Estate Sale Scene Busier Than Ever As Hamptons Houses Trade At Fast Clip - 27 East

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Estate Sale Scene Busier Than Ever As Hamptons Houses Trade At Fast Clip

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Kristen Hanyo at the Privet Estate Sales warehouse in Quogue.

Kristen Hanyo at the Privet Estate Sales warehouse in Quogue.

The Privet Estate Sales warehouse in Quogue.

The Privet Estate Sales warehouse in Quogue. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

The Privet Estate Sales warehouse in Quogue.

The Privet Estate Sales warehouse in Quogue. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

The Privet Estate Sales warehouse in Quogue.

The Privet Estate Sales warehouse in Quogue. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

The Privet Estate Sales warehouse in Quogue.

The Privet Estate Sales warehouse in Quogue. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

The Privet Estate Sales warehouse in Quogue.

The Privet Estate Sales warehouse in Quogue. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Denise LoSquadro of Sisters in Charge and her son,  Robert Esposito, of Relocators.

Denise LoSquadro of Sisters in Charge and her son, Robert Esposito, of Relocators. COURTESY SISTERS IN CHARGE

Brendan J. O'Reilly on Jan 5, 2021

The Hamptons estate sales scene — a favorite shopping opportunity for dealers, collectors and bargain hunters — is busier than ever, as home sales on the South Fork have surged amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like most industries in New York State, the estate sale business was temporarily shut down in spring, but estate sale professionals have adapted to the times to continue their work while maintaining safety and adhering to social distancing. As one would expect, online estate sales and auctions have increased in popularity, but in many cases, there is no substitute for in-person sales, which have continued with a few adjustments and new opportunities.

“This was the busiest year by far, hands down,” said Kristen Hanyo, who founded Privet Estate Sales in 2016 and has run more than 150 sales. “I couldn’t keep up with the phone.”

At the onset of the pandemic, things were quite different.

Ms. Hanyo recalled during a recent interview that back in March, just before the state shutdown, she was working with a big client on Meadow Lane in Southampton Village. When the shutdown came, a traditional estate sale was out of the question. But the client’s closing date for the sale of her home was imminent, and the furniture needed to be out of there before then.

“I, as a business owner, couldn’t leave her in a position like that, so we scrambled and we got a warehouse in Quogue,” Ms. Hanyo said.

Everything from the Meadow Lane home was trucked to the warehouse, where, when the situation improved, Ms. Hanyo could welcome buyers.

“We’re a family business,” she noted. “We all work, so I had to be concerned not only about customers coming in, but my own family.”

The new warehouse that came about to serve one client is now an asset Privet Estate Sales can use for any clients who opt against welcoming shoppers into their home as the coronavirus remains a concern.

“We continue to do some sales,” Ms. Hanyo said. “We left it up to the client. We had a conversation with each client to see what the both of us felt most comfortable with, and then we came to a conclusion: Are we going to have an in-person sale at the home, or is it going to go to the warehouse?

“Each person decided differently for their own reasons.”

The warehouse at 46 Old Country Road is open to the public just once a week, Sundays from 8 a.m. to noon, with the commercial truck-size garage door kept open for ventilation, the number of people allowed inside at one time limited, and masks required.

“So we get this warehouse — we did it mainly because I was in a jam with this one client — and it has morphed into something pretty awesome,” Ms. Hanyo said.

For instance, sometimes she’ll go on an interview with a potential client who has just 20 pieces of furniture to sell, she explained. It’s not enough for an estate sale, but the furniture can go to the warehouse instead so the client is not left scrambling to sell furniture before a closing.

Unlike the typical yard sale — where a homeowner is just trying to clean out some bric-a-brac and make a few dollars in the process — estate sales are often run by professionals and nearly everything in the house is for sale, from the clothes in the closet, to the bottles in the liquor cabinet and the tools in the garage.

Estate sales also provide visitors access to nearly every room in a house — and as an indoor activity during a pandemic, it must be managed carefully, which requires the cooperation of guests.

“The public has been pretty great about following the social distancing, the mask wearing,” Ms. Hanyo noted. “They have been very good, too. The people who go to estate sales are regulars. So this is a big part of their lives. Some of these people we see on a weekly basis, we know them very well.”

Occasionally, an estate sale is held to liquidate the belongings of someone who has died, but most often, on the East End, the sales arise due to a move or because the owners are offloading a second home.

“We’re in a very special area out here,” Ms. Hanyo said. “The majority of times that we do estate sales — not just during COVID, but in general — it is because they have just moved on to another residence. It’s rarely a death.”

So why do the homesellers leave everything behind? Ms. Hanyo says that’s a question she’s asked weekly. “For whatever reason, maybe it’s because we live in the Hamptons, I’m not quite sure, they move on to the next residence and maybe what they’re doing at the next house doesn’t fit in with what they did at their current house.”

Not everything will sell, but many estate sale companies will see to it that nothing is left behind in a house.

“We do a two-day sale. Whatever doesn’t sell, we let the client know,” Ms. Hanyo said. “They have the choice of either coming back and getting it, bringing it to their next place — or we donate it on their behalf. They get an itemized list for tax deductions. There is an overabundance of furniture on the East End of Long Island right now, so everything has to be priced to sell.”

Denise Stephens, the owner of Hampton Estate Sales, paused sales from the start of the shutdown in March up until June. By fall, she reported, there was a record number of estate sales happening.

“We have sales booked in January that we will run as long as the government keeps things open,” she said.

She pointed out that fall tends to always be a popular time for estate sales. She attributes that to spring buyers being more likely to buy a home furnished, so they can move in right away and enjoy summer. Fall buyers want a clean slate.

Like Ms. Hanyo, Ms. Stephens says the majority of those who attend estate sales are repeat customers. “Some homeowners buy everything from an estate sale,” she said. “They go to every sale, and they end up getting everything they need. Others are homebuyers who are looking to furnish a home quickly and inexpensively. Then we have dealers who are purchasing for resale. They typically buy the older items — the antiques.”

It’s also a fun activity, she added. “The homes in the Hamptons can be magnificent, so it’s a chance to see houses and pick up the bargains.”

She pointed to another reason why estate sales are popular with shoppers right now: Many furniture companies haven’t been able to produce as much during the pandemic and are backlogged.

Mid-century and contemporary furniture flies out the door at estate sales, according to Ms. Stephens, but French country furniture that once sold easily has lost its allure. She has found that millennials don’t want to buy anything used, and in the past 10 years certain furniture has declined in price and become harder to sell.

At the end of a sale, Ms. Stephans gives away or donates what she can, and throws away the rest. Finding places that want donations has become more of a challenge, even before the pandemic. “Particularly on the East End, there aren’t that many organizations that will take donations,” she said, “and some of them that do are resellers that seek to raise money for the charity.”

Ms. Stephens has avoided shifting to online estate sales — but said she would if another lockdown occurs.

“There are so many things you sell in a home during an estate sale that would end up in the trash if you didn’t do an in-person sale,” she said. “This business is not only beneficial for the homeowner, but it’s beneficial for the environment because there are so many things that are reused that go into an estate sale. It’s not only the furniture and the housewares — there’s cleaning products, the lawn products. The things that people would have to throw away when they’re cleaning up a house end up getting reused. Estate sales are positive for the environment in that respect, and you can’t really sell half a bag of lawn fertilizer online.”

Sisters in Charge, an estate sale company based in Hauppauge that conducts sales from Manhattan to Montauk, has found success with online estate auctions, when practical. Denise LoSquadro founded the business 20 years ago, and her son, Robert Esposito, founded a complementary business, Relocators, for clean-outs, storage and moving.

Sisters in Charge began tinkering with online auctions about two years ago — auctioninja.com is the website several Long Island companies use — and put greater emphasis on auctions after the pandemic hit.

“Some people don’t want people roaming around their houses,” Ms. LoSquadro said — something that was a fact well before the pandemic.

For those clients, she offers online auctions if the number of items is not overwhelming. “Some of them have so much stuff in the house that it is impossible to do an auction with it,” she said. “It would take weeks to just photograph all the items.”

She finds that more items sell in a 10-to-14-day online auction than in a one-to-two-day tag sale, and she noted that selling more items also reduces the homesellers’ cleanout fee.

Mr. Esposito said his moving business shut down for six weeks, down from 30 workers a day to three. “We just did emergency jobs as needed when we were completely essential.” But when the state reopened, business skyrocketed, and he increased his fleet of moving trucks from eight to 12.

“A lot of people left New York City to go all the way out east, whether they had homes already or they quickly transitioned there,” he said.

Also in the last six months, anyone who had been contemplating moving out of New York State anyway within 10 years did so, he said. Out-of-state moves increased from one to two trucks a month to two to three trucks a week, mostly to the Carolinas and Florida. Mr. Esposito said he’s also had an increase in deliveries for high-end house flippers and stagers of spec houses — another side benefit of a hot Hamptons housing market.

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