FAIRFIELD — Tinamarie and Phil Brown have run estate sales on everything from a Green Valley doctor’s home packed with beautiful items from his many travels to the dusty contents of a house in Pinole packed with papers.
“You get a sense of who that person was, how they enjoyed life, whether they were in the military, where they traveled,” Tinamarie Brown said of her years running Movin’ On Estate Sales.
She and her husband have even found handwritten notes from the deceased person attached to items telling of that item’s heritage “and we always leave it with the item,” Tinamarie Brown said.
Tinamarie Brown was a collector of vintage items and frequented estate sales before she decided to get into the business.
“I was raising four children and I thought, ‘Why not get a (part-time) job working for one of those companies?’ ” Tinamarie Brown said.
She tried Quality First Estate Sales of San Francisco, one of the oldest such companies in that city, and impressed the owner enough that Brown was hired in 1997 and went to work the next day, working about three to four sales in the Bay Area each month.
“I would work part-time as a watcher and a salesperson,” Tinamarie Brown said, adding that the company’s owner “was the one who taught me the business.”
That work covered setting up the house where the estate sale occured, checking items to be highlighted and researching them to determine their value.
After six years with Quality First, Tinamarie Brown left the company when her boss retired and, after a short hiatus, started to set up Movin’ On Estate Sale Company, which she now runs with the help of her husband, who retired from the automotive business and now serves as a Movin’ On estate sales consultant.
Setting up an estate sale can be very time-consuming, with a modest sale taking about two days to organize and a large one taking up to two weeks, according to Tinamarie Brown.
The first step is working with the family of the deceased person whose estate Brown was hired to sell, working out what they want to keep, what they want to sell and when they want to schedule the sale.
“You have to have a compassion for people,” Tinamarie Brown said of her work.
She then chronicles everything that will be sold, taking pictures of every room and item, and researches items when she is unsure of their value.
“We go through the house to determine its suitability, whether it is safe and what parts of it we need to close off if we need to,” Tinamarie Brown said.
On average, Tinamarie Brown sees about 70 to 80 people at the sales, and most of them are dealers who will resell the items. She said that 80 percent of the sales at an estate sale come from 20 percent of the customers.
Some are neighbors who have come to buy a keepsake to remember their deceased friend with.
“It is nice,” said Phil Brown of the neighbors. “It is spreading the person’s legacy throughout the community.”
A few people don’t even come for any of the estate items, such as one customer who came to an estate sale in Willotta just to look at the house and ended up buying it.
One of the more unusual estate sales involved the belongings of a member of a motorcycle club in Vallejo who had died. While the Browns were cataloguing the items, two other members of the club showed up and said that they were there to get their possessions in the house.
“We talked more, asked them to show us what was theirs and we made a list,” Phil Brown said. “In the end, they agreed we should sell them and give the proceeds to (the man’s) mom.”
Another time, Tinamarie Brown was assessing the contents of a house in San Francisco’s Sunset district when she opened one drawer to find it full of money, which was then turned over to the family.
Anything that is left over usually is sent to a local charity such as Mission Solano or The Opportunity House after the Browns consult with the family.
The Browns plan to continue running Movin’ On and stay in the Solano County area.
“People appreciate our service and we love working in Solano County. It has been very rewarding for us,” Tinamarie Brown said.
For more information about Movin’ On Estate Sales, call 688-0478 or go to www.movinonestatesales.com.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.