Planning for The Financial Future with The Estate Lady
Julie Hall is an expert in appraising and liquidating estates, and a passionate advocate for older adults and families who find themselves faced with the overwhelming task of dealing with an estate. With her Charlotte-based company, The Estate Lady, this certified personal property appraiser, certified auctioneer, licensed estate sale professional and licensed antique dealer helps families through a difficult time with compassion, a sense of humor and an expert’s professional eye. Here, she shares her tips for planning ahead, plus a realistic look at the current market.
How did you get involved in appraising and liquidating estates?
Wilma was 102 years old and ready to let go of her possessions. She had been grossly taken advantage of by neighbors and so-called friends of many years. Not only did they give her next to nothing dollar-wise for her lovely items, they left her home in an awful mess. I was so unnerved by that, my first experience in the industry, that I knew I had a new calling: to be a trustworthy advocate during some of the most challenging times in my clients’ lives. To make it easier on them and to stop greed (or at least minimize it) where I could.
What are some of the most common questions people bring to you?
What’s it worth? I paid a fortune for it, why isn’t it worth more? What do you do and how does this process work? How fast can you get here?!
When a loved one dies, the family is often left to sell their possessions. How would you characterize the current market for the types of items you come across?
Softer than I have ever seen it in 20-plus years, and the reasons are multifold:
1) As we lose our elders, the market is flooding with their traditional furnishings.
2) At the same time, the boomer generation is downsizing, which means more traditional furnishings are going on the market.
3) Our children and grandchildren are not wanting grandmother’s more formal/traditional items.
4) The economy is not good. Despite what the media says, I am not seeing a solid, strong market like pre-2008.
It is a buyer’s market, and will be for some time to come. Exceptional items will always sell well, but the average antiques and household items we see everyday are not selling near where they used to, and the seller has not yet come to understand the reasons listed above.
What types of items are selling best in the current economic climate?
Mid-century furniture, some Danish modern, designer furniture from this era
Military items: Civil War to present day
Genuine and costume jewelry
Record albums: classic rock, jazz, blues. Not opera or classical yet.
Vintage electronics and stereos
Utilitarian items: housewares, cookware, kitchen ware, tools, camping equipment, etc.
Vintage garden and patio items
Yard items/ornamental/garden tools
What’s not selling well?
Traditional “brown” furniture
Glassware: clear etched, cut crystal, pressed glass, etc.
China sets and painted porcelains
Victorian furniture, other dark heavy antique pieces
Rugs: Persian, Oriental
Collector plates and figurines (Franklin Mint, Bradford Exchange, etc.)
Dining room furniture, hutches
Print media: numbered prints, mass-produced art items
What are some ways for people to make sure they’re getting the most value when selling an estate?
One of the best things people can do is hire a personal property appraiser, an objective third party who will advise them on what has value and what doesn’t, among other things. There is great peace of mind in knowing what doesn’t have value as well, so a person can move forward and make sound decisions with that knowledge. Most families do not know how to ascertain a fair market value, and go to a site like eBay to search for asking prices. This is not what your item is worth. A professional appraiser will know precisely how to value your items and help you make decisions. They know the market, the correct way to research what items have actually sold for (instead of asking prices), and they know their market and best ways and resources to sell.
What can people do to make sure they don’t leave a messy estate behind for their families?
Talk, talk talk! Parents, talk to your children. And children, talk to your parents. It’s uncomfortable to do so at first, but you must be on the same page. After the talk, take action with an estate planning attorney. Get everything in writing and don’t hide things from your kids. Tell them what you want and don’t want, but get it in writing. How important is this? Well, one of my parents’ lives hung in the balance and I had to make a painful decision. But my father had talked to me until he was blue in the face about what he wanted and what he wanted me to do if it ever came down to that. So, I honored his wishes. You see, it’s all about honoring wishes; not ours, but theirs. Get the plan figured out, get it documented with the help of legal counsel. Select the best executor for the job: Advanced Directives/Living Will, Will/Trust. It’s not if a crisis or death will come, but when. Leave your kids the best possible legacy by giving the gift of answers. Consider gifting your possessions in person so you can see the joy on their faces.
The views expressed in this interview are the subject’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Lofty’s network of experts. The market is subject to change without notice. For information on the types of items Lofty doesn’t accept visit our help center.