Estate Sales of Virginia – Cathy Talley
- How did you get into the Estate Sale Business? For years, going to garage sales was my passion and avocation. It was what I did every Saturday morning from May until November. It became almost an addiction to find that bargain. Hunting for a specific item that was needed for our beach cottage, or sometimes I was asked to find something for a friend, It was an enjoyable hobby. But you had to wade through a lot of junk to find the good things. Then I discovered Estate Sales where companies were selling items that had been inherited or sometimes it was someone downsizing. These items typically were a step up from the stereotypical garage sale items. I would find things like nice all wood furniture, Beautiful hand loomed rugs, unusual lamps, china, crystal and tons of other things. Granted the pricing was a bit higher than a garage sale, but the quality was general better, the sale was inside the individual’s home and you could often tell the items being sold had been “well loved” by their owners. I was hooked from that moment on. More and more as I would go to these sales, I began to think this was something at which I would be good.
- How did you go about opening your business? Well Like anything else, you have to have a background and a good solid basis of knowledge to be successful in any business. My background in sales and marketing, design, staging and décor (I had owned my own staging business prior this) gave me the basics on which to build the company. I formed a partnership with a longtime friend (Nancy Britton). I came up with the name “Estate Sales of Virginia”, we became licensed, taking all the appropriate legal steps and, started off with a bang. Almost immediately we were hired to do a sale for a retiring couple moving to Florida.
- Who is your typical client? Our typical client is one that may be moving and downsizing therefore needing to sell most everything in their home OR it is often the executor of an estate after a loved one has passed on. When I get the call from someone that is dealing with the death of a loved one, it is often very difficult for them to talk about getting rid of their things. Sometimes it is a very recent occurrence and emotions are running high. Sometimes the heir lives in another state and they have to choose someone to handle the liquidation by phone. No matter what the circumstances, it is never an easy thing for the one making that call to deal with. Most of the time there are in a quandary of just what to do and how to go about it and are reaching out for help.
- Tell me how Estate Sales of Virginia can help someone in these circumstances?Educating the client on what we do and how we can help them is a large part of our initial contact. Most of our clients are filled with stress and are overwhelmed by the enormity of the task before them. They have either searched online and found us or have been referred by a Realtor or friend. I talk with them to explain we are there for them from the very beginning to the end and handle every aspect of the liquidation for them. We typically meet (if they are local) for a free consultation to see what the estate consists of. We are not able to take on every client that calls for various reasons. One of the big ones is timing. About once a month or so, I will get a panicky call from someone that says their house just sold and they are closing in 2 weeks. So a BIG part of our education is trying to let the public know that timing is essential. Planning ahead is paramount. Most of the time, we are not able to do a sale in two weeks as we are already booked.
- What do you find to be the most challenging when dealing with new clients? As I just mentioned, timing is one of the first things. It can especially become a problem when they are looking to sell the home. It is very difficult to hold an estate sale in a home that is occupied as we typically turn the home from a living environment into a sales environment. (Not completely unlike staging a home to sell but on a larger scale. Often it is a juggling feat to decide whether to sell the home first and then have a sale, or have the sale and then sell the home. If the home is put on the market to sell and then have an estate sale, we are put in a time constraint due to the contracted closing date. If we are already booked at that time, we are unable to accommodate the client. And sometimes if it is a particularly large home we may not be able to prepare the home properly for the sale in the timeframe allowed prior to the closing. So you can see how timing can be a real issue. We like for folks to talk with us months ahead of time if possible when they know they are going to be putting their house on the market and downsizing. And as painful as it can be when dealing with the failing health of a loved one, having a contract in place to hold a sale after their passing, is one less thing the heirs will have to deal with when the time comes. Probably the other most challenging issue is pricing. From years of experience we know our market and what a particular item will bring in a sale. Sometimes we have to explain to the client that although they paid $10,000.00 for a white Italian leather sectional sofa 10 years ago, they are not going to get anywhere near that amount even in an estate sale. It’s a balancing act. Our Goal is to sell EVERY item and MAXIMIZE the profit for our clients.
- Of course everyone will want to know how you charge for your services? Can you tell us about that please? Much like a real estate agent, we provide our services free of charge until the end. We charge a commission that is determined and set forth in our contract. The commission we charge is based on a number of factors. We cannot determine that commission until we meet with the client to see the items to be sold. Are they clean, extraordinary – needing hours of research, are there antiques needing appraisal or are there a huge number of small items requiring intensive labor to price and display. Every item in the entire home, garage, sheds, attics all are priced and displayed using our shelving, tables, lighting etc. for best presentation. Estate Sales of Virginia enjoys a reputation as the Premier Estate Sale Company in Tidewater for a reason. We take pride in handling estates of distinction and our customers look forward to shopping with us as they know it will be an enjoyable experience with fine furnishings and good quality items they would be proud to own.
- We know it is not always possible to plan ahead when dealing with the passing of a loved one. What advice can you give those of us that may be thinking of downsizing and having a liquidation sale? Learn to let go. Think honestly about whether you are now using inherited or collected items. If they’re packed away, they really aren’t part of your life and probably will not be something your children/siblings may want either. Typically these can go and not be missed. STOP BUYING. If you are thinking of downsizing, for goodness sake, STOP BUYING! Or at least ask yourself if this – is something you MUST have or more of an impulse purchase. Buying more things, means more decisions about getting rid of things at a later date. THINK PRACTICALLY ABOUT LOVED ONES LIFESTYLES – It is sometimes difficult to think logically vs. emotionally when going through things. When saving items for a family member – think “Will they want this?” Do they have room for it? Is the item only valuable to me? The answer will help with the decisions to save or let go.
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