Estate sales 101: A beginner's guide for buyers and sellers - Jersey's Best

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But estate sales serve an important purpose.
And for shoppers who thrive on the thrill of the hunt, estate sales are rife with high-quality antiques and other one-of-a-kind items — and they provide a real-life treasure hunt for bargain hunters.
“The cost of cleanout services can be pricey, so whether you’re downsizing or divorcing, estate sales are a great way to cut costs and an efficient way to make some money in a short amount of time,” said Sarah Smyth, owner of Pink Lady Liquidation LLC.
But the good news is that estate sales allow families the opportunity to repurpose their items and find new homes for their treasured belongings, from furniture and clothing to antiques and artwork.
“For sellers, it’s such a great way to recycle and keep things out of landfills, and buyers love estate sales for the bargains.

Estate sales 101: A beginner's guide for buyers and sellers - Jersey's Best

After a divorce or loss of a loved one, the last thing you want to have to do is sort, organize and put a price tag on a household full of memories. But estate sales serve an important purpose. Unlike a garage sale or a listing on eBay or Facebook Marketplace, they allow the seller to put the entire contents of their home up for sale. And for shoppers who thrive on the thrill of the hunt, estate sales are rife with high-quality antiques and other one-of-a-kind items — and they provide a real-life treasure hunt for bargain hunters. “The cost of cleanout services can be pricey, so whether you’re downsizing or divorcing, estate sales are a great way to cut costs and an efficient way to make some money in a short amount of time,” said Sarah Smyth, owner of Pink Lady Liquidation LLC. Based in Westfield, Smyth travels throughout northern and central New Jersey (and as far south as Atlantic City) to coordinate both onsite sales as well as online auctions and appointment-only sales. But the good news is that estate sales allow families the opportunity to repurpose their items and find new homes for their treasured belongings, from furniture and clothing to antiques and artwork. “For sellers, it’s such a great way to recycle and keep things out of landfills, and buyers love estate sales for the bargains. I’ve sold $15,000 tables for $1,000, and they’re still in great condition,” said Smyth, who noted that buyers often flock to estate sales for hard-to-find pieces, like midcentury modern furniture as well as vintage coffee bars or old stereo cases, with the intention to transform them into something new for their home. Of course, in most cases, estate sales aren’t designed just to make a few extra bucks; they’re usually born out of necessity due to a death in the family or, in some cases, even a foreclosure. “Estate sales will often include all of the things you or a relative have accumulated over the course of a lifetime, and may include multiple generations of heirlooms,” explained Stan Zebrowski, who owns A New Home Estate Sales LLC with his wife, Susan. The company provides estate sales and liquidations as well as other relocation, downsizing, buyout and consignment services throughout northern New Jersey. “That’s why we’re there — to be a shoulder to lean on in what is often a trying time for a family,” he added. Of course, these companies also step in to take over the logistics of the sale and ensure that it results in the greatest potential profits for the seller. “A professional company will devote all their efforts into creating a successful sale. We know where and how to advertise, and most importantly, we always produce more sales than a private family sale will,” said Lin Bush, who owns Somerset-based A Dusty Old Bag estate sale company with her husband, Bill. They also help clients avoid all of the common errors when it comes to organizing their estate sale. For starters, many sellers make the mistake of first going through the home and either donating or discarding items that could be potential moneymakers. “You never, ever want to throw anything out before the sale. Buyers will come looking for all kinds of things that you’d never think to keep, including food out of the cabinets,” Zebrowski advised. Likewise, sellers should also avoid pulling clothes out of closets and bagging or boxing them, as the best way to make a sale is to have everything displayed as neatly and accessibly as possible for potential buyers. “The best thing is that you can include everything in your estate sale, from unexpired food and Ziploc bags to cars and boats,” Smyth said. “People will buy anything they can get some use out of, even things you wouldn’t necessarily think to sell, like greeting cards and office supplies.” Although dealers and more serious shoppers will often show up in the wee hours of the morning to wait outside a house for an estate sale, experts say that buyers can generally expect to get the best deals later in the day or the second day of the sale. “If you want a more relaxed shopping experience, try mid-afternoon on the first day … but you’re definitely going to get the best bargains on the second day,” Smyth said. “And the more items you buy, the better deal you’re likely to get.” While bringing in a professional can take a lot of the headache out of planning and executing a successful estate sale, Bush noted that one of the most important questions to ask when hiring an outside company is if they do resale and cleanouts. “Some companies will price an item high knowing it won’t sell — and then, after the sale is over, the same company will clean out the property and take possession of all items that didn’t sell to resell it for a much lower price,” she warned. And for estate sale buyers, her biggest piece of advice is geared toward the bargain hunter. “Don’t insult the estate sale company by offering a ridiculous price for an item you want to buy,” she concluded. “It’s important to understand and know that the estate sale companies have an obligation to the clients who hire them, and that the items they’re selling belong to the client … and we cannot give them away for free.” Jennifer Lesser is a New Jersey-based freelance writer who specializes in health/fitness, parenting, business and lifestyle. Her work has appeared in Weight Watchers, Parent & Child magazine, Parenting magazine and CafeMom. This article originally appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of Jersey’s Best. Subscribe here for in-depth access to everything that makes the Garden State great.
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