When you enter the showroom of Burke & Company Estate Sales on N. Babcock Street in Melbourne you aren’t greeted by the musty smells or floor-to-ceiling clutter sometimes common in antique and used furniture shops.
Instead, Carole Burke has created, or rather curated, a gallery-like setting of the finest pieces in her collection, using a keen eye and understanding of value and design based on decades of estate sales and appraisals.
She helps clients deal with two familiar attributes of home dwellers: The collection of things that fill our homes and strike our fancies, from autographed baseball cards to antique lamps to heritage quilts to crystal and china. The other is our portability: According to the last census report, Americans average almost 12 property moves in their lifetime, and as many as about three after turning 45.
When people decide it’s time to downscale to a more manageable home or when their heirs are faced with liquidating a lifetime of collectibles, there can be great anxiety and confusion about what to do next.
With a voice and demeanor that communicates both warmth and experience, Carole explains.
“Fair market value is the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.”
It is the kind of answer that helps set her apart in an increasingly crowded market.
Serendipity led Carole into the business. After successfully spearheading the launch and managing The Haven for Children’s thrift store in Melbourne, Carole launched her own career by moving into the estate sales business when there were few in the area. She realized soon after that people living in condominiums or gated communities had limitations that would prevent hosting a typical estate sale, so she transitioned into liquidation sales. This became especially helpful with the seniors living in the area as they transitioned from family homes into smaller condos or assisted living facilities.
“I help clients determine the value of the pieces that either they or their family do not want to keep, and then I make them a cash offer or consign the better pieces to my showroom. Then I assist them in selling off the remainder of the inventory,” she explained. It is an option that clients find both gratifying and seamless. The showroom is more than a sales floor, it is an inviting and homey place for browsers to relax or enjoy a book in one of their many comfortable chairs.
When asked about placing value on furniture or collectables she responded,
“There are a number of factors. Most people think if it is old, it has more value, but that isn’t always the case,” she said. “First of course is the condition, is it pristine or is it worn. Secondly, how many were made? Often, thousands of the item were mass produced, like ‘Collector plates’ or art sold on cruise ships, which dramatically impacts value. Finally, what is the demand?”
Like a stock price, the market sets the value, which ebbs and flows with the economy and people’s tastes.
Burke shared an article that appeared in Smart Money back in 2011, describing America as the “Accumulation Nation,” because of our tendency to buy and collect. It went on to say, as the title suggested, that we are facing “The Big Sell-Off”, as 8,000 Baby Boomers a day turn 65. That reality has created a market niche in which Burke serves as a mediator between those who want and need to sell, and a market that is looking for beautiful and unique pieces.