Are you the decision-maker when it comes to the estate of a family member or friend? Are you already faced with decisions about whether to load what you think are knick-knacks onto ebay.com or really determine if you’ve got some priceless antiques?
Either way, take a step back and realize you have some options other than online auctions or craigslist.com fire sales. Take some care when dealing with an estate and avoid some mistakes that people make—oftentimes resulting in the loss of priceless antiques or merchandise. A lot of it is common sense, and if you get off on the right foot, you can protect yourself and often your family possessions.
Lisa Markham, an antiques expert and owner of Markham Antique Services, has some great tips when it comes to determining the value of all of your stuff.
“When it comes to valuing antiques and looking for sales options, always get more than one opinion,” she says.
An expert on paintings, furniture, silver and jewelry, Lisa serves as an adviser and negotiator with auction houses or even as a broker link between a client—an individual family member or estate—and the other party, usually an auction house.
In addition to getting more than one opinion on your merchandise, she also says that emotions are understandable, but it’s best to keep them in check when dealing with such transactions. That’s why when talking to multiple auction houses about merchandise, it’s great to have an adviser to serve as the link between you and them.
Lisa insists that when negotiating with an auction house, let her—or someone like her—negotiate the commission schedule. What she’ll try to do is ensure the commissions are kept under control, particularly if there are multiple items of varying value. The auction house will try to negotiate what’s best for them, and she will try to negotiate what’s best for you.
Also, when dealing with an auction house or an adviser such as Lisa, she suggests keeping one rule in mind: If she or any adviser would ever say, “That’s a lovely statue, I’ll give you x for it,” turn around and run.
“I’m there to value your things, not to buy them” she says. “It’s a conflict of interest and completely unethical.”
Ultimately it’s about information and being armed with the best if you find yourself making estate decisions. Lisa serves to help you make those decisions and an independent party and ensures you have the information and help you need to protect yourself when it comes to your estate responsibilities.
If Lisa is a referral to an auction house, they will likely compensate her; if clients do not consign to an auction house, the estate must bear some cost. But when dealing with the likelihood of some priceless material—or just ensuring peace of mind when dealing with what are often family heirlooms—professional guidance will trump online auctions and sales any day.