Here are our tips for cleaning out the decedent’s home and getting it presentable for sale.
Identify the estate clean-out problems
For example, did the decedent die recently, or has some time passed? Sometimes folks become ill and move into a facility, leaving their home behind. We often see these homes in disrepair (leaks, mold, gas shut-off, rotting food, etc.). Alternatively, if the decedent was living at home and died suddenly, then there may not be so many issues. Remember, in New York, you won’t be able to get into the house right away after someone passes. You will need to get permission, and that process should be built into your timeline.
Next is the amount of clutter. This depends on the square footage of the home. Was the decedent a hoarder? How much are the heirs taking with them? Whatever the heirs take will reduce the amount you have to clear out.
Lastly, are there property-specific issues? We’ve discussed in the past how New York co-ops are a very unique animal! Lofts can present specific issues, as well. Make sure you take into account elevator access, permission from the Board, etc. when you develop your clean-out plan.
Find the best clean out service for your estate
There are two types of services: clean-out and cleaning.
Clean-out service means the big, burly dudes who carry out the furniture, etc. A cleaning service provides vacuuming, wiping, dusting, etc.
The best service for an estate situation does it in one shot. Work with a team who is experienced in sizing and estimating the deal and is big enough to provide crew and trucks to handle it in one day. There’s no apartment in New York that can’t be handled in one day with the right team.
We had a recent bad example: GotJunk sent 1 truck and 2 small guys for a 2,500 square foot loft! There was a lot of stuff, and we had to do the clean-out over two days. That’s two days of cost, as well as inconveniencing the other neighbors in the building.
Second, make sure the service is reputable and insured. Buildings will require a COI (Certificate of Insurance); they won’t let anyone in to do the job. Co-ops and neighbors also appreciate well-manned crew. They don’t want bubble wrap and tape littering the halls and elevators. Keeping the common areas clean goes a long way in maintaining the relationship with the neighbors and co-op board.
Lastly, a good clean-out service will get the home broom clean. They not only clear out the junk but actually bring in the broom to clean. We’ve dealt with some clean-out companies who left bits of extension cords and zip-ties and tape on the floors. While it may not be a big deal, it does shift the burden and cost on to the next step: the cleaning service.
How to choose a cleaning service
The goal is not to clean the home so someone can move in and eat off the floor. You need to have the home presentable for sale. A sell-able condition may mean different things for different situations.
If you are selling to the typical retail buyer, then you should get the home as pristine as possible. However, if you know the home will only attract investors, broom-cleaning is fine.
If the house situation is borderline toxic, you may need a professional crew. For example, there could be bodily fluids from the decedent’s death. Or maybe the level of mold in the bathroom or kitchen is dangerously high. If you encounter these situations, you can search for a local crime-scene cleaner. It might sound extreme, but they can provide a next-level cleaning service.
As we’ve discussed before, there are a lot of moving parts to the probate process. To dig in deeper, check out my book, “How Probate Works.”
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