Q:  What’s my stuff worth? (A:  What someone will pay for it)

At Changing Spaces SRS, we help families that are undergoing a time of transition.  One of those transitions that we encounter is when a client needs to empty out a house or apartment, following a move or the death of a loved one.  Our process for guiding clients through this kind of a transition always starts with ensuring that the family removes anything and everything they wish to keep from the house.  Then, folks usually turn their attention to trying to sell what remains.

So the question becomes – from what is left over, what’s my stuff worth?

The answer, of course, is that your stuff is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.  That means that you have to have a buyer in front of you, who has the money and is willing to pick up the stuff they’re buying and haul it away, out of the house or apartment that you are trying to empty.

Getting those buyers in front of you, who have money in hand and are willing and able to pick up and remove (and haul away) their purchases takes time, expertise, and even a little luck.

What determines the monetary value of a used item (hint:  that’s EVERYTHING in your home – it’s all used), is the same law that determines the monetary value of everything else in our capitalist society: the law of supply and demand.

So, a few questions you can ask yourself about an item you are hoping to sell include:

  1. Was this item mass-produced?

“Limited edition was a lie.”  This is one of my favorite quotes from a local appraiser that we work with here in Lincoln.  And he’s right – items that were sold with the promise of being a “limited edition” were simply a flat-out lie.  If an item sold well, you can bet that the manufacturer made as many as they could, as long as sales were good.  So, those collectible plates, figurines and dolls that boast the descriptor of “limited edition” simply weren’t so.

If you are selling something that was mass-produced, that means that there are a lot of duplicates in the marketplace.  So, a savvy shopper will invariably choose the lowest price item if there are a lot to choose from.  That drives down the price of your oh-so-common item.

  1. Is this item still in high demand?

Is there a lot of demand in the marketplace for an item like the one you are selling?  A like-new King size bed?  (yes)  An antique baby’s high-chair? (no)  World War II memorabilia?  (yes)  Name brand women’s clothing that is only a couple of years old? (yes)  A cassette player boom box? (no).  Remember, the price of your item goes up when there are many people interested in buying it.  If there is only one person interested in buying, then the buyer can pretty much name the price they’re willing to pay, can’t they?  But, if many people are competing for an item, the seller can ask more for the item and likely get it.

  1. What is the condition of this item?

Condition is king.  If an item (even an antique) is in poor condition, it looks less appealing out in the marketplace and buyers and less willing to purchase it.  Think about it from the buyer’s perspective – if you were purchasing an item that was dirty, stained, ripped or chipped – you wouldn’t think you were getting a great deal, would you?  You’d be less likely to buy it….UNLESS you could get it for a big discount.

  1. What are the logistics of getting this item into the hands of a buyer?

How convenient is it for a buyer to purchase and obtain this item?  Will you accept cash?  If so, do you have change or does the buyer need to have the exact amount?  Will you accept checks?  What about credit cards?  How does the buyer pick up the item?  Are you selling a sterling silver teacup which easily fits in the palm of one’s hand, or is it a 600 lb. pool table located in the basement of a home with a long, narrow driveway in the middle of January?   Logistics matter!  If something is inconvenient to move, a buyer will be less likely to pay top dollar for it.

“But I saw it on eBay for….”  These words are a bit of a red flag for anyone in the estate sale and liquidation industry when meeting with a potential new client.  Online re-sell websites can sometimes give people false hopes of what their items are worth.  Someone that is selling an item on eBay or Etsy or Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist can ask any amount of money they wish for their item.  It doesn’t mean that they will find a seller at that price.  In order to get a good idea of an item’s worth, you must discover what price an item actually sold for.

These are just a few factors to take into consideration when determining how much your stuff is worth.  At the end of the day, we remind our clients that the main asset you’re dealing with is the home (or apartment) itself, and the biggest financial objective is to empty the house so you can sell it, or empty the apartment so you can stop having to pay the monthly rent.