If my rush to get back to France wasn’t self-imposed, I could complain about so much to do. Instead, I just grin and bear it. Then grin some more.
An estate sale and clothing sale over the last two weekends were just the tip of the iceberg. In between there’s been 1) packing the ten 18″x18″x16″ boxes to ship to Marseilles; 2) contracts to negotiate with the rental agency for the apartment, 3) a bank account in France to open and…4) the paperwork for a long- stay visa. There are a few lessons learned from each of the above.
First of all, recruit all the help you can! My incredible son from Birmingham donated two weeks of his time to help me sort out my treasures to sell ( aka “stuff”, “junk”) while trying to keep up, remotely, with his job. Also, two of the best friends a gal could ever ask for pitched in to organize, price and sell everything before and during the sales.
Second, call your sale an “estate” sale, not a “moving” or “house sale”…and certainly not a “garage sale”. It brings in a totally different type of buyers and allows you to sell items at a slightly higher price point. “Perceived” value.
Advertise! It will cost to place ads, but it’s worth it. Estate sales are hard work. Don’t skimp on letting people know about them. Ads on Craig’s List, estatesales.com, bookoo.com, and your local newspaper(s) are good places to start. Well-placed yard signs are important too.
Clothing sales are more lucrative if you sell jewelry, handbags, scarves and other accessories as well. Buyers will scoff up $1 and $5 costume jewelry and those sales add up!
Provide a separate place for ladies to try on clothing. Have mirrors everywhere. If women are in the “dressing” room with other ladies, they often encourage the others to buy!
If a potential buyer wants an item but, for some reason they can’t carry it with them, offer to ship items to them (for a price.) For example, a couple came to my estate sale who were visiting from out of town. They purchased some large ticket items and also wanted a canister set. They couldn’t carry it back home. I missed the sale because I didn’t think fast enough to ask if I could ship it to them.
Allow buyers to return during off- hours. Some of the biggest sales were made the day after the public sales. I was home packing boxes anyway, so when people came by, I let them see what was left. They always bought something, probably because they appreciated the special attention.
Mark items BOGO (buy one get one free) the last hours of the sale. When traffic slows down, change your outdoor signs to read BOGO. It’ll bring on new customers. After hour sales go back to full price.
Accept credit and debit cards. This is probably the most important lesson learned. A friend loaned me a “square” that allowed customers to use credit to buy the items. There’s a charge to use the service, but it’s worth the almost 50% increase in sales.
Provide shopping bags at the door. Customers will fill them up with items they want to buy. It’s much more convenient and efficient for you and the shopper than carrying stuff around or leaving items at the checkout.
Shipping items to France
Sending household and personal items in boxes through a shipping company will save you from hauling extra bags on the airplane. The important thing to remember is whether the stuff in the boxes is worth the shipping fees.
When I get to France and unload the boxes, I’ll let you know if I brought the right things with me. Right now I’m prioritizing by replacement cost in France. My cost shipping 10 boxes is estimated at $1000. The contents of each box must save me $100 in replacement cost, or it’s not worth the hassle. Filling a box with personalized stationary, books, and office supplies doesn’t make sense. Packing coats, my favorite outfits, some kitchen utensils and most-used cooking pans is my plan. I’m also throwing in new linens and towels. The quality is better than I found around Uzes and the pieces can be used to pack around breakables instead of using paper or bubble wrap.
When the boxes are full, wrap each with packing tape… 3 rows of tape around each side. Then cover the box with “shrink wrap” plastic. I didn’t know it existed, but you can buy rolls of plastic that is wide enough to cover a box. It comes in a package like Saran Wrap and you can purchase it at Home Depot or Lowes DIY store. The shipping agent says preparing the boxes as described above improves the security of your shipment by up to 80%.
Find someone you know who can understand French legal documents. In my case, I lucked out that my son, who was helping with the move, has experience reviewing similar paperwork. He served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon and worked with banks to make loans using some of the same legalize. If that fails, use the Google Translate app. Assuming the French documents you want to translate come to you in a PDF format, you need to install an Adobe application that can convert pdfs to Word (or MAC). Then copy and paste the content into Google Translate which you can access online. The translation may not be the best, but it can help you with the highlights. Then ask your rental agent to go over it with you.
Be especially mindful of the charges from the rental agency. I was surprised with the cost of a “honorarium” that was owed to them by both the owner of the apartment and by me — more than the cost of a month’s rent! When I complained about the cost, the agent stated it is the customary way to work with rental agencies in France. To pacify me, he moved my closing date so that the overall price was reduced.
French bank account
Opening a bank account in France is a requirement for renting an apartment. The agent and apartment owner like to have monthly payments set up through a draw on the account. In order to open the account you must show proof that your IRS taxes are paid in the US. I gave them the cover page from my tax forms. You must also show proof of residence in France. Don’t ask me how crooks get away with foreign bank accounts! Guess they know all the angles.
Long stay visa To stay in France longer than 90 days at a time, you must have a “long stay” visa. Look on the Internet for the French consulate that serves the area where you live. The southeast consulate in
Atlanta serves South Carolina. You must have an appointment at the consulate to apply in person for the visa. Appointments are made through an online tool. When I first checked, there were no appointments available for the next 3 months! So I called the consulate (which they advise NOT to do) and I was lucky enough that someone answered the phone. The lady who answered graciously took my name and promised she would call me when there was a cancellation. I got a call for an appointment on August 8.
There are a number of forms on the French consulate website that must be filled in to accompany your application. They are pretty self-explanatory. The one that stumped me was the proof of medical insurance. I had information on all my coverage but not a statement about services outside the US. I told the interviewer I talked with the insurance company and that my supplemental insurer would become the primary provider outside the US. She wanted to see it in writing from the insurance company. Getting the letter about the insurance meant I had to stay over another day in Atlanta. Lesson learned: don’t be vague about anything. They want proof. That includes a rental agreement, bank account and airline ticket to France.
All of this is behind me now. The next few weeks I’m focusing on getting the house cleaned out and taking stuff that didn’t sell to charity or consignment shops. Hopefully I’ll have a few days to enjoy some Low Country activities and visit with friends. Then I’m heading to Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama to visit family before leaving for Paris on September 9.
By the way… just so you don’t think all has been smooth sailing… I was in an auto accident Saturday. A neighbor drove out of her driveway and destroyed the right wheel, fender and bumper of my car. I spent half the day dealing with insurance companies and right now, have no car to use. The car’s probably totaled since its a late model Acura. Never mind, now I don’t have to worry about selling it.
When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!