Sell Your Stuff

I was recently interviewed by Consumer Reports on reasons for hiring an appraiser and the various options for consumers to sell household goods and collections.  It has some good points, and starts out with a bang with some nice self promotion mentioning me and a recent discovery in a storage locker. Additionally, the image was based upon my discovery. The article also mentions finding qualified appraisers through the International Society of Appraisers, Appraisers Association of America and American Society of Appraisers.

The article also included a fun flow chart on how and where consumers can sell there personal property based upon value with conclusions such as find an appraiser, donate, yard sale, consignment store or auction.

Consumer Reports (click the source link below for the full article)
Todd Sigety, an antiques appraiser in Alexandria, Va., recently got a call from a woman who wanted him to look through the contents of a storage unit that belonged to her late aunt. “She didn’t think there was anything worth keeping but wanted to make sure before she threw stuff out,” he says. Sure enough, there wasn’t much of value—except for one painting. After a little research Sigety realized it was the work of a well-known South American artist; Christie’s will auction it this fall. The presale estimated value: $30,000 to $50,000.

Of course, you may not have a masterwork, or even a minor work, hiding in a storage unit. But your basement and attic may be bursting with possessions you no longer want, and you might be surprised by the amount you can pocket if you know the best ways to sell your stuff. “I find people can easily make $1,000 to $2,000 when they sell their unwanted stuff,” says Carolyn Schneider, author of “The Ultimate Consignment & Thrift Store Guide” (iUniverse, 2012). You’ll be helping both the environment—your things won’t end up in a landfill—and your bottom line.

Click image to expand
You’ll make the most money by matching your goods with the best places to sell them, whether it’s an auction house, a consignment store, a website, or a yard sale. Just keep in mind that the IRS may want a cut of your profits. It taxes the proceeds from the sale of collectibles as capital gains, generally at a rate of 28 percent.

Under IRS regulations, collectibles include works of art, rugs, antiques, metals (such as gold, silver, and platinum bullion), gems, stamps, and coins. Your profit or loss is the difference between the basis, usually your purchase price, and the sale price. If you end up selling your goods at a yard sale, however, it will likely be for much less than you paid for them, so you probably won’t owe any tax.

When to get an appraisal
You might want to get a written opinion from a professional appraiser if you think something you’d like to sell might be worth a good deal of money—say, $1,000 or more. The results will tell how much a buyer might pay and what and how much insurance you should have to cover it.

But written appraisals can be expensive. Most professionals will charge $100 to $300 or more an hour to look over your goods, do some research, and write up a detailed valuation. If you’d like a ballpark figure, you can ask an appraiser whether he or she can look the item over and give you a rough idea of what it might be worth. Expect to pay for at least an hour of his or her time.

The American Society of Appraisers, the Appraisers Association of America, and the International Society of Appraisers can help you find local, qualified professionals through a ZIP-code search on their websites.

Auction houses
You’re probably familiar with well-known auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s, which sell fine artwork and rare antiques for millions of dollars. But there are lots of regional auction houses across the country that will handle less rarefied goods.

In the past couple of years, many of those spots have started simulcasting their proceedings online. Live auction attendees bid against online bidders in real time. Expanding the buyer base in that way often produces additional revenue for sellers, says Tim Luke, an auctioneer and the president of TreasureQuest Appraisal Group in Hobe Sound, Fla., and a former director of the collectibles department at Christie’s in New York.

A local auctioneer can give you an idea of what he or she thinks an item you own will sell for at auction. You can locate an auctioneer and auction houses in your area by clicking on the “Find an auctioneer” button on the home page of the National Auctioneers Association website. The group’s more than 5,000 nationwide members must adhere to its code of ethics.

Sell what's in demand
You’ll probably get the highest price for a bona fide antique or a collectible in mint condition by selling it at auction.

Maxmize your return
Document your stuff. Take a few photographs of the possessions you want to auction and write detailed descriptions that you can share with potential auctioneers. For example, if you have an antique chest, include the furniture maker’s name and the date and amount paid for it. Be sure to mention (and capture in photos) any restoration or repairs.

Attend a few sales. “I always suggest that people go to some auctions to see what different houses specialize in and to see which ones pull in a good crowd,” says Luke. While you’re there, ask the auctioneer how sales are promoted (online, in newspapers, and via e-mail is best) and whether they are simulcast online. Also, find out what the house’s “sell-through” rate is, which is the percent of sales that are actually completed. A good rate is about 75 to 80 percent, says Luke.

Negotiate fees. In general, you’ll pay a sales commission equal to 20 to 50 percent of the sale price. If your sale totals less than $300, you’re more likely to pay that 50 percent; more expensive items are charged lower commissions. But fees are negotiable and often depend on how much an auctioneer wants to sell your goods.

If he won’t budge on commission, he might be willing to pay to pack and ship your items to the auction house at no additional charge. You should get a contract that lists all of your costs, including fees.

Make sure your items are insured. See whether the auction house will cover your belongings in the event of loss, theft, or damage while it holds them. If not, check to see whether your homeowners insurance will cover them.

Use reserves sparingly. Ask in advance about the rules for setting a reserve price, below which you will not sell, and get the policy in writing. If your item fails to sell, some auction houses might charge you a fee of about 5 to 15 percent of the reserve price.

Find out when you’ll get paid. Auction houses wait until buyers’ payments clear before they pay sellers. Some will send you a check after 30 days, or it might be 45.
Source: Consumer Reports

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