Whenever Art of Estates gets a call from a client about a storage unit full of fabulous art, antiques, and other great personal property treasures from a family member’s estate, we cringe. Most auctioneers, estate sale companies, and antique dealers do too. The number one reason why we are so apprehensive about your well-packed storage unit is that you don’t have an inventory or any photos of the property. What you do have is your memory of your favorite pieces of personal property the family spoke about while growing up and subsequently have packed away for another time when life is less complicated.

Unfortunately, those memories can be difficult to remember with the same amount of accuracy when the personal property is out of place rather than in the home. Conjuring that memory and relaying it to a prospective, buyer, appraiser, or selected valuation expert is even more complicated. Therefore, the person you have now contacted must take your word that the items are valuable, desirable, and marketable. Unfortunately, sellers get those calls every day and are often disappointed.

How do you value something that cannot be seen? Are you now going to pay someone else (to dig) to discover what you’ve already seen? That is probably a cost you don’t want to accrue. What a mess and a mess nobody else wants to get into unless they have a lot of free time on their hands. If that’s the case, this person probably isn’t your best buyer or seller.

Get an Appraisal or a Walk-Through Consultation Before the Move

Here’s where your estate management gets more complicated. Moving personal property often causes some new condition issues. Maybe they aren’t correctly packed; you had to pump the brakes a little harder than you would have liked because someone cut you off during the moving and transportation of the personal property. Possibly, you ran low or even completely out of newspaper to wrap the china. Or the massively heavy box of books you conveniently placed on top of the mid-century modern Charles Eames chair will sit there for the next few months. In other words, the condition these items were in is probably not the same after moving them. Did I mention it takes a lot of time? You are also risking getting hurt unless you’re a full-time professional mover. We could go on for hours talking hypotheticals, but there are other problems to consider.

“If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”
― Mark Twain

Most storage units are not temperature controlled. Even having a temperature-controlled unit would not allow one to avoid minor damage in a move, as stated in the previous section. Certain times of the year can be more predictable than others, but like Mark Twain said (and now every state I visit) the weather is very unpredictable. Wild swings in temperatures are bad for antiques, fine art, and many other types of personal property that can be affected by humidity, dryness, and excess lows and highs.

A client recently had me look at his watercolor he had recently moved from his storage unit. He wanted to know what was wrong with his painting. It looks like snowflakes frozen in time. What had happened was moisture froze underneath (inside the framing) the glass. There must have been a wild swing in temperatures in the storage unit and the glass sweat, then froze, and the frozen droplet dried leaving behind what looked like a snowflake. While there was only a minor wave to the paper, he now had to take the painting to a framer to have it opened, cleaned, the watercolor flattened and subsequently put back together. That was time and money lost post-storage with an appraiser, conservator, and a framer. The client also had a blank spot on his wall for five weeks.

More Problems to Consider for your Personal Property

Storage units can be broken into, get flooded (or leak), catch on fire (people do foolish and nefarious things in units), be inhabited by rodents and bugs (they can come from other units), or even worse – forgotten. Take a look at my link here to see how common storage unit break-ins are – it’s common.

As we’ve seen throughout the Midwest, floods happen. They can happen in many areas of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, Indiana, or isolated places in most other states. Let’s be honest, storage unit companies are not buying land to put storage units on that would be better intended for a home, condos, or shopping mall.

Mice and rats love the smell of those Costco boxes you packed everything up in, and you included some newspaper or dish towels for bedding. You’re their best host yet! When it comes to Native American and Persian rugs, moths, carpet beetles, and other pests love to feast on the finest of naturally dyed wool, cotton, and silk.

By the way, do you have insurance coverage on that storage unit? Did you know that most insurance policies don’t cover bug damage to personal property? (a recent client of ours lost over $100,000 in Navajo and Persian rugs because of moth damage) Oh, and the insurance company needs an appraisal on those high-dollar items you were insured since they don’t even know if it existed and what condition it was in before its loss.

After the Move and Storage, You Want to Sell the Personal Property, but You Don’t Know What It’s Worth in its Post Move and Storage Condition

Well, nobody else does either. This happens because there’s no inventory. Additionally, there are no appropriate photos (for identification, condition, size, date, etc.), or other relevant information available to commence a private sale, convince a professional auctioneer to take it, or even ask an appraiser what you should do or if they can appraise the property.

Depending on how long it’s been in storage since the original move, the market may have changed. So, your next step is to unpack and unbox all those items that you packed up and boxed for safety. You now must unwind in a less safe environment with very little space. It’s a bit of a catch-22 you’ve put yourself into. Now that you have it all out again and can’t quite pack it safely and conveniently back into the storage unit, it would be best to hurry up and get someone over to look at it. Once that happens, it will need to be boxed back up, moved, and then unpacked again where it will finally be sold.

Save Your Time, Money, and Frustration by Hiring an Independent Full-Time Appraiser for Guidance

Whenever you and your family have an estate to manage, call an independent appraiser. An independent appraiser is an appraiser that is not a dealer, reseller, consignment store owner, or operating an auction house on the side as most of these parties do.

Art of Estates offers the appraisal and estate consulting services you need, want, and deserve. Based on the type of property found in your home, we can recommend the correct market where you will most likely achieve the highest return. Maybe an item belongs in Los Angeles, New York, or New Orleans, or needs to stay right where it is to be sold.

The walk-throughs that we provide are as comprehensive or minimal based on your interests, but usually relative to the level of values being achieved currently in the market for your personal property. We’re able to do this by recalling recent research performed on other estate walk-throughs. But more importantly, from our frequent production of IRS estate tax (rug to the chandelier type appraisals), non-cash charitable donations, equitable distributions between family members, marital dissolutions (divorce), and insurance claims using actual cash value appraisal results. Did I mention we go to estate sales, auctions, antique stores, and thrift stores for fun?

Additionally, we can usually recommend estate sale or auction companies that perform at high levels. These companies use appropriately balanced methods for charging their estate clients, have good reviews, and we’ve received positive feedback from our previously referred clients. We can also discuss the red flags to look out for when selecting an estate dissolution firm and where to find the best ones. Ultimately, you need to work with who you feel most comfortable with when dealing with an estate. After all, these are your family’s possessions, and they shouldn’t be dissolved in haste or without a professional path to success. You can think of us as your personal estate consultant without a conflict of interest. We never offer to buy your personal property or take it into our possession.

If you are located in Kansas City, Wichita, Omaha, Denver, Boulder, Vail, Aspen, Columbus, St Louis, Indianapolis, Chicago, or anywhere in between, there’s a good chance we can schedule one of these professional estate walk-throughs with our local representatives or our traveling appraisal firm members.