What Factors Affect Value?

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We want to believe that our possessions have exquisite value and will bring much money one day when we are ready to sell.  We are disappointed to learn that the heirlooms of mom and grandmother are not worth much anymore, despite the family lore.  What can affect the current value of personal property?

  • The Economy

If the economy is soft, the values for most personal possessions on the secondary market are going to suffer, like everything else.  Today’s trends are all about simplification, so the market is flooding with traditional household furnishings from our homes and our parents’ homes

  • Market trends

Are the items currently sought after and desirable to have at this time, or are they just good, usable items?

  • Value

What is something really worth?  Not what you paid for it, and not the value on an old appraisal report.  Ultimately, it is worth what someone is willing to give you for it.  Here’s where it helps to have a professional who can research your items and guide you towards achieving maximum proceeds.  Searching the internet for “values” only produces asking prices, not genuine sales comparables, not what the items actually sold for.  Professionals know how to search for your items and what they are currently selling for.

  • Popularity and Style

An item may be attractive, but it might not have much value.  On the other hand, the most unsuspecting, and often unattractive, items may have more value than you know.  Much has changed in the marketplace; people have changed and values have changed, along with what’s hot and what’s not.

  • Changing lifestyles

Traditional, dark “brown furniture” (as it’s called in the industry) does not have the appeal it did for our parents or grandparents.  It may be in good condition, but children and grandchildren don’t like the dark brown.  They are buying these pieces inexpensively to paint, because the market is saturated with these pieces.

  • Generational differences

Grandmother’s cherished floral china from the Depression era is completely different from what a 22-year old woman wants today.  Generation X and Y want a simple, clean, European look for their homes and no clutter or knick-knacks.  They shop at places like IKEA and Pottery Barn.  The Boomer is caught somewhere in the middle, still somewhat traditional, not as much as their parents and not as indifferent as their children.

  • Junk or something more?

Proper identification is the key.  The television shows would have you believe there is treasure in every home or estate.  While you may find interesting collectibles, not every home contains a treasure of significant monetary value.  Yet, you just never know what you could have in your possession.

  • Law of supply and demand

This law is always in effect, for everything.  Too much supply and not enough demand causes the prices to fall, such as all our older loved ones’ glassware, porcelain, and collectibles.  They are in abundance in every household, but few truly want them in 2015.  On the flip side, anything in demand but in small supply will usually sell higher, because it’s desired and not readily available.  The internet makes the world very small.  What used to be rare and hard to find is now in abundance on all major online auction sites.  Suddenly, there are 1,956 figurines just like mom’s.

We have little control over most of these factors, but that’s why items are no longer commanding what they used to.

Two recommendations from the expert:

  1. Keep your expectations reasonable.
  2. Hire a professional to advise you on values.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

One Chip Can Do A Lot of Damage

In my world of personal property, one little chip or ding, fracture or re-glue, can mean the difference between going into the trash or selling it for far less than if it was in perfect condition.   As an appraiser, I know that original condition is just one very important characteristic when assigning value.

My entire career has centered around selling items that are in good, original condition — not stripped of its original finish, not repainted, not repaired or refurbished — just plain original condition.  That original condition attracts the collector toward the mellowness of color that only the passage of time can create on a beautiful wood piece, imperfections and all.  Those imperfections “prove” to the collector’s discriminating eye its true age, and the history and personality of the piece.  Worn leather, distress marks, scars from accidents, etc. are all part of the life of our antique possessions before they came to us.

The collector knows some of these marks are positive attributes, but the average person is in search of perfection — perfection of body, perfection of mind, perfection for each facet of their lives.

The truth suddenly occurred to me!  We should look at ourselves and each other in the very same manner as that special collector.  We are aging; we have earned our stripes.  We have gained insight and wisdom through the passage of years.  Yet we too have many imperfections: a chip here and there, a few fracture lines, a scar or blemish.  We should strive to do our best to live with our original condition for as long as possible.

While one chip can greatly diminish the value of an antique platter, our own self-worth only grows deeper with our well-earned battle scars from a life well lived and loved.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on July 15, 2015 at 10:46 am  Comments (6)  
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“Warning, Warning!”

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Remember the 1960s TV series “Lost in Space?”  The Robinson’s robot would wave his mechanical arms and shout out “Warning, warning!” when danger was near.  I wish I could do that every time I hear a nightmarish story in my industry, which makes my gut cringe and gives me gray hair at the same time.

I met with a client this past week; she had a home full of truly beautiful things she had collected over 50 years.  Many of my clients in recent years are either downsizing or simply don’t want their amassed collection of stuff any longer.  This particular client had items of significant value and had several people walk through her home, giving ideas on how to sell or whittle down her collection.  This is not necessarily a good idea: too many “cooks in the kitchen” with differing ideas on how the possessions should be handled appropriately.

I was finally called in because she no longer knew who to trust.  She needed an expert to come in and tell her the truth of the best way to sell the items and what they are really worth in today’s market.

The hair on the back of my neck stood up when she told me “three estate people” (that no one has ever heard of) came in to her home and offered her one sum of money for 3,500 square feet full of beautiful possessions.  “Take it or leave it.”  Thank God she left it!

I failed miserably trying to maintain a poker face when another person (no one has ever heard of) offered to take everything and sell it in their shop, without any detailed accounting or itemization of her things.  When she told me how much she had been offered for her things, I nearly hit the floor as the blood drained from my face!

Warning, warning!  Hear me shout from the mountain top.  DO NOT DO THIS!

Always seek personal property professionals who are highly recommended by other professionals.  Let them look, value, advise on your possessions before you do anything else!

Do not throw away or give away anything until a professional has walked through!

Please do not accept the first person that no one has heard of.  Please take your time and do your homework!  Hasty mistakes will hurt you most of all.

First, identify anything of value.  Then, make decisions on what you will keep and what you will sell and stick with those decisions.  Always look for the best professional you can find.  It’s perfectly fine to interview several companies; determine what they can offer you and who you feel good about working with.  Get everything in writing.  Finally, let that professional do their job.

Don’t choose some fly-by-night company that no one has ever heard of.  Due diligence is important on both sides: the estate professional and the client.

Ultimately, use your gut instinct to uncover the best professional for your needs and build a relationship based on trust.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

5 Promises to Yourself This Summer

These days, it appears increasingly difficult to stay on the level emotionally.  So much comes at us that it’s depressing to turn on the TV.  To combat this heaviness that many feel, I have 5 suggestions to make us feel more buoyant this summer.  Please share them with your family and friends, since we all need to support one another.

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  1. Let It Go!  Let go of anything that weighs you down.  Surplus material possessions and stuff that no longer has meaning, people and relationships that are toxic, clean out that closet and give to those in need, etc.  Just let go!  You will immediately feel lighter, and more open space will provide an uplift in your spirit.
  2. If something you tried last year didn’t work out, keep trying different ways until it does work.  As the old saying goes, “there is more than one way to skin a cat.”  Try again in different ways; ask close friends or colleagues what they would do.  Valued opinions and objective third parties may very well be the sounding board you need or provide you with the brilliant idea that works.
  3. Broaden your horizons.  No more excuses!  Take that pottery class, dance class, go to that place you’ve always wanted to see, train for a marathon, volunteer, lose weight, etc.  Just do it!  Spend some time on YOU.
  4. Practice appreciation.  Open your eyes and look for the simple pleasures in your life.  Put forth a little effort to see the good in the world.  Sometimes you need to go for a walk and admire the birds, look at the sky, and take some deep breaths.  A survey of centenarians (over 100 years old) shows they attribute their longevity to simple pleasures like walking barefoot, watering their garden, swimming, etc.
  5. Train your brain to think positively.  Yes, there is a lot wrong with the world today, but there is still much good in it.  Go forth, do good things, be a good person, and try to make a difference for others.  The rewards are far greater than you know!  It comes back to you, and it will give you a strong sense of purpose.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on June 30, 2015 at 11:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Who will Care for the Caregiver?

I find it hard to believe there is actually a word in the English language that could possibly describe what caregivers go through.  There can’t be.  What is experienced during the caregiving process is often a deep, emotional shift accompanied by confusion, frustration, even resentment for many.  Somewhere along the line, one loses oneself and their individuality blurs with the needs of the loved one.

Most are caregivers out of love and affection, and others caregive because it is not financially feasible to pay for professional care.  Perhaps a child has a strong desire to care for mom and dad, or possibly a sense of obligation.  They will caregive for as long as they can, only to surrender when they reach a point when they can no longer offer the quality of care the loved one really needs.  It make no difference what the scenario is — all have experienced the same emotional labor.

Who then will care for you, the caregiver?  Ultimately the answer is you.  We’ve all heard the saying: “You have to remain strong for those you care for, so please take care of yourself.”  But are caregivers really taking the time to replenish their bodies, minds, and souls?  If I were a betting lady, I would say no.

As a dutiful daughter myself, I would, without thought, put my parents first at every turn, and would eventually become weak in body, mind and soul.  Lost somewhere between raising children and tending to fragile parents, there is a place called limbo, and we must prevent ourselves from going there by anchoring to a solid, stable place.

What I have learned along the way from my clients is that it is 100% necessary to tend to yourself.  This brings with it the image of being on an airplane; the flight attendant talks about placing the oxygen over your mouth before assisting others.  You do this because without you, others might perish.  The strong one must get stronger (have oxygen) before helping those who aren’t strong.  Place the mask over your face and “breathe.”  The same is true when your feet are on the ground and you are a caregiver.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on June 24, 2015 at 11:45 am  Comments (1)  
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6 Big Mistakes People Make with Personal Property

Personal property and heirlooms — we spend a lifetime accumulating them, inheriting them, caring for them, collecting them, and talking about them.  But we rarely know the values and we rarely make a plan for what happens to our personal property.

Here’s my list of the biggest mistakes.  Hopefully, you don’t see yourself in this list.

1.  Parents don’t share final wishes with their children.  They don’t share vital documents, especially the will/trust, or at least tell the children where they are located.

Children are then left to guess the parent’s wishes, which is a very bad thing.  Children live with guilt for the remainder of their lives, wondering if their “guess” was what mom and dad would have wanted.  What a heavy load to carry!

2.  Parents don’t make a plan for personal property.  They don’t create a master list, or ask what the heirs would like to have.  They definitely don’t gift any of their possessions while they are still alive.

3.  Parents know that death and infirmity will certainly come, but they do nothing to anticipate or minimize fighting after they are gone.

4.  Children have opposite opinions because the parents didn’t tell their wishes to the children.  This starts fights and feuds that can last for the remainder of their lives.

5.  Children are hasty with parents’ possessions.  Heirlooms with significant value can end up in a dumpster or yard sale.  They decline to hire a professional to ascertain what’s valuable before distribution and disposal.

6.  Children have a tendency to give away, throw away, or donate before they know the worth of those items.  Be leary of unscrupulous people who ask for a “memento” and go for the most valuable item, which you may or may not have valuated.

Did you see yourself in this list?  If so, now is the time to take action and resolve these issues.  You don’t want to become one of The Estate Lady’s sad stories!

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

In Pursuit of Good

Anything Less is Counter-productive

The world is full of good people with wonderful intentions.  The world is also full of bad people with evil intentions.  My past week has been filled with: “he said/she said”, “You won’t believe this”, or “Why are they bashing people like this?”  It was an exhausting week, and I feel drained of energy to do my creative work.  My good work.  The work I was put here for.

So, I sat back and watched things unfold before me.  What I saw was very sad.  Sad for me, sad for others who did nothing wrong, sad for everything that transpired.  I witnessed people losing themselves and imploding.  People were spending so much time attaching and hurting one another, often behind their backs, and spending very little time in the pursuit of something productive, something good.

I really examined the situation as objectively as I could, and came to the healthy conclusion that I would much rather spend my time, energy, and life using my gifts to:

  • create,
  • be the best I can be,
  • touch others’ lives in a positive light, and
  • uplift instead of ripping down.

It takes much more energy to hurt then it does to heal!

Why spend all of that time attacking and hurting others, when turning the other cheek (if possible), ignoring (if possible), or doing something for the betterment of others not only helps and improves the situation, it is also good and right.  I am not suggesting it is alright to be a doormat.  It is good to stand up for yourself in a professional manner.

Taking the high road is the road less traveled.

It is lonely and frightening at times, but does not go unnoticed and has its own rewards.

It is also easier said than done.

Here’s the point.  If you get sucked into the poop storm, the only thing that will fly will be poop.  It won’t do you any good, nor your spirit or overall well-being.  Nothing good can come of it.  Step out of the storm.  Always, always take the high road as often as you can.  While it can cause personal pain — we do take things personally — eventually the storm will dissipate and you will find a sense of happiness that comes with your good decisions.

We cannot control others.  We can only control how we handle what others do to us.  Call on friends for support, prayer, venting, etc.  Look towards a positive solution.  This too shall pass!

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Gears and Cogs

I had an unusual thought this morning over coffee and checking emails.  Having just spent months creating, writing, and working with a team of people to develop a new website for the American Society of Estate Liquidators® at www.ASELonline.com, I am keenly aware how each individual member of the team worked together, as a vital piece of the whole, in order to come up with a successful end result.  One person specializes in strategic writing, design, flow, another had graphic abilities, another technical, and more.  It was a vision I had, but this team came together to find a way to create it.

gears of an Oriental clock

It really takes an entire team to make a project succeed, like exposing the back of an antique mantle clock and viewing how all the gears and cogs work together in sync.  I’ve always secretly wondered how the gears all worked together.  As imperfect humans, with myself at the top of the list, we do make mistakes.  Sometimes, many mistakes.  We may not communicate clearly to the teammates working on another part of the project.  Our brains work differently, and yet, we expect our teammates to understand what we mean, as if they can read our minds.

While each of us has our own vision for their portion, when you put all the parts together, it usually needs to be tweaked until the best version is attained for the whole project.  Such is life … always a work in progress and always with the help of others.

Why is it that we tend to only think about our part of the team?  We concentrate so heavily on what is our responsibility that we fail to see what the others are doing and the tremendous efforts they make.  No single part or component would work successfully without the others, just like the gears in that mantle clock.

Developing the website taught me two things:

  • each of us has special gifts and talents, and
  • when put together with other people’s gifts and talents, we can create something marvelous.

But our part alone is just a piece laying there, a simple gear that won’t turn because there are no other gears or cogs to drive it into motion.  The lone piece would simply not work unless put together with someone else’s piece.

Our vision towards almost anything in life really needs to be extended to include the value and work of someone else’s skills and ability to see and imagine.  This is difficult to master.  When  working together, each brings to the table something that we can’t contribute by ourselves.

Last week I was in an estate documenting for an appraisal.  When the heir saw me in front of the mantle examining the mantle clock, they quickly approached to tell me how old and valuable it was.  “It is certainly old,” I said, “but there is a problem.  It doesn’t work because some of the gears have fallen off and are missing.  If the clock doesn’t work, even due to a tiny piece missing, the value will fall significantly.”

Little did I realize that a few days later, that statement would apply directly to me.  I came to understand how our special team became my gears and cogs, driving me forward toward a long-dreamed vision.  Sometimes all it takes is one tiny little piece to make it all work flawlessly.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

If I Hadn’t Gone Out in the Storm

Having worked 14 hours yesterday, I was really dragging when I finally arrived home from an estate.   I had missed lunch and dinner, was dehydrated, had 11 phone calls to return, and an appraisal to complete.  It was a harrowing day: people not showing up, challenges at the estate, the phone wouldn’t stop ringing, etc.  At home, there was no peace either: the house was messy, my daughter needed help, and the cat needed to be fed and medicated.  How can anyone work this hard?  I thought to myself.

The torrential rain came with the thundering on the roof and windows.  I was finally relieved to be printing off my appraisal report.  All of a sudden, no ink remained and the printer came to a screeching halt.  Time was a factor; I had to print it out and get it in the mail.  Glancing outside, I knew I had to go out in the storm, as tired as I was.  The truth is I didn’t want to go, and I started having a little pity party all by myself, in the confines of my office.  My daughter felt badly because she had used my printer relentlessly for a school project, which left me with no ink.

I glanced at the raging storm outside.  It’s now or never.  It’s got to get done.

I grabbed my keys and was on my way to Staples, but it closed 4 minutes before I arrived.  Just my luck.  I drove further in the rain to find another store and finally got my ink, just in time before they closed.  Sopping wet and resigned to my situation, I drove home animatedly, talking out loud in the car about all my complaints.  Finally I turned the corner heading home, and instantly, the rain stopped, the sun popped out, and this is what I saw.  I pulled to the side of the road to take this photo and share it with you.

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If I hadn’t gone out in the storm, I never would have seen this beauty.  My Grinch face softened into a smile, knowing someone up above had my back.  I couldn’t help but wonder if I was just a little too busy chasing that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, instead of realizing I already had it.

We all work hard and it can be a challenge to make ends meet and make things work for us.  Sometimes we need a sign of hope and joy to remind us it’s the simple things that make us smile the most.  My favorites? Chocolate, gardening, blissful naps, my cat’s purring, and the “buzz” of a hummingbird.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on April 23, 2015 at 8:35 am  Comments (12)  
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Giving While Still Living

Every estate plan should have a mandatory requirement: give away what you have (or at least part of it) while you are physically and mentally able to do so.  It is so important to make sure things are done the way you would like them, instead of through an unsuspecting family member or friend, who could make poor decisions with your assets.

Sometimes, those chosen to make decisions, make very poor decisions; some based on greed and not putting the loved one’s wishes at the forefront.  In some cases, the person chosen is just the wrong one to make these decisions; choosing wisely is half the battle.  Sadly, some feel they are entitled and help themselves, or they do not communicate clearly with other heirs.

I have seen this scenario so often; it leaves me with chills every time I think about it.  I have been brought into homes while mom is literally taking her last breaths.  I would have declined the visit, if I had known.  I have seen children steal while mom is sleeping in the next room (“She’ll never miss this.”)  I have been discovered that children have showed up with moving trucks in the dark of night to take what they want, never to be heard from again.  I have seen a woman steal jewelry from a dying girlfriend as she napped.  Sigh …

It brings me great joy when I can bring light to dark situations.  But what I can’t figure out is why people behave in this manner?  How on earth can they sleep at night?  I cannot imagine anyone doing such things and sleeping soundly.

My mind returns back to handling my own parents’ estate and how well my brother and I managed it.  We split everything right down the middle, down to the penny, just as mom and dad wanted it to be.  We loved them so much that we knew their money was first and always for their care.  They were the priority and we made sure they had what they needed.

Looking back, I am glad that mom gifted some things to me while she was still living.  When my father died last, I realized they had not gifted to my sibling, like mom did for me.  So when dad passed, it was important that my brother have grandfather’s war medals of courage, dad’s jewelry and college ring, etc.  It was only fair and that was the way we wanted it.  Since our parents were no longer there, we carried on in the way they wanted us to treat each other.

For those who may be struggling with this issue, allow me to interject a powerful thought.  With all the clients I have had in my career, I can assure you that the ones who

  • MAKE PLANS
  • STICK WITH THE PLAN, and
  • GIFT AHEAD OF TIME

fare much better than those who

  • DON’T PLAN
  • LEAVE OTHERS TO DECIDE FOR THEM, and
  • ANGER OTHERS.

SEIZE THIS MOMENT!

Gift to those who are special to you.  If your gifts are significant, please talk with your attorney or CPA for guidance.  If your gifts are sentimental, be as equitable as possible and give these items in person, so there are no questions later.  This simple gesture will not only offer joy to someone you care about, but you will also simplify what has to be divided later.

Accept this advice from one who really knows!

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

 

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