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10 Steps to Finding a Good Estate Appraiser

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We continue to get emails from people across the country looking for ‘dealers’ who can tell them what their estate is worth. Most of the time it would seem the person who inherited the estate has no knowledge about the items they’ve inherited – paintings, crystal, china, silver, toys, jewelry, coins – and are looking for answers. Now while there are some honest dealers that  can and will  tell you what you have, if you have an important estate, you may want to consider contacting a certified appraiser.

In the past we’ve  talked about selling personal collections and individual items you may have purchased, however, it’s impossible for us to be able to give values or recommend local ‘dealers’ when the person contacting us about an estate lives in Indiana or California. We can, however, make suggestions about getting their estate valued.

The suggestions below, if followed when contacting an appraiser, mean you’re less likely to be taken advantage of when selling and more likely to negotiate a good deal.

1.   Try to know as much as possible about the items you have as possible before going anywhere. We’re not saying become an expert, just take a little time to familiarize yourself with the basics about a category. Some items that may not look particularly special can be quite valuable. In two words – due diligence.

2.   Before contacting any appraiser, have a list of the items to be appraised along with digital pictures verifying condition. This is especially true when jewelry and/or coins are involved. A walk-about video is good for this. (Call me paranoid.)  

3.   Ask the appraiser for references. A legitimate, certified appraiser won’t mind and  should have a list of previous clients you can contact. Find out if these clients were happy with the service provided – before and after. Was the appraiser too expensive? Did they do what they said they would do? Did they provide an itemized list with values and information? Did they take too long? Did the client  find out later their items were worth more than appraised for?

4.   How long has the appraiser been in business? How long have they been at their current location? In other words, do they move around a lot. And, if so, why?

5.   Before committing to an appraisal, inquire if the appraiser has knowledge about all the different categories you want them to review and appraise. Look for someone that can give you answers to all your questions and values for all your items.

6.   If the appraiser cannot come to the location of the estate, stay with your items if you take them to their place of business. Never leave any items to be valued where the person doing the appraising will ‘get back to you tomorrow’. BUT, if you must leave an item or two, get a detailed receipt for that item and make sure you have pictures of you and the item(s) together. On the  same receipt, make sure there is no mention of payment if it has been agreed that  no  monies are to be paid.

7.   Always maintain sight and physical control over your items as best you can. If you have jewelry, always keep it in eye sight. This is not to say a reputable appraiser would replace stones, ‘loose’ a bracelet, or remove pearls from a necklace – but again, call me paranoid.

8.   If the appraiser happens to be a dealer who ends up offering to buy your estate, get a second and maybe even a third opinion. Any legitimate dealer will not mind your ‘shopping around’. They understand good business and want to work with a happy, satisfied client.

9.   When you finally get ready to sell – go in to the negotiations with two prices in mind. The price you’d like to get and the lowest price you’d be willing to accept. Most of the time you’ll end up somewhere in between. And, don’t forget that a dealer will only pay 40-50% of ‘book or appraised value’.

10.    Appraisers charge for their services, that is why it is important to get references and set the price for services to be rendered beforehand.    Most appraisers charge differently so find out first how you will be billed. Some charge a percentage of the value of the items appraised, some charge a flat rate, some by the hour and others charge by the number of items appraised. Ask questions. After all you’re paying for a service. You wouldn’t take your car in to be repaired without asking questions – having an estate appraised is no different.


Obviously these suggestions  are not  ’one size fits all’.   The estate may be in another city or state where you don’t have the luxury of doing an inventory.   You may be under time constraints to get the estate liquidated and the house emptied.   All of these things will have a bearing on how you handle the situation.    However, with these suggestions you won’t be totally in the dark about the process  and hopefully get the best results based on your  best effort.



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