Recently, Antique Trader spoke with Martin Codina, author of the top-selling book, “Liquidating an Estate,” to find out more about his valuable lessons in liquidating.
Antique Trader: There is so much valuable information in “Liquidating an Estate.” What were your goals when determining the book contents?
Martin Codina: I wanted to help families across the country that didn’t seem to have access to positive information about what to do with their inherited personal property. It was because I had written and posted articles on a website about estate sales, that I started to get inquiries from around the country from people who desperately needed to know how to navigate through their deceased mother’s or father’s estates. These people – and many of them were desperate – hadn’t the first clue about how to even start going through a lifetime of someone else’s stuff.
Let’s be clear, it’s hard enough to have to deal with your own affairs, but when you add to that the necessity of selling or dispersing someone else’s personal property, life, to say the least, gets very complex.
Every year in America as many as 2 million people pass away. That means each and every day over 5,000 families are going to find themselves in the situation of not only mourning the loss of a loved one, but now also having the grave responsibility of seeing to the wishes that person may have had concerning their personal property. When you add to that the millions of people every year who move, or downsize from a large home to a much smaller home, the amount of personal property being sold on a yearly basis is truly staggering.
Because these individuals or families have never been faced with such a situation and almost nothing had been written on the subject, I realized too many people were making terrible mistakes, selling items for way too cheap or were paralyzed due to not knowing how to properly disperse and sell their personal property.
A.T.: If someone has decided they will liquidate an estate themselves, in your opinion, what are the top three pieces of advice you would give them?
M.C.: 1. No matter what, always seek out professional advice to best understand what you have, and the best sales strategy to market your personal property.
2. Start your prices high and negotiate them lower as the sale progresses.
3. Make sure you have plenty of help from family and friends during the sale.
A.T.: In your opinion, are there estate items that should not be sold, but discarded? What would they be?
M.C.: It’s a great idea to avoid selling poisons, toxins, solvents, old foodstuffs, as well as any material that could pose any sort of negative health consequence in the person who may purchase those items. This is just common sense, but it also makes good ethical sense and also avoids any sort of legal problem that might arise from selling these categories of household contents.
In some areas it is outright illegal to sell firearms without a license. So by all means make sure to check all local laws before taking on the task of personally selling firearms at your own estate sale. Even in areas where it is completely legal to sell firearms there are often times rules or legal nuances to be aware of.
When opening up your house to the public you have to be prepared to have your house and your privacy invaded. For that reason it is very important that you take great care to remove from your premises all personal papers, especially personal papers of a financial or confidential matter.
A.T.: What’s the biggest misconception or thing that trips people up when liquidating?
M.C.: What I see more often than not, is that people have unreasonable expectations about value. They want to hope that all the objects they’ve inherited are valuable, and that they and their families are going to realize a hefty income from the sale of mom and dad’s household furnishings. Antiques, although definitely considered valuable in the past, are presently selling for deflated prices in today’s marketplace, and that is true of a great many categories of collectibles as well.
People also think that estate sales are like a fire sale; that they can’t sell high-value items for real money. But my experience is that you can sell many tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of personal property at an estate sale, including jewelry, coins and automobiles.
There are many misconceptions about the viability of an estate sale versus an auction.
These arise from various prejudices promulgated by either auctioneers or estate liquidators. What is far more accurate is that value determines venue. Some items, in order to have their value determined, need to be sold at an auction, there’s no question about that. To best determine if an estate sale or auction is the right choice, you will need to do your own due diligence, ask a lot of questions and rely on your instincts.
A.T.: Please give an example or two (from people you’ve talked to) about things they did that caused problems and could have been avoided with advice you give in “Liquidating an
M.C.: The biggest problem that people in this situation face is time. They either rush right in, making rash decisions or they wait so long to take care of the personal property in an estate that they are forced, because circumstances dictate to sell their families’ collections and heirlooms without first doing much in the way of research.
They also think that it is prudent to do it themselves, without input from qualified professionals. Believe me when I tell you there are thousands of people across the country who are absolutely counting on families to conduct their own estate sales. Pickers don’t want to shop at professional estate sales; they have the advantage at private sales.
“Liquidating an Estate” is available at booksellers nationwide, or directly from the publisher at Krausebooks.com or by calling 855-864-2579 (product code U4567).