Not everyone would perk up at the prospect of working with their spouse. Marriage entails enough complexities and compromises that adding business into the mix doesn’t necessarily sound like a recipe for success.
That, however, is exactly what Fairfax residents Jeff and Toby Affuso decided to do when they acquired a Blue Moon Estate Sales franchise.
Primarily based in North Carolina, Blue Moon Estate Sales offers a variety of services, including a free home evaluation, to people looking to liquidate an estate, and the Affusos are operating the company’s first branch in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
“It’s not so much a challenge as an opportunity,” Jeff Affuso said of the franchise, which opened in Fairfax in February. “We’ve been married a number of years, but we never really worked together, so how do we couple and combine the talent and experience that both of us have?”
Jeff worked as a federal contractor for more than 20 years before joining Blue Moon Estate Sales, while his wife had roughly the same amount of experience in marketing, communications and sales for the real estate industry.
When Jeff and Toby decided to become partners in work as well as at home, their research suggested that Blue Moon would be a good fit, a business that would allow them both to put their past experiences to use.
Their different skill sets made it easier to figure out a suitable business arrangement where roles and responsibilities could be delegated in an equitable manner. Toby deals with the marketing, communications and customer service side of the business, and Jeff focuses on day-to-day operations, such as pricing and staging for estate sales.
Toby’s history with the local real estate industry also gave the couple an advantage when negotiating with Blue Moon in 2015, since the company wanted to find owners for its first D.C. area franchise who were familiar with the region.
“They wanted to make sure that we had a whole level of stability not only financially, but also stability within this area,” Jeff said. “Toby’s familiar with the area in terms of the real estate business and what works from a marketing and sales point of view.”
Blue Moon Estate Sales of Fairfax serves Washington, D.C., northern Virginia and parts of Maryland, including Fairfax County, Leesburg, Va., Potomac, Md., and Bethesda, Md.
The company has 12 locations in the U.S. overall with several in North Carolina, one in South Carolina, one in Houston, Texas, and one that serves New Jersey and Philadelphia, Penn., along with the Fairfax location.
According to its website, Blue Moon Estate Sales offers clients research and appraisals of items, advertising, home staging, staffing for sales and procurement of city permits, among other services. The company conducted more than 250 estate sales in 2015.
Being part of a company that has a national reach is hugely beneficial, according to Jeff Affuso, especially since as new business owners, they can take advantage of Blue Moon’s resources.
For example, when he needs to figure out how to price a certain item, Jeff can use Blue Moon’s database to look at similar items that were sold in the past and compare.
“You don’t want to put it too low for the client, but you also don’t want to price it too high,” he explained. “You have to optimally price the merchandise so it sells and it maximizes the value for the client, [while] at the same time giving a fair deal for the customers.”
Blue Moon’s clients are the people selling their estate, whereas customers are those who purchase items from the sale.
Most of Jeff and Toby’s clients request their services after undergoing a significant life event, such as the death of a family member, and they make empathy a priority when conducting business, working to understand and be mindful of each person’s unique circumstances.
“It’s difficult to do it yourself. You get emotional attachments to things and items,” Jeff said.
The Affusos are still establishing a foothold in the D.C. area, but even after they settle in, Jeff says he and Toby are focused less on potentially expanding their business than on making sure they provide the best possible services and experiences to clients and customers alike.
According to Jeff, the couple’s close relationship gives them an advantage when it comes to serving clients and customers. He cited a recent joint marketing call as an example of how well they work together.
“I think there’s a familiarity,” Jeff Affuso said. “We kind of know what the other’s thinking, so although we were certainly prepared, [we were] able to expect what the other one’s going to say, anticipate that and present a unified, integrated front to the client.”