Part of my job is paying attention to trends and values in the personal property market. We are seeing changes, not only in the marketplace and in values, but also in how families are approaching the selling of items/heirlooms when mom or dad require long-term care. They are running out of money because the high cost of care, and living so long, has taken its toll.
I have had an unusual increase in calls this year from boomer children asking me to sell almost all of the possessions in mom’s home because “we need to keep mom’s care going and we have to sell everything and we need as much money as possible.” Mom might be in assisted living, nursing care, in-home care, etc. and the costs are so heavy; the children are now turning to the sale of personal property to cover the costs.
Let me be the first professional to be honest and as open as possible with you. Families think the sale of the home contents might glean them $50,000 and this is far from the truth in better than 90% of the estates I see. It might surprise you to know that unless you have something extremely rare and extraordinary that can be sold at an upper-tier auction house, chances are very good that you will be grossly disappointed in what the sale brings. The average is $10,000 or less, and we know this won’t cover mom’s care for very long. The biggest mistake I see is people selling sterling, gold, and jewelry for scrap. First, if you have the luxury of a little time, do your research and don’t sell to the first person you go to. Compare. Look for a company as close to the refinery as possible. Secondly, wait until these metals peak again before you sell (if you can).
The children pull out the heirlooms, or what they perceive as heirlooms because they are old pieces, only to be shocked that the Victorian oil painting is actually very common for that period, or have trouble believing the antique walnut table that’s 150 years old is only worth $300. Believe it. This is what we are seeing.
Each day, my phone rings with people asking me to come to the estate and separate the junk from the valuable “antiques.” Today, many antiques are not worth that much and this comes as a shock to the family, who’s thinking they had a way to keep mom comfortable for another 6 months or a year.
Sometimes we do find treasure in homes, like the time I found three $25,00 vases in a basement. The family was overjoyed at this find and it helped them tremendously, but this type of find is rare. Sadly, some of these cable shows give the public the wrong idea. They give the viewer the feeling that what they have is valuable, but we professionals in the field know differently. True, you never know what you have until a professional comes out to look, but the majority of the time, it doesn’t amount to as much as you think it will.
Next week, I’ll share some specific options for disposing of your parents’ possessions to pay for their care.
© 2012 Julie Hall