What’s it worth?

Since I own a used furniture business (shameless plug!), I’m often asked, and often ask myself, what a particular piece of furniture is worth.  Today we’re talking with Lori Menger, the most charming half (sorry, Jeff) of Menger Enterprises.  Lori is a certified appraiser.

Ken: Why would someone use a professional appraiser?

Lori: There are lots of reasons why someone might want a written appraisal of their personal property.  From casualty loss to equitable division of assets in an estate or divorce situation, almost all of us will need an appraisal at some time in our life.  Also, the IRS may require one for substantial gifts/charitable donations.

The two most common types of appraisals are fair market value and insurance value.  Fair market value is the price the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, both having reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.  Insurance value is replacement cost – what would it cost in today’s market to replace the item.

A professional appraiser can make an objective opinion of the value of an item giving sound reasons for the conclusion.  All aspects of the property must be taken into consideration.

Ken: How can I find a professional appraiser and how can I know that they’ll do a good job?

Lori:  Beyond the yellow pages, many estate sales professionals and auctioneers are appraisers.  You can also check with local antiques businesses and ask your friends and neighbors if they can recommend someone.  Although there are no licensing requirements in any of the 50 states for personal property appraisers (only for real estate appraisers), certification is available through private training.  This certification should include training in appraisal practices and agreement of the appraiser to abide with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).

Ken: What do I get when I have a professional appraisal done?

Lori: You should get a written report that includes a complete and accurate description of the property; analysis of factors affecting value; a definition of value; a value for the property appraised; the appraiser’s signature; a statement that the appraiser does not have a financial interest in the property; and whether or not the report can be defended in court, if needed.

Ken: What’s it cost?

Lori: Hourly rates can vary from $50-125.  Flat fees can sometimes be negotiated. When I do written appraisals, I charge $60-75 an hour with a $90 minimum.

Ken: OK, let’s get to the meat of it.  How do you know what something is worth?

Lori: Appraisers are “investigators . . . you need to know how to “research” and have contacts who ARE specialists.  For instance, I get a lot of questions about jewelry.  If it is part of a large estate appraisal, I would get help from a jeweler.  If it is JUST for jewelry appraisal, I would probably refer it to a specialist.

WHERE the items are is important in determining fair market value.  I look at what the item would sell for, on a given day, in the local area.  To do that, I must keep informed of what things are actually selling for.  I also keep apprised of what items are selling for a little farther away from home.  In my experience, “primitives” sell for more in Olympia than they do in Seattle; while crystal, china, and linens seem to get more money in Seattle. I consult MANY types of reference material when making determinations.

Ken: What other factors are important?

Lori: Condition, condition, condition?  OK. . .maybe not just that, but rarity, desirability and condition make for a valuable object.  You could have the best collection of milk glass in the world and you would probably have a hard time getting $5 a piece for it.  It’s not “fashionable/desirable” right now and it is not hard to find.

Ken: Thanks, Lori.  How do folks get in touch with you?

Lori: My husband, Jeff, and I run an estate liquidation service and appraisal business in Tumwater.  We can be reached by telephone at 754-7720.