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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The Blockade

Obstacles are everywhere in life:

  • The teenager left a mound of clothes to step over
  • You’re stuck in morning traffic
  • Everyone’s in the kitchen at the same time
  • You reach the grocery checkout and there’s long lines

Think about how much time is spent waiting to either go around or jump over obstacles and you’ll see it’s an astounding amount of time we can never regain.

In one aspect of life, I see obstacles where they should not be.  In my estates, I work closely with boomer children to guide them in making solid decisions regarding their parents’ possessions:

  • what should be sold
  • how it should be sold
  • how to maximize the sale
  • options and resources

My work also places me in the nitty-gritty of “family affairs”, many situations that are not for the faint of heart.  In the last few years, I am seeing siblings doing things against each other more than ever before, and I call it The Blockade.

A good example of The Blockade is when one sibling moves in with a parent, either to help with their needs or because the sibling is financially strapped and needs a place to live.  Often, it is both.  This sibling is usually helpful with the parent and keeps the home clean, helps cook, cares for mom, etc.  The problem takes place after mom is placed in another residence like assisted living or passes away.  Getting that sibling to move out of the family home can take an act of God.  Literally.

I see these children (not all, but many of them) not want to budge and often force the hand of the executor.  Sometimes they feel justified because they did so much work and offered care for the parent.  I understand that.  However the entitlement mentality does not belong here at this place and time, because mom’s will often stipulates the home is to be sold and possessions divided.

Rarely is this sibling the executor or legal decision maker.  Since I work with the legal decision maker, I get a front row seat to this event.  Sad to watch!  The sibling living in the home will use it as a storage facility, settling in for the long run and making life very hard on the other siblings and especially the executor.  Resentment grows; you can figure out the remainder of the story.

I have seen these refusing-to-budge siblings throw fits, threaten, etc.  The bottom line is if the legal documents are prepared ahead of time and the instructions are clear that the home is to be sold and divided among the heirs, that is what must be carried out.

It is not okay to be The Blockade.  I can see both sides and I understand the emotional ties to a home and possessions can be very strong.  But nothing ever stays the same.  Everything transitions to some other place.  Life is ever-changing.  Sometimes things cannot remain the same, even if we want them to.

This is about the parent’s wishes and fulfilling them for ALL involved!

I recently had the pleasure of working with an executor who had to deal with this situation.  He did not want to hurt his sibling.  He had already been incredibly patient.  His situation was fairly simple as the will specified what had to be done.  I encouraged him to:

  1. Document correspondence to that sibling, including emails and certified letters, stressing mom’s will be followed.
  2. Offer the sibling a fair amount of time to vacate and give a date when they will need to be moved out to a new home.  (This sibling had been dragging their feet for a year now.)  They might say they have no money and no place to live, but they have to put forth effort and do what is legally and morally right.  If they are in ill-health, try to help them with local resources.
  3. Enlist the advice of an attorney if you cannot resolve this issue on your own.  No one wants to do this, but in some cases, you may have to meet one to find out the best course of action because of all the problems arising from The Blockade.  Perhaps it can be resolved peacefully, which is optimal for everyone.
  4. Hire a realtor.
  5. Be present, or have a representative present, when they do move out.  In this case, items were disappearing daily which is certainly not fair to the other siblings.  Have the locks changed immediately after the sibling leaves.
  6. Hire an estate sale professional immediately after they have moved out to sell the contents of the home.  www.ASELonline.com
  7. Everyone move forward with their lives.  Try your best to keep the peace.

Life is hard enough without added obstacles.  Do your best to never become one.  If you know someone who is currently The Blockade, talk to them about how their actions are impacting others.  The goal is to be part of the resolution, not part of the problem.

©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.

 

A New Take on “Taking”

Tips for Letting Go When Handling an Estate

There’s nothing simple or easy about letting go, especially when you are handling the estate of a loved one.  People have the tendency to keep too much from the estate.  They often find comfort in the things and the memories attached to them.

Being able to let go:

  • brings closure and peace of mind
  • minimizes family and marital strife
  • prevents future worries when your children are burdened with the same stuff
  • help avoid storage costs
  • prevents cluttering your own home

When you keep too much:

  • You realize you no longer need what you kept.
  • Your own home becomes overwhelmed with stuff.
  • Storage costs far outweigh the value of what is stored.
  • Your kids and grandkids don’t want what you selected to keep for them.
  • You may experience guilt. “Mom would be so upset if I sold that.” or “Mom said it was valuable so I should keep it.”  Escort guilt to the door.  Life is hard enough without the burden of needless guilt.

What do YOU want?

It’s perfectly acceptable to let go of possessions, especially if you don’t absolutely cherish them.  If no one in the family wants the items, have an estate sale professional sell to those who will cherish them like mom and dad did.  Unfortunately, families rarely get to see how happy new buyers are when they find these items.  I’d much rather have someone who can appreciate the items, than to keep them stuffed in boxes taking up space in my home … unappreciated.

TIPS

  1. Don’t keep items just because.  Ask yourself if you really need it and have a purpose for it.
  2. Record a video of the estate as it was when your loved one lived there.
  3. Photographs are a great idea to preserve the memories without hanging on to the stuff.
  4. Give to those less fortunate.  Maybe your loved one had a favorite charity.  Even if you have an estate sale, arrange for the estate sale professional to donate the items that do not sell.
  5. Be honest and realistic.  Will you really use this item?  Why are you keeping it?
  6. Set healthy boundaries and realize that space is a limiting factor.
  7. If the estate needs to pay off debt, take as little as possible, so the remainder can be sold by a professional and proceeds applied to the debt.

©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.

How to Stretch Your Hard-Earned Dollar

The advantages of shopping at estate sales and other great places

EstateSale

We’ve seen some interesting trends in the personal property market over the last few years.  Staggering statistics for the aging population means a tidal wave of residential contents, and a soft market has put a pinch on many wallets.  Couple this with millions downsizing, simplifying their lives, passing away, divorcing, moving out or the country, etc., and what you have is a healthy buyers market.

My parents used to tell me stories of when they were children during the Depression and what my grandparents did to stretch a buck.  Some of their stories were hard to believe, from grandpa making wine in the cellar and selling it for $1 a bottle, to my other grandfather buying thick sheets of leather to re-sole all the kids’ shoes because they could not afford new shoes.  Dad even mentioned that, as a small boy, he would run down to the butcher to get the bones before anyone else did, so grandma could make bread and bone broth with vegetables.

Regardless of economic times, we should learn an important lesson from the previous generation and be practical with our money so it goes farther for us, especially when we work so hard to earn it.

Estate sales, yard sales, auctions, and second-hand stores are all wonderful ways to stretch your hard-earned dollar.  Estate sales have fabulous items and the widest possible variety of anything you could want or need: furniture, decorative items, tools, jewelry, clothing, antiques, collectibles, etc. (and I do mean et cetera).

Many of these items are gently used or still new in the box.  The beauty of these sales is you never know what you might find; the thrill of the hunt is part of the excitement.

Negotiating your price is fun depending on the estate sale professional’s policies.  Please be fair-minded when negotiating.  After all, the family may very well need the financial assistance from the sale to help with mom’s illness or health care bills.

Here are some advantages for shopping at estate sales:

  • This is the ultimate in recycling
  • It helps a family just like yours
  • Designer/brand name items for much less than retail
  • Most furniture is made from hardwoods, and well made
  • Find out-of-print books for avid readers
  • Hard to find vintage items
  • Find unique items from around the world
  • Find older electronics and record albums
  • You may find a treasure/investment
  • A great place to find eclectic gifts
  • Something for everyone

Visit some estate sales this weekend and enjoy yourself!  You never know what you will find!

©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 August 27, 2015 at 10:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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Estate Sale vs. Yard Sale

One man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure.  What you may consider wonderful and unique, another may disagree with, but that’s the beauty in all sales.  Through the years, we have learned that many clients and prospective clients feel an estate sale and a yard sale are pretty much the same thing.  This is not the case; please read on.

Estate sales are a powerful way to empty a home, but they require knowledge, skill, and training to do so.  Estate sale professionals always look for a wide variety of estate items when deciding to accept and conduct an estate sale.  Since the public is invited into the physical estate for the actual sale, it is necessary to have this good variety of items to act as a magnet to attract buyers, who are interested in just about anything.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be the entire contents of the home, but liquidators are looking for as much as possible to sell.

Yard sales are an entirely different venue to sell items, one that is far less complicated.  It is much smaller and contained, and its purpose is often just thinning out unwanted items.

Here is a definition of both sales:

An estate sale is a sale to dispose of a substantial portion of the items owned by a person who is recently deceased, or who must dispose of his or her personal property to facilitate a move.  Downsizing and divorce are also reasons why an estate sale might be needed.  Estate sales require skill and knowledge of a professional to sell the bulk of a household.

A yard sale/garage sale is an informal, irregularly scheduled event for the sale of used goods by private individuals at their home.  Sellers are not required to obtain business licenses.  Yard sales are held on the seller’s own premises to quickly get rid of used household or personal items (furniture, tools, clothing, etc.) at bargain basement prices.

An estate sale professional does not usually conduct yard sales.

There are many differences between these two sales.

An estate sale is professionally run, for a percentage of the proceeds, and the majority of items are not usually low in value.

A professional estate liquidator is often needed, due to the overwhelming scope of work required to handle the process in the best possible manner with the best possible results.  It is not unusual for this process to become completely overwhelming for those left behind, and the liquidator can often lift a huge burden from the family.

Remember too, that the professional estate liquidator has knowledge and experience with pricing personal property, knows how to research, has trusted resources, and is proficient at attracting the right estate sale buyers, based on what the estate offers.

Sometimes, families attempt to do things on their own by selling or giving away items, leaving only yard sale material.  By then, it is too late for the estate liquidator to offer a successful sale or maximize the proceeds because everything good is gone.

Reasons for an Estate Sale

While the most common reason for an estate sale is death, moving into another residence such as an assisted living facility, downsizing and/or divorce are other personal reasons someone will choose to have an estate sale.

  • In most cases, the children/heirs take what they want, but either don’t want the majority of the home’s contents or lack the space for it.
  • Sometimes a loved one’s will has specifications that all of the personal property be sold and the proceeds be divided equitably among the heirs.
  • To pay debts the estate has incurred, creditors will need to be paid during the settlement process.

Reasons for a Yard Sale

A yard sale thins out the home of unwanted or no-longer-used items.  The children have grown up and it’s time to purge the home in preparation for downsizing.  Toys, clothing, sports equipment, holiday items, etc. can be sold quickly and the remainder is easily donated.

Here is a comparative chart to view the estate sale vs. the yard sale, side by side.

Comparative Chart – Yard Sales vs. Estate Sales

©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 December 31, 2014 at 8:07 am  Comments (1)  
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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.

Estate Items: What’s Hot and What’s Not?

As we head into the new year, we also head into continued uncertainty with our economy, among other challenges.  The past few years have left some battle scars on the personal property industry, and the economy is still in a weakened state.  We are witnessing the market become flooded with traditional furnishings.  One has to wonder:

  1. When will the market return?
  2. What is currently selling well, if traditional furnishings are selling low?

How I wish I had that crystal ball!  Since we don’t, we can only read the trends based on our experience.

This list is not all-inclusive, but just the highlights of the market.  Items on the “NOT selling well” list are still selling but only if prices have been significantly lowered by the seller/liquidator.

Just this week, we saw a fantastic antique English, curly maple chest of drawers sell for $150 at an auction.  A few years ago, that piece would have brought $1,000.

Please don’t blame the seller; this isn’t the seller’s fault.

The market is simply not bearing healthy prices on many items at this time.

This is the new normal.

What’s currently HOT and selling well?

  • Mid century furniture, some Danish modern, designer furniture from this era
  • Military items: Civil War to present day
  • Genuine and costume jewelry
  • Sterling silver/gold/platinum
  • Vintage toys
  • Record albums: classic rock, jazz, blues.  Not opera or classical yet.
  • Vintage electronics and stereos
  • Utilitarian items: housewares, cookware, kitchen ware, tools, camping, etc.
  • Used cars/boats
  • Vintage garden and patio items
  • Guns
  • Yard items/ornamental/garden tools

What’s NOT selling well?

  • Traditional “brown” furniture
  • Glassware: clear etched, cut crystal, pressed glass, etc.
  • China sets and painted porcelains
  • Victorian furniture, other dark heavy antique pieces
  • Holiday items/collections
  • Rugs: Persian, Oriental
  • Collector plates and figurines (Franklin Mint, Bradford Exchange, etc.)
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Common antiques
  • Dining room furniture, hutches
  • Print media: numbered prints, mass-produced art items

If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that things are always changing.  For now and for quite some time to come, these are the trends and predictions.  One day, this will change too; we just don’t know when.

©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.

Beware of Snowballing Family Lore

I would be a rich woman if I had a dollar for every time I heard a family member tell the story of an heirloom in which the story gets bigger and better with every telling.  It’s like the old parable, “The fish that got away was THIS big …” and every time the story is told the fish miraculously gets bigger.

As estate professionals, we have the same challenge when discussing and valuating family heirlooms and other treasured items.  I visit clients in their homes and enjoy each of them as I listen to their stories.  However, I know what the values really are, regardless of the verbal family stories.

The hard part for me, and for the client, is providing proof that the following really happened:

  • “Did you know Abraham Lincoln sat in that chair?”
  • This belt buckle once belonged to Robert E. Lee.”
  • Our grandmother told us Teddy Roosevelt took a picture with daddy, but we don’t know where that picture is.”

We know what these items are worth on a monetary level, but you can’t place a value on sentimentality.  Sentimentality is priceless.  Sentimental items are what we mostly find.

Could some of these family stories actually be true?  Who’s to say.  Perhaps they are.  But without provenance, or history of the piece, it leaves a question mark and it’s impossible to valuate.  The needed proof would be, for example, a photo of Abraham Lincoln really sitting in that chair with the original upholstery, or a document that proves it was at a historic event or with a person of distinction.  Without proof, we can only appraise what we see based on the characteristics or its aesthetic value.  It then becomes just an “old chair.”

I look back into my experiences with all kinds of families and wonder why most people seem to exaggerate about possessions.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • It’s their version of the truth as they see it.
  • To make the item more “valuable”
  • To accentuate the positive.
  • To make the mundane more exciting
  • To give their heirs a legacy they believe is valuable

Maybe Abraham Lincoln did sit in that chair.  Or maybe he sat in one just like it, and that’s how the story got started.  Someone heard what they wanted to hear and generations of tongues did the rest.  It happens in every family.  Remember too, that people hear what they want to hear.

The bottom line is that we professionals don’t want our clients to be disappointed when they go sell these items and the prices brought don’t match the stories behind the pieces.  Very often, this is the case.  Setting your expectations in neutral before the estate process gets started means we all are one step ahead.

Research professionals before you hire them, but then listen to them with an open mind.  We know the items in the majority of our estates, and if we don’t, we can research them.  Have faith that we handle these possessions every day and can advise you correctly and honestly.

©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.

Did You Say “Cockroaches?”

The voice on the phone was very shaky and distressed.  Through her tears, I heard her say, “Doing business with people in your industry is like doing business with cockroaches.”  A knife to my gut would have hurt less.  Those words were truly cutting and very upsetting to those of us in the industry who put our hearts and souls into assisting our clients.

This woman called my office to complain about an estate sale company, one which was completely unfamiliar.  I own and direct The American Society of Estate Liquidators® and complaints regarding our members, who uphold a Code of Ethics, are minimal.  When a complaint is made on our members, usually it is easily remedied, like replacing a widget that was accidentally sold.

Phone calls like this woman’s are starting to come in at an alarming rate, and the complaints are serious.  So serious, some of them are criminal in nature, and law enforcement and the court system become involved.

For someone like me who has done my best to pave the way for ethics, integrity, and high standards in the estate sale business, this is a massive black eye.  It hurts personally.  Some of the customer complaints include not getting paid after a sale is completed.  Liquidator complaints include clients who pull items from a sale, during the sale, when they see how low the prices are and don’t want to pay the liquidator’s imposed fees.

I could never defend estate sale professionals who run an unethical business and cause these people to fall to pieces emotionally.  This is not why the “good ones” went into the business.

We went into business to make a positive difference in the lives of our clients.  We strive to uplift them and their emotional turmoil.

However, I will defend the good estate sale professionals who work from a thorough contract, have explained everything to the client with the client’s agreement, and simply do their best to get the highest proceeds from the sale.

The estate sale professional has the right to earn a good living; the work is back-breaking, disassembling a lifetime of accumulation in just a few short days.  In some cases, the clients expect far too much.  They have not yet awakened to the fact that our economy is weak, despite what the news is promising.

The estate sale professional has the right to charge a fees or commission for items clients give away, take or remove from the sale, even though the clients have signed a contract that they will not do so.  This is taking income from the professional.  This leaves them with egg on their face when the public arrives and screams at them because advertised items are gone.  This is simply not fair.

Courtesy goes both ways!

When searching for an estate sale professional, or any professional service, the responsibility falls on the consumer to research them thoroughly and interview several.

Ask associates and business owners, such as estate planning attorneys and realtors, in your community.  Check Angie’s List and BBB.  Check professional organizations, if they belong to them.  Check references.  Do your due diligence.  Then you will select an estate sale professional who will do a wonderful job for you … not a “cockroach.”

©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