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WHAT IS AN ESTATE SALE?
An Estate Sale is the liquidation of the assets and property contained in a personal residence or business building of the owner or his heirs. It is usually conducted on the premises, maybe the home or the business. over a relatively brief span of time, usually an extended weekend. It is not necessary for the owners to have died to host an Estate Sale, although that is most often the case. In some circumstances, the owners may be downsizing, moving, or liquidating for financial reasons.
If the owner or a representative has decided to have an Estate Sale conducted by me and my company, a contract is drawn up which specifies the details of the sale: when, where, payment details, specifications, and conditions. Both parties sign the contract; each keeps a copy. For the owners, the next order of business is to remove from the property any possessions that the family wants to keep. We will need a key to the property, and then the staging begins. Arranging and re-arranging are often done to facilitate the overall decorative appeal and to assist buyers in finding items more easily. For example, when a family resides in a home, the decorative accents are generally placed throughout the house. For an estate sale, these items are all gathered together so that the buyers may see all the same items at once. Let’s say that the owners collected Lladro figurines which are placed all over the house. I will assemble all the figurines, clean them, make any repairs, and display them all together in a single cabinet or location. Buyers can see all the Lladro figurines in the house all at once.
Staging a home can take time. Depending on the size of the dwelling, staging can take two weeks or more. The idea is to arrange the contents most attractively and, in essence, to turn the home into a store. Then the pricing begins. This is where I make some of the most crucial appraisals; consequently, a thorough knowledge of antiques, collectibles, furniture styles, vintage clothing, art, and specialty items is my best and strongest asset. It does the client no good to have a collection of Sabino glass, for example, if I do not know what it is or its value. I do great amounts of research in pricing some items. If I don’t know the value of something myself, I will consult an expert in the field. Pricing must also take into account the fact that the second day of an Estate Sale offers the remaining unsold items at a discount, sometimes even up to 50 percent. I must walk a fine line between pricing too high on Day One and selling too low on Day Two. My goal is to maximize the bottom line for my clients as much as I can while at the same time keeping my large and loyal customer base satisfied with fair prices for their purchases.
After the sale is over, the owner and I will decide what to do with any items that are left. Options can include the owner keeping the items, donating them to a church, giving them to the Salvation Army or any other charitable organization, consigning the items, or reselling on a third day at a garage sale. Then the house will be cleaned and readied for sale. After all sales are concluded, I will remit to the owner the percentage of the gross proceeds that have been agreed upon. The owner may wish to keep the price tags as a type of inventory of the sale, and he may wish to have a set of photos I took of every room. An estate sale generally takes me one month to do, start to finish.
WHAT ARE CONSIGNMENTS?
Let’s say that after the Estate Sale is over that a large Victorian marble-topped dresser is still unsold. If both parties agree, I can take the dresser on Consignment, which means that I will transport the item to the next Estate Sale where it is hoped that it will be sold. Consignments are useful alternatives for both the owner and me because they prevent the item from being sold at a price well below its value. The type of and number of consignments can vary after each sale; the owner and I can decide what items, if any, will be taken on consignment.
WHAT COSTS ARE INVOLVED?
Each Estate Sale is unique. Unless there are extremely difficult circumstances, my fee is 35% of the gross proceeds of the Estate Sale. This means that if the Estate Sale generates $10,000, the owner will receive $6.500, and I will receive $3,500. Out of my 35% come ALL the expenses related to the sale: advertising, labor, materials, photos, security, credit card fees, taxes, delivery, transportation of consignments, cleaning, and so on. I generally keep a staff of 7 employees on the payroll for each sale; I pay them between $10 and $15 dollars an hour (Security is $35 an hour), I provide meals, transportation reimbursement, and uniforms. After all expenses are paid, I generally realize between 10 and 12 percent of the gross proceeds. These proceeds are reported to the government, and I pay income taxes on these earnings.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT AS A CLIENT?
From me, you can expect unquestioned honesty and integrity, a timely and well-advertised sale, a large and very loyal customer base (over 2,000 email contacts), a friendly and efficient staff, professional and thorough attention to details, a long list of satisfied clients (references available on request), a stellar reputation, expertise garnered over a lifetime of working with antiques, collectibles, jewelry and art, and a reverence for the delicate nature of the job at hand. You are giving me the key to your home; I regard this as a sacred trust, much like the attorney who handles your will, and I am very cognizant of and appreciative of the trust placed in me. Another aspect that I regard very seriously is Identity Theft. I go through every single item in the house and look through every page of every book to retrieve any piece of paper that might contain references to the owner’s identity. Nothing leaves the house that has any information that could be used in identity theft.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN “ANTIQUE” AND A “COLLECTIBLE”?
The generally accepted rule of thumb, by antique dealers, authors, experts in the field, and even the United States government, is that an item must be at least 100 years old or older to be classified as an Antique. “Vintage” is a term seen frequently to describe something that is old but not necessarily an antique. Vintage clothing is an example. Hats worn by ladies of the 1920s and 1930s could be considered “vintage.” Purses made of Bakelite from that same time period would be considered either as Vintage or “Collectibles,” a useful and generic term to date items that are not antique yet and perhaps too new to be vintage. Collectibles are often regarded as dating from the second half of the 20th century. Coke collections and Elvis records and Barbie dolls are examples of items that are considered “Collectibles.” VALUE is not necessarily tied to age, however. Just because an item IS an antique does not mean that it is more valuable than an item that is a collectible. A Collectible first-issue Barbie (1959-60) could be worth thousands, whereas a genuinely Antique doll could be priced only in the hundreds. Maker and condition are VERY important in determining value. Additionally, today’s collectible is often tomorrow’s garage sale discard. Remember Cabbage Patch dolls? Collector’s Plates? Further, the advent of the internet has made everyone’s collections worth much less because we can access so many of them. At one time, a handmade quilt was valued in the upper hundreds. Because so many proliferate online, the prices have dropped to around $50. The same diminished value can also be applied to Hummel figurines and all those Topps Baseball cards produced in the 1980s. Finally, appraisers must be able to distinguish between a genuine antique chair and a reproduction of an antique chair, and value is ultimately based on provenance, rarity, quality, and condition.