I’ve Planned 6 Estate Sales—Here’s How I Make Mine Profitable
Next time you move, try this.
Published Nov 18, 2023 1:10 AM
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What started as a one-month escape turned into a move across the country from New York to Los Angeles for Lale Boz, founder of interior design firm Normal. “It was just a summer fling for me,” she says. But six weeks turned into 12, and after almost a year of traveling back and forth, she made the decision to permanently relocate out West. The transition was also the impetus to hosting her first-ever estate sale, located at her Brooklyn apartment. To close out her East Coast life, her goal was to completely sell out the space. Everything had to go. Boz had attended traditional estate sales in Los Angeles on behalf of clients but never hosted one of her own. It was an instant success: 2,400 tickets that each guaranteed a 30-minute shopping session in her beloved loft sold out in just four days.
But estate sales were the last thing on her mind when she moved. “I was working basically 24-7 to build a bigger and better community in L.A.,” she says, which included recruiting creatives (who eventually turned into friends and teammates) to help her produce events. All of that changed in June when Amrit Tietz, DJ, podcaster, and Domino digital cover star, called and asked her to organize an estate sale on her behalf “We literally shook hands and said, let’s be chaotic together,” says Boz. The result: “Not even a piece of furniture left.” Now she’s hosted six—and counting.
What a Modern-Day Estate Sale Looks Like
Estate sales are most commonly hosted at the home of a person who is deceased to help liquidate their remaining belongings. Shopping events can also take place when someone is planning to downsize, but the point of the sale is that everything on the premises is available for purchase—it’s the whole estate! Companies come in to price items and profit from a commission on the total sales; marketing often includes signs on the side of the road, much like a garage sale.
Boz uses the term estate sale because it’s an event name that clearly communicates the purpose, but she shares that the energy is completely different. It’s less about endings and more about new beginnings, giving a second life to well-cared-for items and connecting in real life with fellow design-minded individuals who already belong to digital communities. Below, we’re digging into what it actually takes to host a successful sale from start to finish.
Boz requires five to six weeks minimum for planning. During this time, her team photographs the space with the clients, serving both as a gift for their farewell and for promotional purposes. Next, a graphic designer creates the sale’s digital footprint, making sure to show off the distinct personal style of the home. Boz’s team also begins the painstaking process of detailing the inventory, creating an exhaustive Excel sheet that includes pricing for hundreds of items. Each sale she’s put on takes place at the actual home, which comes with its own set of benefits and challenges. For starters, she doesn’t have to worry about renting out a pop-up space, but it means her team has to go to great lengths to ensure the privacy, peace, and parking spots.
One to two weeks before the event, tickets go on sale, which are essential as they ensure there are no big waves of people that exceed the capacity of the home. It also creates a certain level of hype—it’s an event you’re looking forward to, not something you might stop by. In the week leading up to the sale, Boz releases a presale email that offers a preview of the home, outlines frequently asked questions, and shows key pieces of furniture. At this stage, the largest items are actually available for purchase (but only if you’re willing to put down a 50 percent deposit).
The cost to book a time slot is always $5, which helps cover logistical costs like staffing and time spent planning. A ticket guarantees a 30-minute shopping window typically shared with 100 other shoppers. Boz’s team aims to keep the home as intact as possible so buyers get to experience it as it has been lived in, but sometimes rearranging the floor plan for the flow of foot traffic is necessary.
With the site prepped, it’s time to open the doors. Usually the sale takes place over the course of two six- or eight-hour-long days, starting at 10 a.m. and wrapping around dinnertime. To foster a sense of community, Boz keeps shoppers happy by having snacks and drinks (usually provided by a local vendor) on the scene. As for where you’ll find her? She’s always stationed at the front door so she’s the first to greet you as you walk in. She also puts a member of her team on each floor or in each room, depending on the size of the house, which means your questions can be quickly answered. Prices are clearly marked on every object with stickers, and the space is tidied between each shopping appointment. True to the spirit of an original estate sale, in addition to furniture and decor, there is always a selection of clothing, plants, and miscellaneous items (like Porsche wheels!) in the mix.
The benefits of shopping a sale of this nature is that both Boz and the hosts are trusted sources and it’s a ticketed event, guaranteeing you a look around in a safe environment. For similar reasons, she rarely negotiates prices, as Boz, her team, and the sellers agree on fair numbers that reflect the value of each item. “The price is mindful; it could sound high to people, but it’s actually lower than what you would get if you sourced it from a store or, you know, Chairish or 1stDibs,” she explains.
Ready to check out? Be prepared for anything. The payment options vary depending on what the client is most comfortable with, whether that’s Venmo, Zelle, cash, PayPal, or Apple Pay.
Running a successful sale is measured monetarily, of course: Boz is committed to leaving no item behind for her clients’ sake. (She also makes a well-earned commission on each sale). But her favorite aspect of the entire weekend is the connections that are made. “Normal started as a community,” she says. “Now I feel like it’s back to its roots, back to what I started, as it was all about people connecting with each other through those spaces.”
The final phase of the sale focuses on closing the home. Mondays are for scheduled furniture pickups—Boz has built relationships with trusted movers like Lugg to get bigger items out the door. What little is not sold is often donated. “Basically, the clients’ move-out happens. They literally pack luggage and leave,” she says. Boz jokes that it’s not even a free move, it’s a profitable move.
Repeat shoppers are common, showing that people are choosing to slowly decorate their space instead of favoring fast fashion–like solutions. “It has become this major circle of life, that everything is connected through sustainability and secondhand and community,” she says. “This is what makes my heart the most excited.”
If you want to join the estate sale movement, follow @normal.nyc for sale announcements, including seasonal markets on both coasts.