For many years Jennifer Gurahian has been my recommended source for handling estate sales whenever I’ve had clients who were downsizing. And only now when I am engaging her services myself have I experienced a change of perception about the whole process of getting rid of “stuff” no longer needed.
Counting what my wife and I had stored from a former antiques business as well as from a couple of other enterprises, we might as well have had a warehouse operation going in our 18th century farmhouse, currently on the market. Why were we holding on to so many things? Sentiment? An overrating of our collectibles’ value?
Whatever the reasons, we found that when it was time to let go of many possessions, we had an attic, basement and garage chock full of furniture, collectibles and other things as utilitarian as desks and file cabinets that had to be disposed of.
Correction: Rather than disposing of things, Gurahian has a different take on her job. “I’m in the business of bringing discarded items back to life, giving them new value and bringing new meaning to new people,” she said when she came to our property to assess our needs.
“It can be overwhelming for the average person,” Gurahian said, “It can be a full time job.” I totally agree; otherwise, I would have started on the assignment a long time ago.
Gurahian wasn’t specifically trained to do what she does today – she’s an anthropologist by education – but by any measurement is an expert at it. She started her business as a young single mother with a need for extra cash. “I would pick up discarded furniture on bulk trash pickup day, take it home, refinish it outside whenever the weather would permit and sell it either at flea markets or on consignment at antique shops. “Today, with Craigslist and eBay, the process is quite different,” she said.
To support her experience of learning by doing, she took a course in appraisal at Pratt. “There they taught us how to find the best and highest use for an item in the market you’re in,” she said. “How much can you get for an item within your market. Really, there is no other value.”
The process of re-purposing furniture and other items is fascinating to me and really quite time-intensive. Gurahian comes to the homeowner’s property to explain the process and to survey all the things to be sold. She then makes a proposal which usually involves her earning a percentage of sales. When an agreement is made, a schedule of visits is arranged in which she takes inventory of all items, does all necessary research on them, writing descriptions and taking photographs for the internet. It’s basically a full-service commitment where she communicates with interested buyers, arranges for payment and pick-up or, for items to be mailed, packaging.
And why would anyone want to do all this for a living? “It’s just something I was drawn to when I discovered all the things in my Grandmother’s attic,” Gurahian explained. “I wasn’t trained in this area…I’m just an educated lay person with a good eye.
“Early on, I found that pieces talk to you. Things are made with care and attention,” she said. “And, they have meant something to somebody. When you’re disposing of someone’s pieces, you’re getting someone’s experience with them, so it has meaning.”
Looking at an English tea table I’ve had for many years, Gurahian spies a patch in the veneer and said, “Look at the craftsmanship and care that went into that mending! I think it adds value.”
In terms of attaching the right price to pieces for an estate sale, Gurahian projects that she seeks the law of averages. “You want to get the price right – or at least within 15 percent – 80 percent of the time and the rest, you want lucky high or lucky low,” she said.
“This work has been very fulfilling to me on several levels,” she continued. “Working with furniture is very therapeutic. It speaks to you, yet doesn’t talk back. And, the ability to bring something back to life is a very powerful metaphor.”
Considering that moving is a major stressor in life, having this kind of service available is certainly a godsend, wouldn’t you say? Jennifer Gurahian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.