Have you moved recently? Have you had the responsibility of dispersing/liquidating the estate of a close relative? How about just cleaning out to make more room and simplify your life? If you have faced any of these events, you have also faced another problem – what to do with all the “stuff.”
Some of it you probably want to keep for sentimental attachment, moral obligations or
other intangible reasons, but for most of the rest of it, you just wish it would disappear – for a price of course. Other than just passing an asset along to another relative or even a friend, most forms of dispersal have some sort of an economic benefit. Which one you choose depends on your priorities. Considerations include timing, convenience, economic expectations and family feelings and pressure.
The easiest thing to do, of course, is to load it all up and take it a local charity outlet store. It’s quick, easy and painless. In some cases, if you itemize the load and get a receipt, you can even use it as a tax deduction. Many charitable organizations will even pick up your load, including automobiles.
But what if you want to produce a more direct financial benefit? Then you have to pick a method to sell the inventory and that gets tricky because you almost have too many choices. Your options include selling to a private buyer, selling to a dealer, selling to an auctioneer, consigning to an auctioneer, consigning to a dealer or selling online.
Before you start to sell you need to determine exactly what you have to sell because where you sell important items can be a crucial factor in the final payment you receive. If you have mostly late 20th century small items, a garage sale is fairly quick, but you know how prices go at garage sales. If you have larger items like a bedroom set or a piano, you may need to get some professional help from an appraiser, dealer or auctioneer to help you identify, date and place a value on the big stuff.
Then make an effort to find out where such things are regularly sold. You don’t want to sell a high quality set of furniture, even if it is 20th century, at a smalls auction, a jewelry auction or in a local mini-mall that specializes in Depression glass. Take a look at a good furniture auction or consider putting it in a local estate sale run by an estate sale specialist. The estate sale may be the best way to take care of an entire household at one time. Another idea for a big inventory sale is to sell it outright to an auctioneer. Some auctioneers will buy the entire household, right down to the pots and pans. He will pay you a flat negotiated price and you are done. The auctioneer then takes the risk of what things sell for at auction. Of course, you will probably receive a lot less than the proceeds of the auction this way, but it is quick and you get paid immediately.
Of course, you may just want to place an advertisement in the local paper and wait for
buyers to knock down your door – if you write a good ad, adequately describe the article and price it reasonably. This will bring you the best price but may take the longest and is the most risky because you may have to let strangers walk through your house. Or you can wholesale it to a dealer who will pay you about 50 percent of the estimated retail value, but then again – you are done.
By consigning something for sale you are asking someone else to store, advertise and sell your item or items for you and collect and account for the proceeds. This does not come cheap and usually doesn’t happen quickly. The two primary avenues of consignment are to a dealer or to an auctioneer.
Many dealers will take consignments to place on their showroom floor but they must be priced in accordance with the rest of his inventory. And they often will place a time limit on the arrangement. If the item doesn’t sell in “X” number of days, you must pick it up and remove it from the store. For this service a retail dealer will charge you anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the final sale price.
You can also consign to an auction house. The auctioneer will require a commission based on a percentage of the final sale price, often 20-30 percent, but you can, if you and the auctioneer agree, place a minimum bid – the reserve – on any item to assure that it does not sell for a garage sale price. If bidding doesn’t reach the reserve, you take the piece back and probably will have to pay the auctioneer some reasonable expenses for the transportation, storage and handling of the item.
Just make sure you have all aspects of the agreements in writing before embarking on the sale. If you discover that you have what may be some very valuable articles, such as 18th century furniture or art, you may want to consult the appraisal services of major regional and national auction services.
No matter how you decide to dispose of some of the excess baggage of your life, be sure you know what you are disposing of and what the ramifications may be on family members who have or think they may have a claim or right to the merchandise. Be careful.
Editor’s Note: For more sound advice and insights about how to choose the best avenue for selling items, check out the top-selling book, Liquidating an Estate by Martin Codina. The book is published by Krause Publications, which is part of the same parent company as Antique Trader.
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