“On the buy side, I work with private clients to help them find fine quality paintings, furniture, silver, porcelain and oriental carpets, usually through auction sources,” ex-plains Kippax. “I guide individuals through the intimidating process of using auctions to allow them to buy like a dealer.”
Since Kippax is the middle man and does not own the items, her clients get better value than they would buying from a glamorous store front. At the same time, she also offers guidance for people considering a purchase at an antique store and wanting a second opinion. “I recently advised a client not to buy an Oriental carpet they were considering, after showing them it had been tinted and was worth a fraction of the dealer's asking price,” she said.
Another example of the value of Kippax's “buyer's protection” service involves a client who had a "museum quality" English sideboard on approval from a top New York dealer. “I was asked to evaluate it before they purchased it,” Kippax said. “In examining it, I was able to show the client a variety of restorations and conversions undisclosed to them by the dealer. Although very handsome, it was not something you'd find in a museum. The $42,000 asking price was 50 percent over market.”
On the sell side, Kippax offers appraisal services for people wanting to know the value of what they have or wanting to sell something that they've had in their family. She explains, “Dealers will often say to someone wishing to sell a family heirloom, 'What do you want for it?' Most people don't have a clue and are put in the awkward position of making poor decisions.”
She performs appraisals and advises clients about where they would maximize the value of their possessions to be sold at auction. “I will often arrange to send paintings to London if it is the better market. I will also negotiate auction contracts on behalf of my clients.”
Kippax's services are fee-based. “When I take on a new client who is interested in purchasing art and antiques, I typically ask for a $500 retainer. When buying at auction, I charge 15 percent for items $3,000 and over and 20 percent for items under $3,000. I arrange for shipping and restoration, if needed. The savings achieved by buying at auction versus buying from a dealer more than cover the cost of my services.”
For items being sold, negotiating points with major auction houses depend on the value of the items. Individual pieces need to be worth about $50,000 and up and entire collections and estates need to be $1 million and up to be in the position to get better terms. “I am familiar with which auction house is getting better prices for certain categories of art and will guide my client to the best selling arena, Kippax said. “If something is rare and saleable, but not that valuable, you may also have some negotiating power. If I represent a client, I am entitled to a "referral fee" from the auction house which is a percent of what they were charging the client anyway. Depending on the scope of the work, this is often all I need to charge. In this case, the client, in effect, gets my services for free and the auction house just gets less.”
Another negotiating point with auction houses is "buy-in" fees. A "buy-in" fee of around 5 percent is charged when something consigned doesn't meet the prearranged "reserved price" and doesn't sell. This could happen because an item has been overestimated or because there is a temporary glut in the market, e.g., six similar works by a certain artist all come on the market in one season. The auction house has catalogued, photographed, stored, moved and exhibited the item and asks to be paid for trying to sell it. Depending on the situation, Kippax can often eliminate this fee for a client should the sale fail.