Having been on both ends of an estate sale, as the ones who conduct an estate sale on behalf of heirs and as recyclers of vintage and antique elements, we have our finger on the pulse of the antique and "funky junk" furniture market. Things have changed in the past 3 years.
The secondary furniture market took a big hit when the housing bubble burst, as "furniture sales" are directly tied to the housing market.
The average person has not made this connection and therefore tends to price an estate sale's vintage and antique furniture too high --higher than could be expected out of a retail sales environment in today's market.
What this means is . . . after all of your hard work preparing an estate sale, which can take weeks to set up effectively, is that you could still own the furniture after 400 customers come through the estate on sale day.
To test this market adjustment due to the housing market's collapse, walk into any antique store and inquire as to how many pieces of furniture they sell a month today verses how many they sold every month in 2003.
Why vintage and antique furniture market is off?
Furniture is scaled to homes. Here's an example:
Let's say you downsized from a historic home with 16' by 18' parlor with 9' ceilings into a condo with a modestly sized living room with 8 foot ceilings. Some of the furniture that worked in your previous home's parlor will take over living room in your new condo. The opposite is true if you reverse the scenario. The size of the parlor might dwarf the furniture that was scaled to match the room sizes and ceiling height of the condo. Hence, you moved and you need new furniture. The need for new old furniture vanishes without housing sales, people moving into larger or smaller homes.
Solution: So what can you do about it?
Getting on the internet and digging around Craigslist won't help much: most of the sellers are still relying on a 2003 antique furniture market to price what they are selling.
We recommend that you find an antique dealer. Let your fingers do the walking or scour the internet until you find someone you trust. Give 'em a call and schedule a appointment for them to view the pieces you want to "put on the money," to ensure they sell at a fair price in today's market.
You don't have to let them buy anything (in some regards allowing them to do so would pose a conflict of interest as they would be acting as both the buyer -- who pays the price -- and the seller -- who should set the price). That said, be gracious and compensate them for their time, travel and the expertise they bring to your aid, as you would any professional.
While we only provide estate sale services and buy estate contents in Snohomish (Everett, Marysville, Mukilteo), Kittitas (Ellensburg), Yakima (Naches, Selah, Moxee, Toppenish) and Benton (Prosser, Kennewick, Pasco, Richland) Counties the overpricing of antique furniture in relation to today's market apprears unbounded by geography . . . it appears to be happening anywhere housing sales remain sluggish.
Questions? If we can help, pose a question by posting a comment or give us a call.