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Turning Your Treasures to Cash

How You Downsize Can Make a Big Difference in Your Bank Account

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Whether you are at a stage in your life where downsizing is a necessity or you just want to de-clutter your house and simplify, the job of disposing of your extra belongings can be daunting. Not only can the physical strain be too much for many seniors, but choosing which possessions to sell and how best to dispose of them can cause emotional stress. One of the primary goals of downsizing for most seniors is to raise money to help defray living expenses, so getting the most for your treasures is important. Thanks to 21st century technology, there are a lot more choices for selling your prized possessions today than ever before, and each avenue has plusses and minuses. The net cash you are likely to receive for any particular treasure will vary from method to method, so choosing the best way to sell your treasured collections can make a big difference.

Different types of merchandise will do better in different venues. What’s more, different geographic areas provide varying interest levels in particular items, as well as wide variations in available venues to do your selling. Because there are so many options to consider and so many variables affecting the decision, the most important aspect of maximizing the cash value of your treasures is to do your homework. The internet is an incredible resource for both information and values. You can also take your items to local antiques and collectible dealers to see if they are willing to give you more information without an appraisal fee. Reputable auctioneers can also be of help in this regard. But beware. Many dealers are, well, let’s just say their interests lie more with money than honesty and helpfulness. Resist the temptation to accept any dealer offers to purchase your items without first getting at least one other expert to confirm the value.

Once you’ve done your legwork, it’s time to decide what selling venue will produce the most cash for your treasures. Your primary options? Live auctions, consigning with an antiques dealer, flea markets, specialty collectible shows, newspaper

consignment at quality antique stores, or through quality auction houses. Consigning at stores can cost you a 30% to 50% sales commission, while auctioneers charge anywhere from 15% to 30%. The gross selling price will generally be higher in a retail environment, but auctioning is often competitive when you consider the lower commission. Auctioning will give you a definite sales date while consigning at retail has no timetable, and can take many months to see success. Flea markets are generally cheap to set up at, usually $20 to $50, and prices are generally a little better than tag/estate sales. Specialty collectible shows give you a more targeted audience than a flea market, but they’re generally a little more expensive to buy space, usually $50 to $100, and sometimes more. Prices at these shows, however, should be a little better than flea markets. eBay is a great venue for selling some collectibles, but you’ll only get good value for rarer items. The competition on eBay for selling common collectibles is shockingly high. Just search the site to see how common your items are. eBay fees are reasonable, but you’ll need to be tech-savvy with a computer and camera to have any real success, and be willing to put some time into preparing your listing to maximize interest.

Other than consigning in a retail shop or with an auctioneer, all of these methods require copious amounts of time and effort. If you don’t have time to research your belongings, or to do the selling yourself, hire a professional to do it for you. But be careful choosing a professional. A good downsizing expert will make every effort to get you maximum return for your treasures, exploring every possible avenue for your most valuable items. Many downsizing companies, however, will give only minimum effort  and minimal return. A good company is well worth the commissions they charge, usually between 20% and 30% depending on the value of treasures you are selling.

ads, online listing venues such as Craigslist, online auction sites such as eBay, or your own tag/garage/estate sale. Donating items to charities is another option. Make sure and get a receipt for the fair value of the merchandise you donate, though, so you can use the charitable donation as a tax deduction. If you don’t need the money or would rather pass some or all of your treasures on to your family, consider doing it now rather than waiting for the reading of your will. Passing treasures on through your estate may mean your heirs have to pay more estate taxes. If your desire is to keep it in the family, you would be wise to consult an estate planning specialist who can advise you of the financial implications of dispersing the items while your still alive or passing them in your estate.

So which selling option is best for your items? While there are no black-and-white answers, here are a few general guidelines. Tag sales are great for selling off everyday, run-of-the-mill merchandise, but when it comes to antiques and valuable collectibles, there are definitely better options. Plus tag sales are a lot of work, and success is highly dependent on the weather, time of year, and what other events are happening in your area the same day as your sale. Be sure to advertise and put up plenty of big, bright-colored signs. Selling your items one at a time or in small groups through newspaper ads can be expensive and time consuming. It also requires answering calls and bringing potential buyers to your home. Craigslist is free, but again you’ll have to field phone calls and emails, and have strangers come to your home to view your items. In general, buyers view Craigslist as a bargain source, so they often aren’t willing to pay anywhere near full value, but it can be a good way to sell such things as exercise equipment, vehicles, or newer furniture. Fine antiques and artwork are usually best sold either on