Depending on who you ask, the auction experience can run the gamut from incredible to downright heart-breaking.
So how do you assure a positive experience if you select auction as the way to liquidate your unneeded belongings? It is first important to realize that auctions are not a “‘one size fits all” situation. Over the past 20 years, I have logged many hours in the auction facilities of central Indiana, and I have come to realize that they each have a personality and a momentum of that is uniquely theirs. As alike as they may appear to the novice, they are each different to the trained eye. So how do you select the one that is right for you? First let’s take a look at what you are planning to sell.
General household- Any major auction facility can handle the sale of general household content. Furniture and appliances in good condition, decorative items such as mirrors and pictures, kitchen items, glassware, china and garage and yard items, will all sell well at this type of auction. Items that may be rejected include books (that are not antiquated) clothing, shoes, and any toxic materials. If your furniture is high-end and fine decorative items, look for an auction that caters to interior design consultants and professional staggers. Presentation is a major issue with this type of auction, so visit a few sites and see how they display their items for preview. A well lit, clean facility can make a big difference in the price your items bring.
Antiques and collectibles-You will want an auction that specializes in antiques on a regular basis, or that holds periodic “antiques only” auctions. To assure a strong buying crowd at an antique auction it is imperative that the facility advertise in major area papers and antique periodicals. They should also have a website that you can visit to check recently realized prices and for an overview of their experience and appearance. Again, whenever possible, visit a couple of auctions to see first hand the way they display, preview and conduct their sales.
Art- This is a highly specialized field of liquidation. If you are having your art appraised you might consult with your appraiser to see who he/she recommends. Fine art auctions are usually located in major cities. We have one established facility in Carmel, Ind. and there are also a few in the Cincinnati and Louisville areas that you can visit on the web. If you have fine art, it is best not to entrust it to a general auction.
Although it may sound redundant, when it is time to sign on the dotted line, read the contract!! Auction houses charge a percentage fee which in this area usually ranges from 25 to 45 percent, but that does not always represent the total you will be charged. Along with a set percentage of the selling costs, some auctions charge fees for pick up, advertising, storage, or a handling charge for items that do not sell. Always ask if the fee you are quoted is “all inclusive”. Also inquire if you can reduce your percentage by delivering the items to the auction rather that having the picked up.
The cheapest fee is not always the best; in fact it may be reason to investigate further. I recently saw two identical 1920’s oak dressers through two different auctions. One auction charged the consignor 35 percent and the dresser for sold $250. The second auction charged only 20 percent and their dresser for $140. Profit from the 35 percent auction, $162.50. Profit from the 20 percent auction was $112.00. Both auctions were established, reputable companies, but they differ greatly in the way they advertise and present their sales. As with many things in life, you get what you pay for.
Auction is a fast and easy way to liquidate, but there is always an element of risk. Do your homework and deal only with well established and reputable auctions.
A little time spent before you begin your liquidation can keep you from regret when you possessions are going, going, gone.
Until next time,
Linda Hamer Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in senior down-sizing and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-429-7887 or firstname.lastname@example.org.