The Real Value of Our Antiques and Heirlooms

We each have items in our homes that came from a loved one, passed down through the years.  To us, these items are special, unique, and valuable.  Sometimes, these items are even more special, unique, and valuable because of our feelings towards the loved one who gave it to us.

If you can, place those feelings to the side for a moment.  We really need to have a fresh understanding about the market, the economy, and what our heirlooms are really worth.  As an appraiser, I come to the table as an objective third party who has the ability to look at items through new, yet somewhat critical eyes, much like a detective.

I see flaws others may not.

I see condition issues others may not.

I see that someone drilled a hole through the bottom of a Ming Dynasty vase because they wanted it to be a lamp (ugh!).

I see that someone uses 21st century screws to reinforce an 18th century piece.

However, there is more to it than that; we must dig a little deeper to get to the crux of the matter.

The truth is that in today’s market, a c.1830s bird’s eye maple English chest will sell for far less than a “Made in China” piece you can buy at Rooms to Go or IKEA.  I saw it with my own eyes at an auction recently.  The gorgeous English chest sold for $100 and the black lacquer Oriental chest made 30 days ago sold for $350.

WHY?

Gone are the days of truly caring about quality.

dark traditional ornate bedroom

Gone are the days of the younger generations wanting traditional furnishings.

In are the days of how the item looks and functions.  Maybe not for all of us.  This trend is picking up speed and we see more of it as each day passes.  Size and space also enter into the equation, since we are in the middle of a major simplification trend.  Both our homes and our furnishings are getting smaller.

I address the older generations when I say this and I hope it will be realized:

Dark brown furniture gives the younger generation the willies just to look at it.

dark heavy china cabinet

Boomers don’t want any more of it, and are trying to downsize and let go of the dark heavy furnishings, as we speak!  Being surrounded by heavy, large, dark furniture is not what people want today, let alone my daughter’s generation.  She doesn’t want it now and she will not want it later.  It won’t pay to pressure her or store items for her.

It doesn’t matter how old it is.

It doesn’t matter what you paid for it.

It doesn’t mean anything to a stranger or the public who come to purchase it.

If we don’t want it and our children don’t want it, others will not want it either.

dark heavy dining room

Of course there are exceptions to every rule and all families are different.  But if we dare to peek into the future, what will become of the older, dark furnishings in 2 years? 5 years? 15 years?

Those of us in the industry have seen a steady decline since 2008 so it is no surprise to us.  It’s alright that not everyone will accept what we have to say, but at least, listen to the market.  It has spoken loud and clear!

©2016 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 May 6, 2016 at 10:20 am  Comments (2)  
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Unthinkable, Unethical, Unlawful ~ Good Grief!

Most professionals that work within the estate industry hear and see things that defy logic and make our hair stand straight on end.  This story is one of them.

Imagine your sibling is very ill, in the process of passing away in hospice.  Most of us would be doing all we can for our family, the children, the spouse, being present and offering support in any way to ease the pain they are going through.  Most of us would also be spending those last precious moments together with the loved sibling.  That is what family is for.

But some families think of other things that wouldn’t even enter into our minds.  While the ill sibling is unresponsive in a coma, a sibling helps themselves to not only their jewelry and silver, but their credit cards taken straight from their purse.  Worse, yet, they USED the credit cards throughout the last week of the sibling’s life and even after they had passed away.  Does anyone out there have the right words to describe this, because I am so appalled, I cannot print what I would really like to say?

I believe it is unlawful to use someone else’s credit cards and certainly unlawful after their death, if you are not named on the account.  Everything can be tracked these days.  They always find the culprit right down to getting receipts, video recorded at the store, etc.  So I ask a question that my mind is not capable of understanding:  WHY would anyone do this when life is hanging by a thread and all they can think of is stuff?  Unethical, YES.  Unthinkable, YES.  I cannot even wrap my head around it.

Shoes, purses, jewelry, and all the silver or gold in the world doesn’t mean a thing when a loved one dies.  It doesn’t mean a thing when we die.  They are just pretty things that we use for awhile.  They take up space and take money out of our accounts.  But seriously?  On a deathbed?

What is becoming of our world?  Are there people out there so devoid of compassion or kindness that they fill their void doing things that are unthinkable?  I’ve seen cases like this in the past, but they happen more frequently and it is most disconcerting to witness.

Yet another reason to have a plan in place, tell those closest to you what you want, and back it up with legal documents.  If there are those you don’t trust, let those that you do trust know this too.

Maybe the best investment we can make is a safe in our homes, offering the combination to only your executor or in sealed documents to be opened upon your passing.  Gift items while you are still living.  Have your power of attorney gather all personal possessions (such as your wallet) and secure them until such a time as legal affairs are sorted out.

I’m still shaking my head in disbelief!

©2016 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 21, 2016 at 9:59 am  Comments (4)  
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Think Before You Throw!

Do it for the earth, do it for extra space, and do it for your pocket!

Donating, recycling, and selling are the way to go when downsizing or handling an estate.  Selling will provide cash for your unwanted items, especially if you have a professional help you.  Donating can also provide a tax deduction or help a worthy cause.  Use your imagination when deciding where things could go, other than black trash bags!  Can someone use your items in some form or fashion?  This is the ultimate in recycling.

Remember the following when faced with thinning out your home’s contents or when you may not have enough for an estate sale:

  • Have the neighbors in for free household chemicals, garden/yard tools, etc.
  • Create a donation network by discussing what you have to give.
  • Keep watch for charity drives in your community.
  • Web search for places to sell or donate items.
  • Gazelle.com, techforward.com, and others offer varying compensation for electronics.
  • You can recycle computers at Good Will or Geek Squad.
  • Paper, cardboard, and scrap metal are commodities that are traded.  Find a buyer locally.  Sites like boxcycle.com and usedcardboardboxes.com pay cash for boxes.
  • Scrap metal and other household metals, photo frames, etc. are wanted by artists.  If you take scrap metal to the right place, you can end up with some $$ in your wallet.
  • Charities are in a funding crisis.  Paper, books, games and toys help daycares, senior centers, and after-school programs.  Give them a call; they are happy to give you a wish list.
  • Alzheimer’s facilities are always looking for clean linens, towels, nice dolls, stuffed bears, etc.
  • Many religious organizations/groups set up homes for refugees, domestic abuse victims, disabled adults, etc.  They need many everyday items and toiletries that you no longer need.
  • Old sheets and towels, leashes, and pet bowls are very much needed by local pet shelters.
  • Check with local drama programs (high school, college) for their wish list.  Some will welcome “vintage” clothing and accessories, and even paints and fabrics for prop and set design.
  • Inventory the home before buying materials.  Garbage bags, boxes, and cleaning supplies are normally already in the house.

Remember, one person’s trash is another man’s treasure!

With my prediction of millions of households being liquidated in the next few decades, the very thought of the amount of trash the U.S. will generate is mind-boggling.  Do your part to help others and the environment too!

What other resources do you know about in your area for donating, selling, and recycling?  Feel free to share ideas in the comment section below.

©2016 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 11, 2016 at 10:24 am  Comments (2)  
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10 Estate Behavior Commands

With great reverence for God’s 10 commandments, here are the basic rules which should be followed in any and every estate situation.  Often, we aren’t thinking clearly in the middle of the estate settlement and distribution process.

While there are no laws that pertain to human behavior when handling an estate and the distribution of property, these commandments should be “etched in stone” to remind us how we should behave.

  1. Thou shalt not worship material possessions.  They can be a monkey on your back and, ultimately, you can’t take them with you.
  2. Greed and the love of possessions can be false idols which can, and often do, ruin families.
  3. Don’t forget to take Sabbath for yourself.  We all need time and space to breathe and reflect.
  4. Honor your loved one that just passed away.  Take actions that would respect them and make them proud.
  5. Thou shalt not kill thy family relationships by destroying your chance to find peaceful resolutions.  Mend your fences.
  6. Do not cheat anyone, including yourself, in the estate distribution process.
  7. Thou shalt not steal anything, even if you think no one is watching.  Someone is always watching.
  8. Thou shalt not throw thy sibling(s) under the bus.  What goes around often comes around.
  9. Thou shalt not covet anything a sibling gets.  It’s not worth it; let it go.
  10. Stay true to who you are and walk as straight a path as possible.  Not only is immediate family watching, but your children and grandchildren as well.  Set an excellent example.

©2016 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

The Bird, My Teacher

Everyone needs to renew and restore their spirit every now and again, especially in such a hurried society.  Some people go away to the country or the beach where they find solitude and solace as a remedy for feeling overwhelmed and worn out.  It is a good thing to do so.  But do we really journey inside ourselves and heal what’s in there?  I’m willing to stick my neck out and say I don’t necessarily think so.

Today as I approached my car in the driveway, I saw a kooky little bird sitting on the driver’s side mirror, behaving in the strangest manner.  It was completely enamored with its reflection in the mirror.  Its little feet danced and it bobbed its head like crazy, joyous that it found an amiable friend … one that looks just like it!  It was so preoccupied with its reflection that it was not deterred by my presence only 3 feet away.  The next thing you know, the little bird side-stepped along the rim of the driver’s side mirror until he was completely upside down, flapping its wings and having a wonderful time looking at its new friend.

bird-looking-in-rear-view-mirror

Don’t you wish we could greet ourselves each day in the mirror just like this?

Everything is relative.  The little bird does not have the advanced intellect to realize it was him in the reflection, yet he was a free spirit having the time of its life.  When we, the highest created intellect on earth, look in the mirror, we don’t see who we really are or even like the reflection we see.  We are too self-critical.  So many of us really don’t want to go there, but we need to, in order to restore ourselves and make peace with the person inside.

I’ve been pretty hard on myself lately.  The fat fairy keeps visiting me (the wench!), and middle age has settled in, not to mention all that comes with that fact.  When I saw that little bird who was so happy to see itself, I thought, “Why can’t we all be more like that?”

Nature has always been amazing to observe.  It teaches us lessons if we pay attention.  Because of that little bird, I will look at myself with more enthusiasm from now on.  How could you not smile when you witness something like that … a tiny creature with a Herculean spirit.  An important lesson for us all.

©2016 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 February 19, 2016 at 10:30 am  Comments (8)  
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“Skeletons,” Secrets Cause Strife

From cleaning out estates all these years, I have learned that many people have “skeletons” that need to be dealt with prior to their passing.

In the land of the forgotten (attics, boxes in the back of the closet, locked trunks, hidden in barns or sheds, etc), we find things I can’t even talk about without teary eyes.  I do my best to let go, or tuck these things away somewhere in a spare brain compartment, hoping not to think of them too often.

It is not unusual to find love letters, adoption papers for a child that never knew they were adopted, or evidence of an extramarital affair.  On occasion though, we find things like suicide notes, drug abuse issues, different levels of pornography … some so bizarre it challenges my understanding of humans.  These still leave a mark of sadness upon one’s soul.

We see the dark portals in people’s lives after they leave.  We will never have a clear understanding of why these people did what they did, made certain decisions, or why on earth they would ever leave those secrets behind to be found.  I think to myself how fortunate it was that my company was the one who found those items, instead of a family member who may be traumatized for the rest of their life.  It is my cross to carry … discretion and protection.

Uncovering these secrets casts a shadow which can change your feelings about the person who has died, not to mention seriously tarnishes their personal legacy.

Some things need to be told to the family

and some secrets need to go to the grave with the deceased loved one.

Remember: The dead cannot defend themselves or their actions.

It is difficult to write these things.  We must not only think about ourselves and what we desire, but we must think about those we leave behind and what they may find.

TIP OF THE WEEK:

Clean your home and clean your life! 

Leave a legacy, not strife!

©2016 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 February 5, 2016 at 11:05 am  Comments (1)  
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Perils of Preposterous Pricing, Part 2

Older “die-hard” collectors are passing away and selling their massive collections all at once.  So who is going to buy all these items?  Some will be sold to today’s collectors, though far fewer in number than serious collectors years ago.  Hence, these collections are saturating the market, driving prices and values lower.  Too much supply, not enough demand.

Let’s return to the seller wanting to sell items they believe are valuable just because mom paid a fortune for them.  They believe what they have is special and unique.  Most of the time, figurines, china, collector’s plates, glassware, Victorian furniture and the like have saturated the market because millions of our moms and dads are passing away.  Boomers are downsizing.  Generation X and Y don’t want these items.  Millennials are into themselves, not material possessions.  These younger generations collect virtually, not materially.

When an heir is looking to sell Lenox, Waterford, Hummel, Franklin Mint, Depression glass, antique furniture, large wardrobes, entertainment centers, and china hutches, the estate experts only have to show how very flooded the market is to get the consumers to understand that these items are now worth very little.

When I look on Ebay and see a “sterling silver lot of 50 grams,” I wonder why on earth one would attempt to sell it for $200 when it would barely get $30 with the current spot price of silver, unless it was a unique designer piece or desirable manufacturer.  Asking outrageous prices for items that are clearly not worth it any longer will backfire on the seller.

It is what it is.  No expert, myself included, can alter these trends of simplification, downsizing, and squeezing more bang out of a buyer’s buck than we already do.  The market is speaking and we need to listen.

Another issue?  Many people with a smart phone in their hand believe they are an expert.  I can assure you they are not.  They just Google over-inflated prices, unless they are wanting to buy.  If they are buyers, they search for the lowest possible prices in hopes of getting an item at a small cost.  These issues are just the tip of the iceberg for what experts are dealing with as they handle personal property while managing clients’ expectations.

It takes an expert many years to understand trends, observe patterns, know how to maximize value, and offer the best value for the client.  Do-it-yourselfers often do themselves a disservice by not enlisting the assistance of a professional who is experienced in all of the above.

©2016 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.

Perils of Preposterous Pricing, Part 1

Where do people come up with these prices and values?  Understanding the difference between what was paid for an item and what you can sell the item for in today’s market is like the difference between buying a new car and selling it used.  Depreciation has taken place in most cases.  Much has changed in the secondary marketplace.  Sellers must realize that there must first be someone who wants the item (demand) in order for it to have and hold value.

People still call my office to inform me of what their items are worth, even though they are hiring me to find out. I don’t normally mind when they say they already know the value because they “found it on the internet.”.  Many of them have it wrong or have searched incorrectly.  They see an “asking” price – a ridiculously high dollar figure that came from someone else’s head – which is now stuck in their head.  They would like to believe and hope that this is the value.

The responsibility for sharing valuation knowledge with clients falls to all estate experts.  We have to help clients set reasonable expectations.  Some people will heed what we have to say, while others will continue to believe that if it was valuable in 1982, it must be more valuable today.  These individuals are in for a rude awakening, resulting in anger and frustration which they will probably take out on the individual selling their items for them.

Who comes up with values?  Ultimately, it used to fall on the serious collectors who set trends and values.  Marketability and collect-ability are somewhat related.  If an item belongs to a category of objects that people desire and collect, then logically that item’s value increases.  However, we need to consider that the current market is fairly saturated with many of the collectibles that were highly sought after 20, 30, 40+ years ago, back when our parents’ generation paid top dollar for them.

Older “die-hard” collectors are passing away and selling their massive collections all at once.  We’ll look at how this complicates the market and depresses the values next week in “Perils of Preposterous Pricing, Part 2”.

©2016 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 January 18, 2016 at 10:49 am  Comments (1)  
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The Gucci Purse

My holiday season was filled with the urge to purge.  I swept through the house like a cyclone, pulling things out to give away, sell, and discard.  My daughter didn’t know what to think and my husband kept asking, “Are you sure you want to get rid of that?”  If you feel like your home needs to be on a diet, you know exactly how I was feeling!

Today in our guest closet, I came across an authentic vintage Gucci purse my aunt purchased for my mother when she traveled to Rome about 45 years ago.  It was still in the original soft dust cover and is still like new.  It is burgundy in color and not really my style, but when mom died, I kept it.

Question #1 … “Why did I keep this?”

As I held it, inspecting its near “mint condition”, I wondered out loud why people hold on to things instead of actually using them.  I can hear echoes of mom’s voice saying something like, “Oh, that is a very expensive handbag and I will only wear it on very special occasions.”

That memory led me to question #2 … “Why wait for special occasions?”

Why not throw caution to the wind

and enjoy the heck out of what you have,

regardless of the season or the reason?

When mom was living, it was up on the top shelf of her closet collecting dust.  Funny how it ended up on my closet shelf collecting dust.  Why would I hold on to things if I get no use or enjoyment out of them?

This brought me to a decision that honestly needed to be made … Will I ever use it, and do I love it so much that I can’t let go?  NO and NO.

So the Gucci bag will be sold.  Someone I adored kept it and she never enjoyed it.  I never enjoyed it either.  So this purse has led a very dull life!

Someone SHOULD enjoy it, even if it isn’t me.

In almost every estate I work in, we find the drawers filled with linens and candles galore.  One day, my assistant said to me, as we were cleaning out a sideboard full of candles, “Wouldn’t it be a great idea if some of these people actually enjoyed using these things prior to their death?  YES, it would; otherwise, what’s the point?

I have come to the conclusion that I won’t miss a thing that left my home in the past two weeks.  My home has a new, light feel to it and I am enjoying that sensation.

Now if I would only shed a few pounds myself ….

©2016 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 January 8, 2016 at 11:01 am  Comments (2)  
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5 Promises to Yourself This New Year

latest-happy-new-year-2016-photos

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, that closet that is overflowing.  Give to those who really need it.  Just let go!  Start singing the song lyrics, “Let it go, Let it go.”  The time is right.  You will immediately feel lighter, and more open space will provide an uplift in your spirit.  Who doesn’t need that?

IF SOMETHING YOU TRIED LAST YEAR DIDN’T WORK OUT, KEEP TRYING DIFFERENT WAYS UNTIL IT DOES WORK.

If it’s a good goal for you, there’s likely more than one way to accomplish it.  Try, try again in new and different ways.  Maybe the timing wasn’t right, but the plan was.  Ask close friends or colleagues what they would do.  Valued opinions and objective third parties may well be the sounding board you need and provide the brilliant idea you were seeking.

BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS.

No more excuses!  Take that class, pursue that hobby, go to that place you’ve always wanted to see.  Just do it!  Spend some time on you. I just signed up for a comprehensive first aid course because I feel that would be good knowledge to have.  But I sure could use a trip to the Bahamas … (grin).

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, because every day we are bombarded with the bad.  Sometimes you need to go for a walk and admire nature, the changing leaves, a lake, a puppy, your neighbor’s flower garden.  Take a walk, look at the sky, and take deep breaths.  A survey of centenarians (100 years old and over) shows they attribute their longevity to simple pleasures like walking barefoot, watering their garden, eating their favorite food, swimming, etc.

TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO THINK POSITIVELY.

Yes, much is wrong with our world today, but there is still much good in it.  Add to that list of positives.  Go forth, do good things, be a better person, and make a difference for others.  Volunteer to help someone do what they can’t do alone.  Give, knowing they can’t give back to you.  The rewards are far greater than you know!  It comes back ten-fold and gives 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 December 28, 2015 at 11:53 am  Comments (8)  
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