How To Save Money on an Appraisal

So much of an appraiser’s time is spent tracking down information…information that was lost, forgotten or tossed. If you think there is an appraisal in your future, start saving documentation now, to save money later. This article offers tips on how to collect and record potentially archival material about your possessions.

I am sure you’re thinking…”I know, I know…save receipts.” And while it is true that paper trail material is very helpful in establishing the age and original price of an item, there are other materials and methods to consider (though I do encourage clients to begin taking advantage of emailed receipts when it is an option.)

Consider a client of mine that was the original owner of a large 60’s teak wall unit by Poul Cadovius. These are highly desirable storage systems in the mid-century modern market. My client had saved a promotional brochure with details and specifications about the unit. I was able to gather primary information about the property for the report, saving me the time of measuring, photographing, and drafting descriptions from scratch.

For collectors with large collections, I encourage keeping a cataloged inventory. A personal story I like to share with collectors and enthusiasts is of my own grandfather. As a commercial photographer in Flint, MI, from 1930-1950, he had a huge archive of photographs documenting the history of General Motors. He kept meticulous catalogs. Upon his death, my father donated it to the GMI archive. The personal property appraiser was able to quickly and efficiently evaluate the collection due to the documentation available. (The collection was ultimately valued at $1 million, for which a non-cash charitable donation was allowed.)

If an item was originally purchased from an auction house, the original listing may still be available online. Another client of mine had purchased Frakturs at auction in 2011 and kept the page for his records. The link was still live, and I was able to lift information directly, eliminating the need for time-consuming research on these historic pieces. This also applies to exact or similar pieces–it doesn’t have to be the one you purchased to be a usable record of facts.

You may be thinking that a link is one thing to keep, but a bunch of ephemera around other purchases is another. This is where I encourage digitizing paperwork. And by that I mean take pictures with your phone and save it in a dedicated folder on your computer or in the cloud (Google accounts come with quite a bit of free storage space). For information that is already on the web, save the webpage by printing it to a PDF and save it in the same folder (and do the same with those emailed receipts, too.) You may see the item in a print catalog, magazine article or book. Do the same. It is simple to share a folder with an appraiser and even if there is no system of file naming, it is faster to flip through material visually to identify relevant information.

If you do follow these steps and have these sources to share, tell your appraiser right away. They can then estimate the project knowing that you can provide authoritative, rich, and reliable information and can estimate hours appropriately, ultimately saving you on the final expenses.