Dangers of Choosing a Company Based on Their Low Commission

Everyone loves to save money, but cutting corners on some services is just not advisable.  One such service is when you hire a professional estate liquidator due to the relocation of a parent, downsizing, or the loss of a loved one.

The emphasis here is on the word professional.    The estate sale professional is one who has dedicated much time, care, concern, diligence, devotion, education, research, plus so much more to attain the skills required to conduct a successful estate sale for their clients.  This professional works countless hours and endures many sleepless nights for their clients, constantly learning and navigating an ever-changing industry and dealing with an increasingly difficult public of buyers.

Conducting an estate sale is not just about organizing and displaying, nor as easy as it appears.  Genuine professionals do it well and make it look easy, even though it is really very hard.  They truly earn their commission because of all they know how to do, including how to maximize sale proceeds.

Saving those few dollars selecting the wrong company could end up costing you!

Consumers Beware

This industry is inundated with pop-up or fly-by-night companies that appear out of nowhere.  While there are exceptions to every rule, we see the following often:

  • Many of them have little to no industry training, skills, or understanding of the scope of the work that lies ahead of them.
  • They often know little about today’s market and what items will sell for.
  • They often sell at very low prices and then depart.
  • Some don’t even price items or research the value of higher-end pieces.
  • Sometimes they leave a mess behind for the client to pick up and handle.
  • The sale proceeds are often quite low, because they didn’t make the effort to make the sale as successful as possible.
  • They may not pay the client in a pre-determined time frame or offer an accounting of what was sold.
  • To get the contract signed, they undercut with a low commission, claiming they will do the same things as their professional competitors, but will they?

PLEASE do not hire a company based on commission alone.  Find out what the commission includes, research the company, and make your decision based on sound information and facts.

If the commission is very low, one must ask how they can afford the proper resources: enough staff to organize/display/watch the crowd effectively, security to minimize theft, advertising, appropriate prices, proper signage, social media, and more.

Lower commission can also bring lower effort.  Unless it is a very simple estate sale, what normally suffers is quality:

  • Quality of care
  • Quality of service
  • Quality in research
  • Quality in diligent preparation

These qualities are attributes of a professional, not a bargain-basement business.

KNOW WHO YOU ARE HIRING!  The time it takes to find those true professionals is time well spent.

©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.

 

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The Many Hats of an Estate Liquidator

I first published this article on The American Society of Estate Liquidators® (ASEL) website in October 2014.  I thought you’d appreciate the information as you select a professional estate liquidator to help you downsize or clean out a parent’s home.  If you’ve already used an ASEL liquidator, I’d love to hear your comments on the many hats they wear.

Many Hats Estate LiquidatorMany people are under the impression that an estate liquidator is someone who puts on glorified yard sales.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Professional estate liquidators wear many hats on any given day with a common goal for their client as well as for themselves:

  • to maximize sale proceeds,
  • lighten the burden of our client families,
  • treat each other with respect, and
  • help our clients move forward.

In the process of doing so, we must possess a great deal of knowledge to guide our clients along the way.  We don’t just organize and set up for a sale.  We:

  • clean items that haven’t seen the light of day in decades,
  • tirelessly research these items,
  • make calls to private buyers that we know will be interested in a particular item or collection,
  • figure out the best way to set up to maximize the sale,
  • price items appropriately,
  • coordinate sending high-end items to proper selling venues,
  • coordinate all crews,
  • manage our clients, and the list goes on.

Often the client is not aware of just how much back-breaking work and time is invested before the door ever opens for the estate sale.  We take 50, 60, 70 years of accumulation and sort through it, research it, clean it, organize it and sell it within a week or so.  That’s amazing in and of itself!   It is up to us to educate our clients so they do understand that we truly earn our commission and do our very best for them.

Below you find just a sampling of what professional estate liquidators engage in every single day, early mornings to late evenings, and seven days a week.

We have bled, sweat, and cried our way through some estates, and dealt with poor working conditions too.   There isn’t much we’re afraid of; we tackle the task at hand like a linebacker.

We wear this challenging badge with honor because we love what we do, no matter how much we get beat up in the process.

Detective – We sort through years of long forgotten items that have been crammed in boxes and cubbies.  Often family cannot find important papers (titles, Will) or a sentimental item, but many times we find them.  We know where to look, have a good idea of where things could be hidden, and we know what these items are, or how to find out.  This is the fun part!

Archeologist – We dig and dig and dig.  By the end of the day, we are covered in dirt.  We unearth one layer at a time searching for old artifacts and treasures.  We handle carefully and lovingly the items we uncover which have value or meaning.  This is painstaking, but necessary.

Magician – While it appears to the client that we made it all disappear as if by magic, we know the levels of complexity it takes to empty the estate.  “Can you do a sale this weekend?”  There is no magic.  Only hard work, the ability to professionally multi-task, knowing the right people, and selecting the right staff.

Bellhop – Who’s carrying the family baggage; the client, you, or both?  Stay focused and advise as necessary.  Our ears are bent with family lore (and who did what to whom)!

Firefighter – Estate professionals put out fires every day, whether it comes from prospective buyers or the sellers, or anything in between, including the emotions our clients go through.

Police/Law Enforcement – We keep peace and order in these estates, enforce our ethical policies, “law down the law” according to the rules for how each sale should be run.  These are in place to ensure a pleasant estate sale day, encourage good behavior, and keep the flow moving.

Counselor/Clergy – We listen, validate, encourage, support, and hear confessions and stories.  It is part of our job to offer support, including emotional support within reason.

Accountant/Administrator – Pay the bills/employees, handle the contracts, handle brokering details, tally estate proceeds; we do it all.

Umpire – Calling “safe” and “out” for not only attendees and clients, but also monitoring our staff conduct and ourselves as well.

Train Conductor – We prevent derailment, get everyone on-board, and get the clients where they need to be.

Psychic – Can you predict human behavior based on all of your estate experience?  Yes, you can.  We’re very good at reading people and understanding motives.

Nurse/Doctor – Not only do we help heal many of our clients who are heavy laden and would have a very difficult time going through the process alone, we must remember the most important rule:  First, do no harm.  Clients come first.  In the literal sense, we have all mastered first aid, as we bleed in nearly every estate!

Construction worker – We build this business from the ground up and create a very strong, honest/ethical foundation to weather the storms.  If the foundation is not strong, we need to rebuild, remodel, tear down, or bring in a new addition.

Referee – Keeping the peace on all sides, at all times.

These are just a few of the many hats estate sale professionals wear on any given day, but there are many more that often go unnoticed;  employer, exterminator, garbage man, dumpster gal, recycler, haul/drop-off person, organizer, companion, cleaning service, broker, miner, etc.

How much can one truly professional estate liquidator accomplish?  It’s all in a day’s work!

©2014 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 19, 2016 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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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.

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen

Living in an ever-changing world, I have concerns about the industry I love so much.  It has so many excellent qualities:

  • helping others during very challenging times,
  • serving the community in a positive way,
  • making a difference in the lives of those who are suffering,
  • offering a skill set not many people have,
  • guiding people towards trusted resolutions, to name a few.

But as with everything else in life, it has changes too.  You’ve got the good in the industry and the not-so-good.  While I have tremendous respect for my colleagues, and they have respect for me, there are many “Estate Experts” that are suddenly popping up in the marketplace.  I need this blog to circulate and help guide people away from these pop-up companies who claim to be experts, and are no such thing!

I am in a unique position, receiving close to 1,000 emails a week regarding the industry, sad stories, and complaints against companies I have never heard of and neither has anyone else.  Having written books and many articles, people gravitate towards me for answers.  I am all too happy to provide answers, as long as they can handle the truth.

Friends, you must be careful out there!  There is good and bad in every aspect of life; that includes all occupations, mine included.

  • Do not be fooled by fancy talk, or a “friend of a friend” who will give you a discount.  Talk is cheap.  A professional turns it all into action and gets it done correctly.
  • Don’t be persuaded to use someone whose commission is lower than a true professional.  You often get what you pay for.
  • Don’t feel compelled to use Aunt Martha’s cousin’s brother who “dabbles” in antiques.  They will not know how to maximize the proceeds, in your best interest.
  • Don’t just call someone out of the yellow pages or internet.  Know what you have, then find a way to sell using the best possible option for your possessions.
  • Don’t take the easy or cheap way because it will BOOMERANG and bite you in the rear.
  • Don’t pile up your great grandmother’s estate jewelry and take it to just any jeweler on the corner.  Why would you sell yourself short, when there are professionals who know what they are doing and will compare, communicate, negotiate, and sell it for the highest $$.
  • Don’t give away or throw away anything until a REAL professional walks through your door and advises you on your possessions.  Knowledge is power.  Know the facts.
  • Beware of “Cash Paid” advertisements.  Know who you are dealing with, or you may get low-ball offers.
  • Beware of searching on the internet, unless you know exactly the right way to search.  Know what an item actually sells for, not asking prices.
  • Before any property leaves your home/estate, RESEARCH and make sure you have done your due diligence in finding a reputable company to help you and guide you.
  • Ask for references, credentials, memberships, etc.  Then, CHECK them.
  • Beware of negative online complaints.  Yes, some are justified, but others are not.  Sometimes an upset client can post a negative comment because an item didn’t sell for as much as they expected.  That isn’t fair to mar a liquidator’s reputation.
  • Finally, don’t ignore your instinct.  It’s a powerful tool that tells you when something is good or amiss.

These tips are among the best advice I could ever offer.  They come with decades of experience and a heavy heart for those who have been taken advantage of.

Remember that the majority of estate liquidators are very good at what they do, have a deep passion for the industry, and help clients move forward with their lives.

It only takes one bad apple to soil the bunch.  If you are careful, you’ll choose the best fit for you!

©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.

 

You Probably Don’t Need an Estate Liquidator IF …

Whether you are faced with the grief-filled process of cleaning out your parents’ estate or downsizing to move to a smaller house, an estate liquidator can be the best investment to save time, maximize profit, and keep you from pulling out your hair.

An estate sale professional conducts a public sale to liquidate the household goods.  This sale is normally held on site, but can be held at a warehouse or storefront of the liquidator, especially when a neighborhood does not allow an estate sale.  The estate liquidator is also well-versed in selling online.

The liquidator is responsible for everything from organizing, researching, pricing, advertising, handling employees and attendees during the sale, and the entire client management process.  They deal with just about every detail from their end to conduct a successful sale.

Estate sale professionals like a wide variety of items to offer the public, to ensure a good sale.  This variety acts like a magnet for the public, so if a potential client has only a couple of common upholstered chairs, an old bed, and a lifetime supply of plastic storage containers, an estate liquidator will not be the right fit.

While each liquidator has an idea in their minds about what would make a good sale in their region, most like a mix of items ranging from jewelry and decorative items, to artwork, oddities, collectibles and antiques, cars, and so much more.  After you sign a contract with your liquidator, nothing should be removed to be courteous and fair to the liquidator, or fees will be imposed to make up for the income the liquidator was expecting but has now lost.

To add clarity to the ongoing education of a liquidator’s role and when to call for their services, this listing will serve as your guide.

You probably don’t need to call an estate liquidator IF …

  1. You already removed the best items and all that’s left is low-value items.
  2. The family is still removing things from the estate, and isn’t finished yet.
  3. You allow friends and family to take things from the estate, leaving little behind for the liquidator to have a productive sale.
  4. You haven’t decided what you want to sell or keep yet.
  5. Many of the items you want to sell are in disrepair: broken, re-glued, fractured, bent, stained.
  6. The property is unsafe: no electricity, water, heat, air conditioning, or structural problems.
  7. You are not prepared to sign a contract which is mutually binding.
  8. You are not yet emotionally ready to let go and let the professional commence work.
  9. You remove whatever the family doesn’t want from the house and pile it in the garage.
  10. You think that all old items are very valuable.
  11. You want to remain in the house while the sale is going on.
  12. Your internet search for prices really aren’t values, but simply asking prices.
  13. You are using old insurance appraisals for “values” that are no longer valid.
  14. You think to yourself, “This should have been donated or discarded long ago,” and you’re probably right.
  15. You really need to call a junk man.  Many items found in estates are beyond usability.  Some items have been badly damaged, have an odor, or are in bad condition and should be discarded.

Many estate liquidators also like for clients to not throw anything away until they walk through your estate and take their own inventory.  They may be able to sell some things for you, even if your belongings are not a good fit for an estate sale.  They know what can sell, what’s hot, what’s not, and the prices that items will sell for.

Remember: a professional liquidator is worth their weight in gold!

©2014 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.

Great Expectations and the Blame Game

 
“Don’t blame others for disappointing you.  Blame yourself for expecting too much.”  – Unknown
 

Though it sounds harsh, we need to take a close look at our expectations and learn how to keep them in neutral.  We have turned into a society that expects the world to be at our beck and call.  We’re often entitled and don’t understand why we can’t have what we want … now!  Maybe this is one reason why people are pretty cranky these days; society is headed in an unpleasant direction.

I share some of my innermost thoughts to help keep expectations in check.  I’m seeing people, on a national level, being unreasonable when it comes to what possessions and estate items are selling for these days.  Although there are multiple reasons for this, we need to look longer and deeper into the reasons before blaming the estate sale professional, auctioneer, consignment company, etc.

Each time I hear someone say, “Why are things selling so low?  Why hasn’t the market come back yet?  I just don’t understand!” I am really surprised.  If you are watching the news, the internet, or any other global source, it should come as no surprise that things are a little crazy in the world.  Despite what mainstream media announces, the economy from our perspective (the sellers) is not improving.

It is currently, and will remain, a buyer’s market for quite some time.

Personal property is low, just like almost everything else.  Our expectations should remain fairly low until such a time that these items regain popularity or collect-ability, when and if that time comes back.

We, the sellers of personal property, know the market; one of our faults may be not explaining this completely to our clients.  We need to do our best to fully explain the poor economy, the flooding of the market from our older loved ones leaving us, the boomers downsizing, and our younger adults not wanting much stuff.  Flooding of the market is a concept easy to understand, once it is explained.

I have also attributed the client blame, which I hear from estate professionals, to several factors outside our realm of influence.

  1. People need money, or need to preserve the money they have.
  2. People are worried about the heavy costs of healthcare, especially long-term chronic care.  How long can they keep their parents’ care going if they outlive their money, which many are doing?
  3. People believe family lore about how valuable certain pieces were, only to be side-swiped with a realistic fair market value.  This derails them and rapidly deflates their bubble of expectation.  They thought these items would sell for a small fortune, and in most cases, they don’t.
  4. When times were good, our clients paid top dollar for nice, well-made furniture; often thousands of dollars were spent.  Retail no longer exists in our world, so forget about retail.  This furniture will not sell for 75% or even 50% of what you paid for it in most cases.  Prepare yourself for 25% to 30%.  If it sells for more, consider that a fortunate occurrence.
  5. When all of this knowledge converges and comes tumbling down, the property sellers often get slammed with anger and frustration.
  6. People need to understand that most possessions do not appreciate in value, even if they are special and expensive.
  7. Unfortunately, you may have paid too much for items in the past.  That cannot justify a high or unrealistic price when you sell them.

I really want my voice to reach both the consumers and my colleagues in the industry.  There are always two sides.  IF an estate professional does their due diligence in every respect, is it fair for the client to be harsh towards the professional, due to unrealistic expectations?  This is why communication is so important!

  • Look at the economy.
  • Look at other people going through tough times and how quickly styles, lifestyles, and people are changing.
  • Look at the market with a reasonable eye.
  • Keep your expectations in neutral.

We’re all in this boat together!

©2014 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.

What Fair Market Value is NOT

As an appraiser, I have to understand the definition of Fair Market Value (FMV). As confusing as FMV can sometimes be for the professional, I can imagine how convoluted it must be for the lay person.

Under the United States Treasury regulation 1.170-1(c), Fair Market Value is defined as:

The price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under the compulsion to buy or compulsion to sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.

That definition simplified everything, didn’t it? I think not.

For someone who does not understand that definition and all that it implies, it can be left up to their own imaginations to fill in the blanks and specifics, which can be a very bad thing. The person who does not understand will conjure up crazy, inflated “values” that are not values at all; they are merely asking prices they found online. This is NOT Fair Market Value.

If you are at an estate sale and you and the seller exchange $20 for an item, and neither of you are being forced into this exchange, that $20 is the FMV for that day and moment. If both you and the seller have all the basic facts, the item is a flat screen TV that works and you agree on a price, and you are not being forced to buy or sell, it was a mutually agreeable transaction. This is Fair Market Value.

Let’s talk about other things that are NOT Fair Market Value:

  • It is not what you paid for an item (most people pay high retail and not FMV).
  • It is not wishful thinking. True values are arrived at with careful research and methodology.
  • It is not family lore. We know the stories of how “valuable” mom always said an item was, but that is not fair market value. Many of our older moms may not understand how very different things are today, or why younger women have little interest in their prized possessions.
  • It is not outdated appraisal values that were probably written for insurance purposes or in a much healthier market.
  • It is not what you think it should be, nor the amount of money needed to pay bills.
  • It is not the asking price you see on a similar item on the internet or Ebay. Asking prices are just asking prices. We’re interested in what it actually SOLD FOR.
  • It is not based on sentimentality (how much you, or a loved one, cherished it).
  • It is not about how old it is or how long you’ve had it.  “Old” doesn’t necessarily mean it has value.

Everybody seems to have their own idea of fair market value, but very few I hear about are actually “fair.” At the end of the day, the market is what it is. All we can do is our very best to educate our clients, even if they don’t want to hear what we have to say.

Bottom line: An item is worth what someone will give you for it. Always enlist the help of a professional to guide you through, when you don’t have the answers.

©2014 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 Value of Kindness in a Value-Less Estate

The old song “Break It to Me Gently” reminds us that any time bad news is coming, we’d rather hear it gently and compassionately than point-blank and hurtful. Many times in life we will be the deliverer of, and recipient of, less than stellar news. How we deliver it, and how we receive it, is a testament to our personal and professional character.

When we are called into an estate, we walk in completely objective, prepared to tell our clients the truth of what we see. The trouble is that sometimes our clients do not want to hear what we have to say. They may feel, because they paid so much for an item, it should have increased in value. They may feel that if they have an antique, it must be worth a fortune.

We hear the stories of “mom always said this was worth a fortune.” The family folklore gets juicier with the passage of time; therefore the items must be super valuable. How difficult to be the bearer of bad news, but we must remind our clients politely not to shoot the messenger.

Sometimes, hopefully not too often, we hear stories of estate professionals who are simply too direct or gruff with elderly clients. These professionals have lost their sensitivity somewhere along the way. Some might insult the client accidentally or intentionally. Some slam down the values of their items. Some say “no one would ever want this stuff” or “you don’t have anything good enough for me to sell.” What these professionals have forgotten is the art of being tactful and kind.

It is professional and right to be honest and upfront. It is good to guide the client to a place where they have some solutions, even if you yourself cannot help them.

It is the “best of the best” in this industry that can do all of these things with a kind face and a gentle heart.

There are ways to lower the boom without lowering the spirit. Certainly there are those who feel being blunt is the way to go. These believe that our clients need a firm voice and words to make them understand their possessions are not going to be worth much, since we know their expectations are too high. After all, some people are harder to convince than others; you would be correct in that thinking.

But as with all things in life, there is a balance that we professionals must once again recapture, which many of us have forgotten because we are all pressed for time and we multitask at every turn. We’re tired and always in search of that perfect estate. Sometimes you get it. Sometimes you don’t.

Food for thought: How would each of us like to be spoken to if we were faced with selling our own possessions or the possessions of a parent? What if the items a professional slammed belonged to our moms?

It is far easier to see our side of things because we do this every day. It is far more difficult to take a moment and step outside of ourselves, to see how it feels on the flip side. This one act will separate you from the mediocre and make you among the elite in this industry.

©2014 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.

Where, O Where, Have All the Experts Gone?

Experts in antique books, stamps, silversmith, woven rugs, Persian rugs, clocks, estate jewelry, advertising, coins, etc. are getting harder to find for several reasons:

  1. They have died.
  2. They are up in years and no longer practice.
  3. They have gone out of business due to lack of interest and sales.
  4. The younger generations aren’t interested in learning the craft of their elders.

Now we are left with a shortage of rich-with-experience “old-timers” in these specialty areas.

  • How will we be able to identify historic items and other pieces of significance after they are gone?
  • How will we ever know the stories behind such items?
  • Without these elders and their expertise, what will we have to teach our children and grandchildren?

This wealth of information has fallen on the deaf ears of the younger generations; now they have no trade to fall back on in life.  It’s really sad, but it’s their decision to make.

I was in Arizona a couple of years back and talked with some of the Native Americans.  They instantly saw how I lit up holding their silver jewelry, wondering how they achieved a certain shape, scroll, or color.  This conversation led to another, when I asked the elder silversmith if he had taught his son and grandson his wonderful skills.

Silver_Buckles

“Neither wanted to learn,” he said.  “Now they have their fancy phones and games, but they have no way to make a living.  They don’t know much.”

Spotting a weaver, I went over and talked with her as well.  You’d be amazed how well a huge smile opens doors.  Hers was the same story.  All of these middle-aged and older people learned their skills from their parents and grandparents, but very few of their children were interested.

As someone who loves the estate industry, you could say that I study the possessions of those already passed.  I wonder how appraisers in the future will be able to do their job, as experts die off.

This Estate Lady is collecting unusual books about all of the topics I mentioned at the top.  At the rate everything is being read online, the real books containing rare information will be considered trash one day.  I can see some of these books being dumped.

I know what is inside those books is more valuable than the things I appraise.  They contain knowledge, and you can’t put a price on that!

©2014 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 September 4, 2014 at 9:45 am  Comments (3)  
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