — on Friday and Saturdays. The sales are usually held every other weekend and advertised beforehand in newspapers, journals and online.
“I advertise and post photos of items on my website during the week before the sale date and then I get a feel for how popular the sale will be and how many people will turn up,” she said.
On the first day of sale, Indian Bay Estate Sales is prepared for the early birds. These are buyers who have spotted items they know they can resell at a profit, like a Peter Max piece of artwork. Peter Max is an American artist known for using bright colors in his work.
“I’ve had buyers who have come as early as 2 a.m. to wait in line,” she said. “That particular buyer was keen to buy a Vintage “Raindrops” Sculpture by Curtis Jeré, a metalwork artist of wall sculptures and household accessories”
“High end collectibles, nice furniture and house decorations are sold in the first few hours,” Herrera said. “On the second day, items are usually discounted at noon on the second day - except for items where we hold the prices if we know it is worth more than the half price.”
After the sale is over, there will be a some unsold items and for those Herrera has a regular contractor, based Chiefland, Florida who will negotiate a price and take them away.
“I love this business,” said Herrera. “I meet such lovely people who are going through a very emotional time in their lives. I like to tell them their items and memories are going to happy places.”
“Of course, it’s every estate sales agent’s dream to be called to that one special home that might be crammed with wonderful antiques and highly collectible items, but that’s a rare occurrence,” she said. “They’re definitely very few and far between,” she said.
INDIAN BAY ESTATE SALES
Indian Bay Estate Sales is located in Spring Hill, Florida
Facebook: Indian Bay Estate Sales