ODESSA — While Dale Smrekar collected art and antiques, he observed a startling trend: Buyers took advantage of sellers.
"Somebody would pay $75 for a $10,000 painting," said Smrekar, 66.
Smrekar thinks people who sell an item "deserve to get as much as possible, whether they've inherited it or bought it themselves."
So 13 years ago, he started a business designed to make that happen: Downsizing Advisory Service.
"Every day is like a treasure hunt," said Smrekar, who will speak at CARES Elfers next week.
Smrekar is a personal property appraiser and an estate liquidator whose clients range from senior citizens who are downsizing to families who are handling loved ones' estates. His role is to evaluate the contents of clients' homes to determine which items, if any, are valuable and what each is worth.
"You never know what you're going to find," he said.
In some homes, Smrekar finds nothing of unusual value. In others, he finds treasure, such as a $35,000 painting, a baseball that Babe Ruth signed or a mummified Egyptian cat, which sold at auction for $7,500.
Smrekar once found a lamp worth $5,500, whose owner otherwise would have trashed it. He found a ring whose owner thought the diamond in it was fake. It wasn't; it was worth $20,000.
Smrekar charges a $100 flat fee for walk-through appraisals, during which he orally identifies items of value. He charges $100 per hour for written appraisals.
He works throughout and beyond Pasco County, from Crystal River to Orlando to Fort Myers. His appraisals generally are for market value — "how much an item is worth in its current condition in its local market," he said. "What you can sell it for."
Having that information is important, he said. People who don't know an item's value risk accepting less money for it than they should, if they choose to sell it.
Clients who choose to sell their valuables can hire Smrekar to help. For a commission and fees for packing and shipping, Downsizing Advisory Service can broker the sale of clients' items.
"We get it in the right place, where it will generate the most amount of money for somebody," Smrekar said.
The right place could be an auction house or a website that caters to collectors of the item a client is selling.
Smrekar says his goal when he sells on behalf of clients is to get them the best return possible.
He added: "I love what I do."