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Part 3: Downsizing: Contents that Sell and Contents that Don’t


FULL DISCLOSURE: This is a very small sample of used things that sell well and used things that don’t. Note that I’m using the phrase “sell well”. This means that typically any decent item can sell, as long as the price is right and you can find a buyer, sometimes for a very unique item. This post is really about my take on what to expect. There are estate sales experts and auction houses out there who have education, experience and knowledge in antiques, collectibles, art and the list goes on. However, in my past ten years of experience in helping people downsize, organize and move their homes, I have come up with my own set of criteria in determining saleability of the usual suspects. Have a look at the following examples with brief explanations - and keep in mind, tastes and trends change. Mid-century may be popular now, but in 10 years it could be something different. Also keep in mind that if the price is right, most things will sell, maybe just not for the price you thought. And you can always donate, which is a whole other series of postings for me down the road!

NO: Damaged items. Look carefully at your items to check for damage. It will greatly decrease the value or make it unsellable. In this case, what looks to be a perfectly good guitar had a small crack running down the face of it, hard to see in photos. Most people will look at this type of thing in person anyway. It can be fixed, for a cost, which would have to be factored into the price.

YES: Other well-made furniture from the 20th century. Outside of mid-century furniture, other pieces will have some appeal if they are in great shape and are well-made. Selling an Ikea piece is a different ball of wax than selling, in this case, a Barrymore arm chair and ottoman. This brand is well known for quality and construction. Don't have great expectations for used furniture, when I say it has appeal, it will sell, but maybe not for much.

YES: Other well-made furniture from the 20th century. Same situation as above for the Barrymore furniture. This is a lightly used bedroom set from Restoration Hardware. It was literally like new. The buyers even bought the mattress and the boxspring - which was a first for me! (And probably the only time I will ever successfully sell a used mattress - it looked like it had never been used, it was made of high end bamboo etc.).

NO: Antique furniture that looks quite stunning but has damage. Beautiful antiques may seem highly marketable, but if there is damage it will decrease in value or have no value.

YES: I have found that most decent lamps sell. There are buyers in the city at vinatge lighting stores who will take good lamps. Best to send a picture first rather than lugging lamps around all over the city. And, to emphasize my point on talking to experts, the green lamp on the right, of which my client had two, sold for a surprising price at a consignment store. My assessment of them was different; and I always like to defer to the experts about something that I am unsure of.

NO: Rugs with specific appeal. I have mentioned rugs already in terms of wear and tear and stains, but rugs that have very specific appeal are also a hard sell. In this case, I had tried to sell this rug online, the consignment stores wouldn’t take it, and there were still no buyers, even after a price reduction. My client donated it in the end.

NO (ish): Old electronics, stereos, speakers, odd electronics and even new unused electronics. Most of these things sell for very little but you can still get money for them. Time is on your side for selling unique things like this old slide projector. The digital projector on the left, even though it was new, had some not great reviews online so it didn’t do well. Things like relatively new iPhone, laptops etc. have broader appeal. There are certain brands of old speakers, stereo equipment and of course record players that also have broader appeal - a little bit of research on this helps. Keep in mind that if you have the first of whatever it was, this is a big consideration. First record player, first MAC computer etc. And NIB (new in box) - it was never opened and is still in the box, is a big deal.

YES: Well-made new or old outdoor furniture. If it’s constructed well, even if it’s a bit rusty, it will sell; vintage outdoor wicker is also popular.

YES: Jewlellery. This is a huge market, that operates at every level, from the $20 vintage brooch at a consignment store to Grandmother’s Art Deco emerald ring that could fetch quite a bit at an auction that is marketed to an international market. Make sure you speak to an expert about any of your jewellery. Don’t attempt to assess it on your own. And if you end up hiding your jewellery somewhere in your house, please tell a family member where it is. There are stories of teapots and knick knacks being donated with jewellery in it. Like that TV that ended up in a Barrie recycling plant with $100,000 cash in it!

YES: Popular collectibles. In this case a completely like-new Swarkowski group of birds sold quickly. It is easy to research pricing for popular collectibles online because there are so many of them. Other usual suspects that come to mind are stamps, coins, comics, old toys, Sci-fi action figures, old books and even sneakers these days which have become very popular and valuable. I can't say this enough though, speak to experts if you are unsure about anything. There are experts for just about anything.

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