By Jean Murphy | Daily Herald Correspondent

You have decided to move into a smaller home and your children have no need or desire for your excess furniture and knickknacks. What do you do with all of it?

Or your parents have died and left a house full of furniture and other items that no one in the family wants. What do you do in order to maximize the worth of the estate?

Or you are tired of your and feel it is time for a total redo. How do you dispose of the furniture and accessories you no longer want without just giving it all away?

All of the aforementioned situations are perfect opportunities for an estate sale, according to Christine Acosta, owner with her husband, Cesilio, of Key Estate Sales in St. Charles.And recently, Acosta said, another scenario has been added to the mix. People who are facing financial difficulties are also contacting Key for help in liquidating items. "Five years ago, we never even thought about getting business from foreclosures but now it is 25 percent of our business,"Acosta admitted.

In fact, late last year they were contacted by representatives of The Oprah Show, asking them to conduct an estate sale for a woman in financial need. They did so, netting close to $13,000 for the woman who could then use it to get a fresh start by renting an apartment and paying for the security deposit, the first and last month's rent and some utilities, according to Acosta.A 30-second clip about the sale aired on Oprah's Feb. 13 show.

"My husband and I have been conducting estate sales for the past 11 years," Acosta said. "We have conducted $5,000 sales and we have conducted $100,000 sales and everything in between," she explained. "We have sold everything from Mark Chagall prints and Steinway grand pianos to sets of false teeth."

"For our clients, we offer a way to liquidate items that they no longer want or need -- quickly and allow them to benefit financially," Acosta said.  "For the customers attending the sales, the benefits are also great," she continued. "Our customers are of every age, income bracket and walk of life,"Acosta explained. "In this time of economic instability, customers can purchase a new dining room set or bedroom set for a fraction of the retail cost. Many of these customers cannot afford a $10,000 dining room set, but this is a way for them to purchase one for $3,000 to $4,000 -- sometimes less. Homeowners feel good when they can buy something beautiful for their home that they otherwise may not have been able to afford."

Lisa Riley of Batavia attends estate sales at least once a month, purchasing vintage and one-of-a-kind clothing, accessories, purses and jewelry to resell on eBay. Occasionally, she said, she also picks up furniture and decorative items for her own home at the sales.  "Everything I buy and sell is a reusable good so mine is an almost entirely green business which makes me feel good," Riley added.

The Acostas agreed, saying that an estate sale is possibly the greatest recycling method there is. There is a buyer for everything, they said, so why not sell these items to those looking for them instead of putting them out at the curb and adding to the landfills?

The Acostas estimate that they conduct 50 sales each year -- virtually one each weekend. The average sale runs Friday and Saturday but particularly large sales often start on Thursday. Acosta said it takes six to eight weeks to organize the average sale. They run numerous ads and notices in newspapers, on Craig's List, on their own Web site ( and on They also send weekly notices to their 3,000-person mailing list.

Approximately a week before the sale, Acosta and her staff go to the home to organize sale items and price them. If the homeowners are still living in the house, items not to be sold are segregated in locked rooms. 

"We price things based on our experience and knowledge of what items sell for," Acosta said.  "If we aren't familiar with the fair market price on an item like a collectible, we research it before setting a price." 

During the set-up, Key brings in display cases, tables, linens, credit card machines and cash registers. They provide everything that is needed to display items to the best advantage and to execute the sale.In return, they take 30 percent of the income from the sale, but don't charge any upfront fees, according to Acosta.  Particularly valuable items are usually sold in a silent auction format in order to get the best price. Sometimes Acosta even lists special items directly on eBay for the seller.

"Unlike a garage sale that is put together by the homeowner in a yard or garage, we work to showcase items within the correct environment in the home," she explained. "We set the china on the dining room table, for instance, and because we work to display things like they would in a store, they sell for more than they would in a garage.

"The most popular items with buyers are collectibles like Waterford, sterling silver, gold, good china, trains, vintage linens, furs, antique toys, musical instruments, tools, grandfather clocks, pool tables and pinball machines, Acosta said. Rare books, comics, record albums, yearbooks and old religious materials are also prized, as are seasonal items like sporting goods in the spring and snow blowers in the fall and winter. 

But unusual things also sell. Acosta recalled that she has peddled some unique things like a set of false teeth that sold to an artist for a few dollars, a throne once used as a prop, a claw foot tub that was seen in the movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and a suit of armor.

Any items left after the sale remain with the seller or Acosta has contacts with a charity that will come, box up the items and haul them away, leaving the seller with only a tax receipt to deal with.

"I used Key in the summer of 2003 to help me sell things in advance of a move due to a divorce," said Dori Cotrone of Buffalo Grove."I did not have the time to sell things on eBay and holding a garage sale was not something I wanted to do because I had a lot of nice pieces that warranted more than a garage sale could bring in."

"My sale went very smoothly. Key is very organized and knowledgeable on pricing items. I sold most of my things and made a good amount of money to help me move and create a new home" she continued.

Raija Casey of Elmhurst agreed. She used the Acostas to stage an estate sale in the Mount Prospect home she had sold in order to move into a smaller place.  "I had so much stuff to sell that they had to hold a three-day sale instead of the usual two-day sale," Casey admitted. "It would have taken me years to sell all of that on eBay."

But Casey was wary about trusting her items to the Acostas after hearing horror stories about other dealers skimming extra money from sales. So unbeknownst to the Acostas, she quietly took an inventory of her items after Key had priced them and compared her list to the accounting they gave her after the sale.

"They did not cheat me out of a penny," Casey stated. "They were so honest and I was thrilled. They sold almost everything I had, even things I would have never expected anyone to buy and they were a pleasure to work with."

Gated communities and condominiums present special difficulties when it comes to disposing of unwanted items since estate sales are usually not permitted in these situations, Acosta said. So they are currently negotiating for a showroom where consigned pieces and items from these types of homes can be sold.

How an estate sale works for the buyer:

The day before the sale (usually Thursday) a sign-up list goes up on the front door of the house where the sale will take place. Buyers stop by and put their names on the list.

At 9:30 a.m. on the first day of the sale, numbers are issued to people based on their place on the list.

When the doors open only 10 to 20 people are allowed in at a time for security purposes. People enter in order, based on their numbers. When someone leaves, another person is allowed in.

On the first day, prices remain firm and competition between buyers is fierce. Prices are more negotiable on the second day.

Upcoming sales

April 18-19 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 1657 Stonebridge Trail Wheaton
April 25-26 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 3404 Royal Fox Drive St. Charles
May 2-3 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 36W948 Walnut Ridge St. Charles
June 5-7 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday 3N850 Emily Dickinson Lane St. Charles

February 13th 2008: KEY Estate Sales was chosen to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show!  After conducting an estate sale in Palatine for a woman in financial need, the sale was filmed and aired on the Oprah Winfrey Show February 13th 2008!
Following is a bit of information about the sale we conducted for the show:

Sylvia's five-bedroom house was overflowing with clothes, knickknacks and toys. So Suze (Orman) came up with a plan for her to downsize her belongings and make some cash—an emergency estate sale. "That's the quickest way to get rid of things that are valuable," Suze says.

When the sale was over, Sylvia had made a total of $13,000! The money will help to cover the basic necessities for her family. "She needs to put it in a savings account. She needs it for first and last month deposit on an apartment, security deposit, money to buy food for the children, to pay the electricity and keep her life going in that way," Suze says.

Chicago IL Estate Moving Sales
Chicago's Most Reputable
Estate Liquidation Experts     Est. 1997  
Article by Jean Murphy of the Daily Herald Newspaper printed December 4th, 2010
I'm not sure how I ended up with my father's gold, V-neck, velour sweater from the 1970s, but my sentimental instincts resisted my wife's attempt to donate it to charity.
“It's ugly and you'll never wear it, she gently informed me.
“It was my Dad's, I softly explained.
Fortunately, Dad was still alive and could set me straight.
“It's ugly and I never wore it, Dad laughed. “Why do you think I gave it away?
I remember Dad's words as Mom and I sort through the closets and drawers of my brother Bill, who died Aug. 9 of bile duct cancer at age 48. Anyone who has even gone through a dead relative's possessions knows it's an emotional, bittersweet journey, especially for us sentimental types still raw with grief after the death of someone so young.
“When the family is dealing with this, it is very painful, says Christine Acosta, who, with her husband, Cesilo, own Key Estate Sales in St. Charles and have been through this process more than 630 times with families. “It's so much easier for us... because we don't have the emotional attachments. We feel for the clients. It's human nature to feel that with them. But we don't have that history. Mom and I have 48 years of history with Bill. We don't have answers.
Did Bill store all these T-shirts in a box because they were so much a part of his life he wanted to save them, or did he dump them in the cardboard container so they'd be ready to donate to Goodwill?
I start to think, maybe even hope, that there is a special reason Bill kept this old birthday card from a former girlfriend. But the card sits in a box with unopened American Express bills from 2004, which clearly weren't important to my brother in 2004, let alone now. Did this key chain from New Orleans have an emotional meaning for Bill, or was it just a trinket he threw in a drawer and forgot all about?
Did Bill (as those old American Express bills might suggest) actually buy a half-dozen nearly identical weatherproof jackets because he kept misplacing them, or were they perks he stockpiled from his job working with TV crews at sporting events? Some decisions are easy. There's no question we'll keep his souvenirs from Super Bowls, the Indy 500, the Masters and such, even if they remain in closets and boxes.
Finding three extra chargers for his Blackberry reminds me of the time I called him in a panic because he accidentally left for a road trip with my cell phone charger. He told me to go to any nice hotel and look through the lost-and-found box until I found one that fit my phone. I bought a replacement.
My brother, a talented musician, saved hundreds of business cards and scraps of papers with phone numbers and e-mail addresses. We throw them away, but we keep his handwritten song lists and chord progressions for one of his keyboard performances.
We are confounded by our discovery of two pairs of girl's blue jeans with the tags still on. Were they never-delivered presents for a niece? Gifts for a friend's daughter? An outfit for some ridiculously skinny young thing he was dating? Do we donate everything to charity, distribute it to loved ones, or leave it in boxes for Bill's nieces and nephews to ponder after we're gone.
“I've met with clients who have been going through a house for a year before they call us, Acosta says. Some mistakenly think everything is valuable and are crushed when “we try to, as gently as possible, explain that “old or “collectible doesn't necessarily mean “it's worth money.
“Then there are the clients who think it's all junk and they want to get rid of it, Acosta says, telling about how “we've actually pulled some $300 and $400 toys out of the Dumpster in front of the house.
As the mother of four daughters, age 5 to 22, Acosta says she's already “written notes and tucked them into things for my future estate liquidator.
The items left by my brother, who never married or owned a home and spent a lot of time on the road, are valuable only in the way they have Mom and me laughing and getting teary-eyed as we recall priceless memories of Bill. “Would this fit you? Mom asks as she comes across a stash of Bill's shirts. I can wear Bill's favorite shirts, but should I? I was the yin to Bill's yang, the brake to his throttle, the anchor to his sail, the plan for tomorrow to his live for today. Would Bill want me to loosen up a bit by wearing his expensive silk summer shirts with the bold patterns, or would I just look silly? Bill could wear those Abercrombie & Fitch blue jeans with the holes. I suggest we pass those along to a nephew. But I keep Bill's blue-collar work shirts promoting Buell motorcycles, Sun Studio or Johnny Cash. Unlike Dad's old velour sweater, these items have style and look good.
If my wife doesn't think I can pull off the look, at least we can take heart in how the spectacle of me trying to look like Bill would have made Bill erupt into one of his great belly laughs.

Article by Burt Constable of the Daily Herald Newspaper
KEY Estate Sales presents...
The 2nd Annual Acosta Haunted Castle Salvation Army Food Drive!
~~~As seen on Channel 7 news Spooky Scenes!~~~

Thank you so much to so many of our customers & friends who attended the haunted house the past 3 weekends and gave donations for the St. Charles Salvation Army Food Pantry! We collected over 20 bins of non-perishable food items (this was more than we ever hoped for and really, really appreciate your generosity!) and we were happy to match the monetary donations that were received as well. Also- thank you SO much to our volunteers: Liz, Diann, Sue, Tom, Megan, Ashley, Larry, Donna, Freddy, our daughters Brittany, Erica, Sammy & Emma, Colton, Mom, Dad & everyone else- this would not have went nearly as well without all of you, so again - thank you!  We will do our best to make this an even better & bigger event next year & again- thank you for your support! 
~The Acosta Family
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