You’d Better Sit Down!

I can’t stress this enough, though I feel like a nag for repeating it often:

A majority of the time, your possessions are not worth what you think they are worth.

My phone rings each day with dozens of calls.  But the calls that always make me pause and take a deep breath are those that start telling me what their possessions, or inherited heirlooms, are worth.  In fact, a recent client had a great deal of difficulty hearing the real values of her mother’s possessions.  I was afraid she would pass out, so I said, “You’d better sit down!”

Allow me to say this where all can see it clearly, in hope of helping as many as possible.

  1.  Internet research of items may be completely useless.  Many items are not researched correctly, because the average person may not know the correct name or description for the items being researched.
  2. The internet is only a good tool if you properly search for realized prices, not asking prices.  Realized prices are what an item sold for.  That’s the only figure used to determine fair market value.  Someone can ask the sun and the moon for an item; the asking prices on websites are insanely high.  One is left to think those items will NEVER be sold at that price in this market.
  3. People hear what they want to hear.  Many do not listen, even to an expert.  They see a “price” on the internet for $650 and by golly, that’s what their item is worth.  No, it’s not!  This particular item may actually be selling for $75, making the fair market value $75, not the figure they saw.  Sadly, some people are so anchored to their possessions they will not heed the sound judgment of professionals who do this every single day.
  4. Family lore: “The fish you caught was HOW BIG?”  All our parents told us for decades that certain pieces were “extremely old and valuable.”  Remember, until a professional examines them, conclude that the pieces were cherished by your parents/grandparents, but still may not be worth much.  Keep your expectations in neutral.  Most of the time, these pieces have more sentimental value than actual value.
  5. The price paid for an item has nothing to do with its value in today’s market.  “I paid $5,000 for that.”  It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is:
    1. It is a used item.
    2. It may no longer be in style.
    3. It may not even be desirable, especially if it’s dark brown or very large (both are out of favor now).
    4. No one really wants it.

 Try to remember these things brought you or your loved one pleasure.  In today’s soft market, there is no way you’ll get thousands of dollars from selling them.

6.  Mom collected these for 50 years but they are still not valuable now.  We grew up with our mothers drilling into our heads just how valuable her items are, and yes, they were desirable at that time.  In the 21st century, homes are desperately wanting to be clutter-free.  The younger generations no longer want to crowd furniture surfaces with framed photos, figurines, and paperweights.  Boomers are getting rid of these items, hoping to live a simpler life.

The solution to all these problems, and many more, is to find an expert who understands these possessions and the best way to sell them, based on what they know about the market.  Always get professional estate assistance before you do anything.  Try to be as realistic as possible.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising.  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at


5 thoughts on “You’d Better Sit Down!

    1. “Thank you for your comments. So glad you are finding the information helpful for yourself and your clients!”

      Best, Julie

  1. Finding this so true and conversely some of the silliest items have sold for the most on eBay! Can you believe a 50’s plastic cereal give-away called Shredded Wheat Spoonman that went for $45.00 – who knew?!?!

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