What is Personal Property?

When I first created my appraisal, estate sale & consignment firm, I initially called it Personal Property Consultants. However, I ran into a problem: No one knew what personal property was! Even today, I find myself explaining the term over & over.


So…What is Personal Property?

Common definitions of personal property often include “movable property; belongings exclusive of land and buildings…Any asset other than real estate.” After 20 years in the business, I find that the definition most people immediately understand is the simplest: “Stuff.” The only danger with this definition is that people often have a preconceived notion of their “stuff’s” value. Some underestimate, while others overestimate the monetary value.  Just look at these different examples of what you can own!

As you can see, there are a lot of types of personal property. And, the same type of item can vary drastically in price: Someone selling a “car” could have a $100 junker or the latest Tesla. “Stuff” can sell for six-figures or pocket change, depending on the particular items’ characteristics of value. How can you tell what your collection is worth, if you aren’t sure?

Call the Magnussons! 973-425-1550

Co-Authors: Lynn Magnusson, ASA, AAA and Becky Lipnick, Communications Coordinator


We recently received an email from a customer who could not believe that there were people in 2017 who were unfamiliar with the term “personal property.”

Because some other readers may have had the same thought, here our reply from Becky, our Communications Coordinator:

Thank you for sending us your comment. Honestly, we were being completely serious! Often, Lynn will tell someone that she is a personal property appraiser and they respond, “Oh, so you work in real estate.”
We have spoken to many fellow appraisers about communicating on tangibles, and many express similar difficulties.
Granted, our clients & allied professionals have very diverse backgrounds. Sometimes we are talking to an estate attorney; sometimes we are talking to a busy doctor.
However, we believe that even those familiar with personal property can benefit from reviewing the basics. This is why we recently started offering a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course for legal professionals called PERSONAL PROPERTY APPRAISAL BOOTCAMP. In this presentation, one of the first slides addresses the different types of personal property. In fact, the feedback we received from attorneys about the presentation actually inspired this recent blog post!


A poll to our readers: Was this blog useful or would you rather see other types of content from us?

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Showing 6 comments
  • Steve

    I always have fun at your estate sales. I find the staff to be very helpful as well as courteous and knowledgable. I have never gone to one of your sales, without finding one or more interesting things to bring home with me. I want to take this time to thank you and your staff for all of your hard work and the outstanding service that you provide.
    Thanks Steve

  • Magnusson

    Steve, thank you for the kind review! We strive to run the best estate sales in New Jersey. I just in the process of uploading information on a new estate sale happening next weekend (7/21-7/22) in Mendham, so stay tuned.

  • Cathy Perry

    As a trust officer, I have found that after a death, families squabble more about the distribution of personal property than anything else, even if that property is only worth a few dollars. I always advise my clients to either gift those sentimental or valuable pieces during lifetime or by a signed memorandum with a will to avoid some of those issues. And it’s always helpful to know what those items are worth to achieve equal distributions, if that’s a goal.

  • Magnusson

    Cathy, that’s excellent advice. Our team has been working on a blog to explain how to talk about personal property in a will to avoid such issues. Thank you for your feedback!

  • Tricia Hoekwater

    Great article. I provide comprehensive home inventory services and I also often run into confusion as the term “personal property”. Thanks for the great insight.

  • Magnusson

    Thank you, Tricia!

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