I hear it all the time, “Oh, I’ll just sell it online.”
I think no, you probably won’t. Like most people, you’ll think about it, intend to do it, and get stuck and quit.
I’m not judging you poorly and would love for you to be the exception. But in my decades of experience helping downsize, organize, or move, it has yet to happen.
It takes time, planning, and effort. If it were as quick and simple as the ads say, you’d have done it already.
But that doesn’t mean donating is your only option. Consider using an auction house.
Read on for my interview with Tim Zeigler, Kamelot Auctions, Philadelphia. He’ll tell you what to expect from and more from the auction company you choose.
Tim, how did you become involved with Kamelot?
I am a lifetime auction enthusiast.
I was introduced to the auction world when I was 7 or 8 years old by my father. I loved the excitement and enthusiasm. My father liked to buy at auction. I was especially attracted to selling at auction. When I would see an item start at $5 and sell for over $100, it seemed magical to me as a young boy.
I was especially intrigued with Kamelot Auction House when they arrived on the auction scene almost 20 years ago. I liked the style and clean approach of their auctions.
I was a business development consultant at the time and saw Kamelot advertising for Director of Business Development. The position was to attract and support clients looking to sell through auctions. This was the side of the business which intrigued me, and I applied for the position as I wanted to learn more about them and their business. This was in the Spring of 2008 and there were over 250 applicants. I became more interested with each interview and it has been a terrific relationship for the past 14 years.
What differentiates between auction houses?
The types of items they regularly offer, the level of buyers they attract and the geographic area where they are located.
You can tell quite a bit about an auction house by looking through their website (including auction results) as well as reviewing their social media.
In my experience, clients don’t appreciate what it takes to sell things on their own.
- Time and knowledge to create an account
- Research and compare current and historical prices
- Photograph and describe the item well enough to sell
- Respond to questions and track the auction.
- Pack and ship it (find and store packing material, plus gas and time to take to the shipper)
- Track the shipment and payment
- Calculate their profit (sales — costs) and their hourly rate (proceeds minus the time it took to do)
With all that, how do you and your clients choose between eBay, Facebook, Craigslist vs. the ease of an auction?
The main differentiation is the value of the items.
We are an upscale auction house offering items which typically bring considerably more than services like eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist offer. It works best to identify the items which have upside value and offer them to the stronger buying audience at an upscale auction.
Many of our clients use these other valuable services for items which do not work for our auctions.
What percentage of the sale should the seller expect?
This question is tricky as there are many variables.
The percentage the seller receives varies depending upon the auction house and the value of the items being auctioned. The costs include a % of the winning bid as well as fees which may include packing & moving, photography, advertising, internet fees and insurance.
A general idea is 60 to 70%. An auction house interested in helping you is happy to review this with potential selling clients given their specific situation.
I had a client who was overwhelmed when she inherited a large basement jammed with dollhouse miniatures. I connected them with a company that packed and sold all of it. Everyone was happy.
Does Kamelot offer the same complete services or do people need to bring things to you?
Our clients are welcome to deliver their items to our auction gallery. However, we work closely with a handful of quality movers and offer full packing and pick-up service. When we coordinate the moving and packing, we pay the moving company and deduct their charge from the auction proceeds with no upcharge.
You told a story about a woman who was downsizing, sold some things at your auction, but also bought some items too! What made that a success for her and her family?
Her son contacted us and asked if we would be able to offer fifty items for his mother every other month to begin the downsizing effort he and his brother had negotiated with her.
His mother was not emotionally ready to fully down-size yet. However, she was having more and more difficulty getting around and they felt it was important to get started as her house was very large and filled with furniture, art, decorative items, rugs, pottery and interesting antiques. Their goal was to be ready by the time she needed to move to a retirement community which they anticipated was several years away.
We helped them as requested. We were surprised when she attended the first auction and bought seven items while we sold 55. She was happier down-sizing when she added a few new items during the downsizing process. This was a very unusual approach that worked well for this family.
Considering the variables in items, buyers, sellers, and the whims of the world, we know you can’t predict auction results. But in general, what’s in demand now and why do you think that’s so?
Mid-century modern furnishings from the 1950’s and 60’s have been hot in the auction world for quite a few years and continue to be in demand. Many popular items are depicted nicely in the popular Television Show Mad Men set in the 1960’s. I believe the popularity of Mad Men helped fuel demand.
Buyers are much younger than sellers at auction. Younger buyers have been moving more frequently.
These younger buyers like the clean lines and portability of Mid-century modern furnishings as compared to the larger darker furniture and more intricate and fragile decorative items of earlier generations.
What’s not selling now?
Pianos, Organs, Armoires and Formal Dining come to mind.
As electronic keyboards have become more popular, pianos and organs have been much less in demand. The lower cost and portability are the most significant factors.
Armoires were heavily used and popular years ago when we began accumulating more clothes than our homes had closet space. However, homes are being built with much greater closet space and there are closet specialty businesses helping us grow closet space as well. Armoires were able to retain their value in the 1990’s when used for containing large bulky television sets. As flat screen TVs took over, the demand for armoires plummeted.
Formal Dining has been replaced by great open space kitchens for formal and informal use. Most of the elements of formal dining are far less in demand and there are many people liquidating, and the supply is higher while the demand has been dropping.
People hold onto items because they think their children want them. But their children have already filled their homes and don’t want to disappoint their parents by not taking them.
We see this mistake as well.
An approach which works well is to set a deadline several months in the future for the children to identify what they would like with a pick-up deadline as well. From my experience, children are most likely to want items are when they are first moving out. Once they have filled their homes, they are far less likely to have interest in very or perhaps any items.
One common mistake which is very sad is when our potential down-sizing client is sweet talked by resellers without having a sense of the value of their items. This is especially troubling when a nice man with $100 bills, a truck and a polite but pressured approach offers a low price and takes valuable items during his initial (and usually only) visit.
With the auction approach, we are selling on behalf of our client to the highest competitive bidder and receive a % for doing so. Our interests are aligned. We believe in putting the reseller in competition with the buying public to get the best value and maximizing the amount the seller receives.
How do you suggest people explore the auction world with you?
Start with a conversation to establish if we are the proper fit to help them.
This is based on the types of items available and their value. It is great to start with pictures and any documentation about the item such as purchase receipts, appraisals and history.
From this we can talk about the auction approach and arrange necessary visits with the proper specialists.
I appreciate the great stories you share in your emails. How can people sign up to receive it?
I send a monthly newsletter sharing my adventures working in the auction world. To be added to my newsletter list and receive it by email monthly simply send me a request me a request at my business email address TZeigler@Kamelotauctions.com.
The clients that I’ve referred to you have been happy, and I especially appreciate that you give them realistic suggestions, not just what they want to hear.
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