Why are our things worth so much less than we paid for them?!

It’s not unusual for people to be surprised--maybe even a little hurt--by the values reported in a Residential Contents appraisal, especially when the purpose of the appraisal is equitable distribution (to divide belongings among heirs or between a divorcing couple). Most of us have some idea of how much we paid for the furnishings, housewares, and decorative items in our homes. But just as with many other types of property, market conditions along with factors such as overall condition, shifting trends, and what I call “the Ikea effect,” all influence value.

Market conditions for personal property found in an average household have been adversely effected by the recession and its aftermath. The current market for most used household furniture, home decor, and other common household items remains weak. Even used furniture of good quality produced by well-regarded manufacturers retains only a fraction of its value on the secondary market, and lesser items hold minimal value.  Stylistic obsolescence, items that are taste-specific to the original owner, and things showing signs of wear or soiling restrict value still further.  

More specifically, the market for upholstered items, mattresses, beds and bedding is extremely weak, fueled in part by concerns about the reappearance of bedbugs in the United States. And finally, the availability of low-cost new items through retailers like Ikea, Target and Walmart has also negatively effected the market for second-hand furniture, household decor, and other common household items.  

Perhaps the only bright note to be found in this market is mid-century modern furniture and decor, aided by the current stylistic trend favoring those items.

Just remember, the contents of our homes provide utility, comfort, and enjoyment--all of which are things that cannot be measured in an appraisal.