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Moving can be a moment to let go of superfluous stuff

If you suspect you have too much stuff a move will let you know for sure. And if you’re downsizing, moving to a different climate or tasked with clearing out a loved one’s house, you are likely headed for an estate sale to get rid of all the extra stuff. While a garage sale or yard sale is just a selection of things, an estate sale includes everything from the bed frames to the silverware.

Here are things to keep in mind.

An estate sale manager is going to take a commission of between 30 and 50 percent. It covers the cost of advertising the sale, going through everything and pricing it, a job that can take two to three weeks; and hosting a one or two-day sale. The biggest reason to hire someone is for the pricing expertise, said Mark Lawson of Mark Lawson Antiques. Someone who has been doing estate sales for years has a better idea of what buyers will pay than you do.

It’s hard not to attach emotions to possessions. When you look at your grandmother’s china, you see the years of Thanksgiving dinners you shared with her. Memories are priceless. But possessions have price tags and the prices are probably lower than you think they should be.

At estate sales, the first items to go are lawn equipment, tools, antique toys, pottery and furniture that is currently fashionable. Last to go: knickknacks, couches, mattresses.

“If we have a dispute with someone over what something should cost, we put their price on it,” said Jack Bailey of PJ’s Estate Sales of Glenmont.

If at all possible, don’t move too quickly. Find someone who knows what they’re doing and you trust. There are a lot of people in the estate sale business. Ask for references and examine them.

“Find someone you’re comfortable with,” Lawson said. “People ask me, ‘How will I know?’ It’s a gut feeling. Within 30 seconds, you know.”

Real estate broker Anthony Gucciardo offers estate sales as part of his service, which allows clients to use someone they already trust. Four to six weeks before closing, Gucciardo goes through a client’s house and comes up with a fee, usually between $1,200 and $1,500. Any money he brings in over the quoted amount goes back to the client as a credit at the closing. Sometimes, the clients move away, leaving everything for Gucciardo to take care of, he said. Buyers shop the sale first, Gucciardo said. Anything that doesn’t sell he pays to have removed.

An estate sale is not the best option for everyone or everything. If you have valuable antiques, an auction house will probably find the best audience. When it comes to jewelry, coins and silver, go to a specialist, Lawson advised. The dealers work off a 5 to 15 percent profit margin, so you will get more than if you sell at an estate sale where 30 to 50 percent comes off the top. But for the myriad things that won’t sell anywhere else — dishes, cutlery, books, clothes, linens, baskets — an estate sale is a good idea, Lawson said. These items may only be priced between $1 and $5, but it adds up, even with the commission taken out, because you are otherwise going to donate the stuff or throw it out.

Get a written contract and include provisions for security. Keep smaller items in a supervised room and monitor the exits.

Don’t assume your things are worthless. Gucciardo has sold wrapping paper and unused paper goods. Bailey is always dismayed when he pulls up to a house to see a full Dumpster in the driveway.

“Don’t throw anything away until we can go through and take a look at it,” Bailey said.

Make yourself scarce on sales days.

When Rolfe Lawson (father of Mark Lawson) and his partner, Garrett, decided to move from their home in Wilton to an apartment at Woodlawn Commons in the Wesley Community of Saratoga Springs, they hired a senior move manager to help them sort through their three-bedroom cottage, which included numerous ceramics and artwork. It was expensive, Rolfe said, but worth the cost to have someone guide them through the disposal of their things and orchestrate the move. On sale day, their move manager sent them off with friends and took care of everything.

“You may not believe it, but you do come out on the other side. Divesting has some good feelings about it — you have less to take care of and not as much space to tend to — it’s a good feeling.”

Tim Davis at his parent’s empty home in Beverly Hills, Mich. He and his sister, Tamara Davis, said that they got much less money than they expected from an estate sales agent they hired and that it took months to be paid. CreditAli Lapetina for The New York Times

TIM AND TAMARA DAVIS say they have firsthand experience with the dark side of estate sales, that fixture of weekend life in affluent suburban towns around the country.

The brother and sister said they realized after their mother died that she had been shielding them from knowing the extent of their father’s dementia. He needed to be in a skilled nursing home. But to pay for that, they would have to sell the family home in suburban Detroit, along with its contents.

So they hired an estate sales agent to value and sell what she could, auction other pieces and donate anything that was left.

“My dad had been in and out of the hospital seven times in the last year,” Mr. Davis said. “There was a lot of pressure financially and also on my time.”

He said his father received $3,000 a month in pension and Social Security benefits, but the nursing home costs were $5,000. Selling the furniture would buy the family some time.

What seemed straightforward, though, turned out to be far more complicated and time-consuming than the siblings had expected.

After the sale this spring, the estate sales agent delayed payments, bounced checks and, according to the Davises, underpaid for many items, including some bought by friends and family members at a presale, where the Davises knew what was paid.

 “We filed a police report, but the police said it’s a civil, not a criminal, matter,” Ms. Davis said.

Estate sales are a step up from tag sales, with the promise of nicer items, the potential for rare finds and an expert to curate it all. But they exist in an unregulated market in which an agent’s average fees are 35 to 40 percent of the sale total.


Tamara Davis at home in Chicago. When hiring an estate sale agent, she said, “My biggest bit of advice would be if you have red flags, stop, even if you’re under a lot of pressure.”Credit Lyndon French for The New York Times

The Davises said their experience began when Ms. Davis tried to find an estate sales agent online from her home in Chicago and through family friends still living near her parents’ home in Beverly Hills, Mich. Mr. Davis was working in Detroit as an engineer at an automobile manufacturer and trying to take care of his father without missing work.

The two interviewed three agents.

“The first one seemed very nice, but she was more concerned with putting bows on things and her percentage was a lot higher — she wanted 40 percent,” Ms. Davis said. “One guy wanted a guarantee of $2,000 and then 25 percent on top of it. He was concerned about getting valet parking. We didn’t feel like we wanted to pay for that.”

In the end, they chose an agent who said she had been in the business for a long time. “She explained the process, how she puts numbers on everything to keep track of things. And if it didn’t sell, she said she’d take it to the next estate sale. She had a really, really good story.”

The Davises’ first mistake, estate sale experts said, was that they didn’t get a copy of the contract she had them sign.

Julie Hall, director of the American Society of Estate Liquidators, said she always asked people who called with a complaint whether they had a contract. Usually they don’t.

The Davises’ agreement also had a red flag: They would not get their money for 30 business days. Most agents pay people in under a week, if not sooner.

Ms. Hall said many people like the Davises are attracted by the lowest fee, but good estate sale agents earn their money by knowing what they’re looking for and how to price it.

“I offer Mr. or Mrs. Executor a game plan,” she said. “You need to know the process and the order in which you do it. The Depression era throws nothing away. Everywhere you look, it’s like the stuff reproduced when you weren’t looking.”

Once, she was going through a client’s trash and found three gold coins. “I called to tell him, and he said, ‘I know, but they’re only worth one dollar,’” she said. “I said, ‘No, I’m staring at $3,900 worth of gold.’”

Ms. Hall said she advised people to talk to real estate agents about who they use for estate sales, but also to check the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List for comments or complaints.

Jim Shay, a retired steelworker, said he, too, had experienced problems with an estate sales agent. He said he had collected tens of thousands of dollars in antiques over the years. But he was in a rush to sell his house in suburban Detroit so he could join his wife outside Jacksonville, Fla.

He sold about $11,000 in antiques, but the bigger, more valuable items — worth another $10,000, he estimated — were supposed to have been taken to auctions. So far, he said, he has not received any money for them, though he has seen some of the items advertised on estate sale websites.

As for payment, the first check for $8,600 bounced, he said. It took him four months of calling to get a check that cleared.

The more common complaint is that the estate agent accepted too little for someone’s belongings. “That’s where the communication comes in,” he said. “Their expectations were more than likely too high.”

(Tip: All that brown Victorian furniture isn’t worth as much as people paid for it, but midcentury modern furniture is popular right now.)

After much back and forth with the police, not to mention complaints filed with various estate sales websites, Mr. Davis said the agent finally sent him a cashier’s check. It was two months late and for a lot less than the Davises had expected.

“We had our family day sale, and all of the receipts from my relatives added up to more than the amount she sent,” he said. “Our neighbors told us it was packed on Saturday,” but the sales receipts did not reflect the activity in the home.

The agent, when contacted, contends that she acted properly.

The Davises say they hope others will learn from their experience. “If people are going to do estate sales, I’d encourage them to take their time to find the right person,” Mr. Davis said. “My biggest bit of advice would be if you have red flags, stop, even if you’re under a lot of pressure.”




NEW YORK – The National Estate Sales Association (NESA) has announced its inaugural, Estate Sale Success Summit, a free virtual summit Sept. 19-30.

This online event combines exclusive business education, interviews, and pathways to success. The event is catered to estate sale businesses owners, managers, and anyone associated with the secondary market for personal property or tangible goods. The summit features some of the top experts in the field of resale, fine art, luxury goods, collectibles, and consumer marketing.

“The NESA Estate Sale Success Summit is designed to educate both new and existing estate sale owners by keeping them up-to-speed with advances in customer services,” said Martin Codina, Chairman of NESA. “This is the event that provides exclusive information that brings the estate sale trade together like never before.”

The NESA Estate Sale Success Summit is comprised of 30-minute interviews. Experts in the areas of fine art, estate jewelry, antiques and collectibles, insurance, and legal considerations regarding contracting will be featured. People can access the interviews and information anytime online.

The summit concept was developed by 10 leading estate sale firms across the United States. NESA identified the unmet need for mentorship and education and by partnering with complementary businesses and experts; the Estate Sale Success Summit will enable business owners to give customers the latest advancement in services.

This type of collaboration will aid the 5,000+ U.S. estate businesses to be better stewards for customers and savvy to headwinds of legislation and competition. “The NESA Virtual Summit is our first major foot forward,” Codina said.

Diverse panel of experts

The summit has already added 20 specialty topics relevant to estate sale owners and anyone interested in the secondary market:

— Martin Codina: State of the Estate Sale Industry
• Eric Bradley: Where to find the latest pricing information for fine art & collectibles
— Peg McDermott: Social Media and Estate Sales: Tips, Tricks, and Best Practices for Maximum Impact
• Greg Myroth : Art Pottery: Essentials that Every Estate Sales Company Should Know
— Deric Torres: How estate sales company’s can best work with auctioneers
• Joan Fletcher: Business Coaching for the Estate Sale Company Owner
— Alexander Eblen: Jewelry 101 – The basics of estate jewelry
• Roger Demers: Time Management and Employee Retention for Estate Sales Companies
— Patrick Prince: How Estate Sellers can get the most out of vinyl record collections
• Steve Gurney: Building your Sr. serving business thru referrals & relationships
—  Bryan Haver: How to Make Merchant Card Services Work to Grow Your Business
• Anita Wheeler: Home Is Where The Stuff Is – How Work With Top Notch Realtors
—  Toma Clarke Haines: French Furniture Styles ‐ A Lesson in The Louis’
• Merritt Green: Cover Your Bases – What You Should Know About Estate Sale Contracts
— Angie Becker: The Insurance Handbook- What Estate Sales Companies Need to Know
• Brian McGuinness: Moving Companies and Estate Sales – A Natural Partnership ‐ How to Make It Work
— Josh Wulkan: Sports Collectibles 101- What’s Hot and What’s Not (Guide for Estate Sales Companies)
• Michael Judkins: How to Leverage Estate Sale Listing Sites to Serve Your Clients
— Harry Rinker: Techniques for Understanding Antiques and Collectibles
• Bonus: Michael Fry – Building a Winning Estate Sales Team.

Many presenters will provide free gifts and resources to assist audience members.

NESA invites all members of the secondary market community to the first training preview for their clients, under the belief that how well you serve your customers is an essential part of your image, sales, and future in this business.

“Why not learn from those who have sowed the seeds of success and are ready to share what they learned – for free,” Codina said.

To register for the Sept. 19-30 NESA Virtual Summit, visit today.

5 Things You Should Buy At Estate Sales (And 3 To Skip)

Huffington Post- February 1, 2014

By: Brie Dyas

midcentury-living-roomIf you’re not necessarily into retro collectibles, you may have driven past sales without a second thought. But, estate sales can be a great place to find more everyday items for a super-cheap price.

Ready to get started this weekend? Here’s what to take a second glance at and what to pass on.

Read more:


Estate Sale or Auction?

The truth about estate tag sales – Roumillat’s Antiques and Auctions

auction pictureIt seems such a role is always a thankless job and very demanding on your time and nerves. When an estate occurs it seems that the MAJORITY of family members make a statement along the lines that “we need to have an estate sale” – the term ‘estate auction’ is what they really mean.

Read more:

Do’s and Don’ts of a Garage Sale Sign

Elgin Courier- July 22, 2015

Do's and Don'ts estate sale signsElgin City Council member Jessica Bega recently expressed concern some residents may not be familiar with the sign ordinance when having a garage sale.

Read more: sale tips

10 Dos and Don’ts of a Successful Garage Sale


14 Do’s and Don’ts for Shopping at Estate Sales

Estate Sale Shopping Tips

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) – July 20, 2015


Most are managed by professional estate liquidators, but you’ll occasionally see estate sales organized by the property owners or heirs. No matter which type you attend, read these estate sales do’s and don’ts before you go:

Read more:

“Do’s” and “Don’ts” of an Estate Sale

 Posted by Caring Transitions on November 3, 2014 at 6:24 PM

caring transitions estate salesOne of the challenges when moving to a smaller space is trying to determine what to do with their downsized possessions.  Today there are more options than ever, including live auctions, online auction sites, tag sales, and Estate Sales.

Read more: “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of an Estate Sale

Dos and Don’ts to Make Money at a Yard Sale

Bargain Babe- April 24, 2014

bargain babe articleAre there right ways and wrong ways to hold a yard sale? As a veteran yard saler, I can unequivocally tell you yes! If you want to attract crowds and make money, do yourself a favor and learn from these mistakes and secrets!

Read more:



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