When moving — whether for a job or to downsize — selling furniture that won’t translate well into your future home makes sense. Picking and pricing what’s for sale, however, is tricky and involves a stew of factors, including purchase price, wear, the current market, how much you love it, the cost and hassle of moving it, how well it suits the next place and sentimental attachment. Then toss in the opinion of a good friend.
“I’m drowning!” I cry when my good friend Susan answers her phone. Ever since it dawned on me that I was really moving, and not just talking about moving, this is how all my phone calls to Susan begin.
“I’ll be right over,” she says, dropping everything like a paramedic.
The couple moving into our house not only wants to rent it, but also wants to buy a lot of the furniture. At first, this seems like a great idea, the way Jell-O shots seem like a great idea. At first.
On one hand, I like my furniture. I spent a lot of head-splitting hours choosing it. On the other hand, I like the idea of liquidating, starting fresh, owning less and not paying to move more.
The new renters are coming by tomorrow to see which items they’d like. Every selling scenario I picture turns awkward. Plus, talking about money gives me ulcers.
I walk around my house as if it were a furniture store, sorting through what could go, stay and wok together. Although I really want to let go of a lot, I find I have all these attachments — to things! Complicating my already complicated situation is the fact that until school’s out, my husband and our daughters will rent a place in Denver near the old house, while I set up house in Orlando to start my new job. So we need to furnish two places, temporarily. And, just to make life super crazy, we haven’t found either place yet.
If you’re following all this (how could you?), you see my predicament: I’m trying to decide what furniture I will need for two homes I’ve never seen.
I lie awake nights thinking: I’ll take the blue sofas to Florida, sell the gold ones and put the leather ones in the Colorado place. No. I’ll take the gold ones, sell the leather ones and leave the blue ones. When I exhaust all the sofa options, I move on to chairs, then tables, then art. Then I start over.
Susan comes over. I hand her a package of colored dot stickers. “A green dot means it’s for sale,” I tell her. “Red dot means not for sale, and yellow dot means negotiable.”
We go room to room. “This can go,” she says, putting a green dot on an old rocker.
“But Dan bought me that the first Christmas I was pregnant.”
“Oka-ay, so it has a story!” She sticks a red dot on it.
After we dot everything, the house looks like a giant game of Twister. We write prices on the green dots. I use a sophisticated valuation formula out of Harvard Business School: Take the price I paid, less 40 percent, add a ballpark figure based on how much I like it, subtract the grief of moving it, to come up with a price. Susan arrives at her own number. We compare, then go with Susan’s price.
When the tenants arrive, I give them a stack of orange dot stickers. They are to stick orange dots next to green dots on items they’d like. Then I skedaddle. I don’t want to stalk them, or play salesperson, or take anything personally, or say something stupid. And I’d likely do all that.
They buy most of what’s for sale. The remaining sale items I will sell on Craigslist. When it’s over, I really will have what I want and no more, plus a much lower moving bill.
If you are downsizing, and thinking of unloading some furniture to a new occupant, or in a garage sale, or on Craigslist, consider these factors when deciding what makes the cut:
•Fit factor: Does the item have transitional value or is it uniquely suited to this home? If it was custom made or specially purchased for this space, it may be worth less to you in the new place. (Like that framed hanging mirror that goes perfectly over the bathroom vanity.)
•Cost factor: Bottom line question: Would you rather have the money or the item? If you will need the item, weigh sales price against replacement and moving costs, and the benefit of buying something better suited to the new place with the money.
•Hassle factor: How much do you really want to move that pool table out of the basement?
•Context factor: Keep items that belong together. If you’re hanging onto a piece that’s now an outlier given what you’re selling, consider letting go.
•Storage factor: The 11th Commandment says: Thou shall not pay for storage. If you must, you’re allowed one month. But the first month is usually free, and you have to pay two months up front. By month three, you’ve gotten complacent and keep paying monthly until you pay more than your stuff is worth. Avoid rental storage like the meter maid.
•Attachment factor: If it would break your heart to leave it, keep it.