One of the most challenging aspects of real estate agent Matt Rose's work is that first encounter with a certain prospective homeowner who wants to sell. In such a case, the owner inherited the house from a parent or relative who has died, and the idea of getting it ready for sale seems overwhelming.
"Sometimes a house is so cluttered that (an owner) can't concentrate on the property," said Rose, an agent with Keller Williams Realty's Ridgefield and Danbury offices. "The process takes a while, and it gets emotional."
"Donna does a great job," said Rose, who has been an agent since 1986. "She's good at dealing with people and making it less stressful. She's very detailed."
Brookfield resident Lisa Teddy realized that she could not sell her late mother's condominium filled with the items she had collected over a lifetime, so she contacted Moore.
"I had to sell the condo, but I couldn't do it with all her stuff in it. The estate sale took two days. I brought the extra stuff to my house. That's all the memory stuff," said Teddy, who still must gather the fortitude to go through those items -- two years after the Brookfield condominium was sold.
It can be a very emotional process, said Moore, who tells her clients to remove all the items they want to keep before the estate sale takes place.
"Often, they're selling a house they grew up in, and they put a good deal of trust in us," said Moore, who has operated her business six years. "I love this job. It has to be done with dignity and respect. You want to separate the fine crystal. We organize everything, and we box all the personal papers.
Moore and her part-time staff typically conduct two to four estate sales a month, and she said honest communication is essential about the items and their value -- particularly for those items like mother's favorite chair or the family piano.
"The market for contemporary, used furniture is horrible. We can't get rid of it. They (clients) take it with them or consign it to me," said Moore, who often ends up donating it to charity. "There's no market at all for pianos. A lot of the time, we tell home sellers to use the piano as a negotiating tool or a housewarming gift."
Moore normally takes a 40 to 50 percent commission based on the total sale revenue.
Janet D'Addario, owner of Once Again Estate Sales in Fairfield, would not discuss her fee schedule, but estimated that she conducts 20 to 30 estate sales a year with the assistance of a part-time staff.
This week they are working with an individual who inherited a Southport home and has enlisted the services of a real estate agent to sell the house.
"We get a lot of referrals. They want to get the homes real estate-ready for sale," said D'Addario, who, like Moore, has become an amateur psychologist during her eight years of dealing with distraught individuals who are contending with the loss of a loved one and the trauma of letting go of items that carry personal attachments. "I lead them in the right direction in terms of holding onto things."
Auctions on site
Some of those who inherit a property and others who wish to downsize sometimes consider auctioning much of the contents of their homes.
Mark Blechman, president of America's Best Auctioneer on Shippan Avenue in Stamford, has been conducting estate sales and charity auctions since 1976 and often works with area real estate agents when they are representing a property with contents that fit his criteria.
"We can do an auction on site in the home, which also publicizes that the house is for sale. We can send out 30,000 mailers to potential clients. It's always better to have the auction at the house. It's best to show the merchandise in the most appealing setting," Blechman said, while surrounded by exquisite furniture, paintings and other household furnishings in his Stamford showroom. "We've worked with real estate agents for many years."
ABA charges a per-item fee, normally ranging from 35 to 50 percent, depending on the auction bid. The higher the bid, the lower the fee.
"If you have varied, important and desired items in a desired house, that will bring people," said Blechman, whose company uses social media to notify a potential bidder about a specific item in an auction.
Like Moore, Blechman has noticed that furniture does not command as high a price as it did before the recession started taking its toll in 2008.
"If you want to furnish your house today, you can do it for virtually nothing, but most everything else has held its own," he said. "Once you see houses sell again, you'll see an uptick in furniture sales."
Blechman, who has operated in Stamford since 1989, also works with real estate agents to stage new homes and older ones that are being offered for sale, using his furnishings to give potential buyers an idea of what the home could look like. ABA has conducted auctions of the furnishings in the homes.
Two William Raveis Real Estate real estate agents, Nancy Hadden in the Shelton-based company's Stamford office, and Jeanette Dryburgh at its Westport office, have used ABA's services to market properties.
In response to potential home buyers' concerns about the size of a vacant living room in a newly constructed house she was offering, Hadden rented furnishings from ABA and strategically placed them in the room.
"Mark picked out some lovely pieces. Empty always looks smaller. That's what we have to do sometimes to move the property," said Hadden, who eventually sold the house.
ABA moved some of its furnishings into two houses Dryburgh represented in Westport and Fairfield to entice potential buyers. A real estate agent for the past 14 years, she said the collaboration with ABA brought increased attention to the properties.
"It's exposure -- advertising when you're selling a house," Dryburgh said. "You're dipping into a market attuned to high-end properties."