Downsizing Help

Little Saltbox House

Downsizing Help

I receive a fair number of calls from people who are moving to smaller quarters. Of course, these moves often require letting go of some belongings in order to comfortably fit into a smaller home. Even treasured items may not make the "keep" list, so how does one decide how to distribute or dispose of the rest? That's where a qualified personal property appraiser can help.

The process usually starts with a consultation to learn the goals of the property owners. How can we decide what to give away, sell, or donate? Unfortunately, the assumption that adult children will want their parents things is often met with polite refusal. I commonly hear, "Our kids don't want any of our things! Now what?" 

Give Away: If family members do want some of the available items, family harmony can be preserved by distributing the property equitably. Knowing the value is the first step.

Sell: Before holding a garage sale or posting classified ads, a walk-through by a qualified personal property appraiser can set minds at ease. Even items that family members disdain may have significant value. I think of a dusty Picasso ceramic plate that one client dug out of a box as an afterthought. With a Fair Market Value of more than $15,000 it was by far the most valuable item we looked at that day!

Donate: Salvation Army, Goodwill, or the church rummage sale are good recipients for ordinary household goods.  However, items sent to other types of qualified non-profit organizations (museums, universities, hospitals, etc. ) with a Fair Market Value of greater than $5,000 are in a special category.  The IRS requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser in order to claim a deduction on one's tax return for non-cash charitable contribution. 

Finding a qualified appraiser is key. Since personal property appraisers are not licensed, it is important to seek out an accredited member of a professional appraisal organization whose members are required to adhere to a code of ethics and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practices (USPAP). I recommend checking the American Society of Appraisers website ( for a database to find a qualified personal property appraiser near you.