The Estate Sale business is a unique industry. Typically Estate Sales are a few steps above your typical garage sale with an “everything must go theme.” Estate sales can consist of everything in the household of a deceased or living family member from artwork, furniture, clothing, kitchen goods, automobiles, tools to left over cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink. As the American economy begins to seen signs of life emerging from the recession, we asked three well-known Estate Sale professional service providers from across the country how the economic turbulence of the past two years played a role in their everyday business.
How has the recession of the past couple of years affected your business?
Laurie Harrison of AMS Estate Liquidators in the Denver-metro area says “Overall, one of the biggest changes we’ve noticed from our buyers is that they no longer impulse buy big ticket items as they had prior to the recession. Today, we sell more of the everyday, practical miscellaneous items that often are thrown away or donated.” Business is still booming says Harrison, “It is typically distress types of calls. People need to sell everything they have – by next week. Oftentimes due to foreclosures or other economic reasons.” When business is good, professionals can be selective when it comes to taking on new projects. Harrison also says that many clients are taking the small things with them or donating them, leaving just the bulk furniture behind for the sale, which tends to make the sale less attractive.
Jeff Baker of J. A. Baker LLC in Ohio says “Overall, the recession has actually had a positive affect on our business. WIth the challenged economy, people are more savvy with how they spend their money. They want the best value they can get and are therefore checking out estate sales more and more as there is a perceived value in the items we sell there.” A recent Estate Sale organized by Jeff’s company noticed people lined up hours before the doors opened to a 23,000 square foot home they were liquidating.
The real estate market has also played a big role in relation to the Estate Sale industry and the recession. Generally with Estate Sales the entire contents of a home need to be liquidated because the family is downsizing or has lost the owner-relative of the home. Baker says “The recession has hurt one part of our business though. There are homes that we have been hired to liquidate and hold estate sales for that are sitting on the market for extended periods of time. We are unable to move forward in some cases until they sell. In addition, when it comes to artwork, Baker says, “some sellers are wary about selling their pieces because the art market is down. If the owner doesn’t need the money they are often opting to wait and not sell now.”
Helaine Fendelman of Westchester County, NY says, “When sales of houses dropped dramatically, there was little need for sale of the stuff in the house. Divorcing couples needed to stay together. Children felt that selling the family home after the demise of the parents was economically not feasible and hoped to wait out the recession when home prices would begin to escalate.” “Sales of personal property were few and far between because the prices achieved were generally so low that only the brave would contemplate selling in what was obviously a down market.”
Have you noticed an increase in business?
AMS Estate Liquidators says they’ve have seen an increase in inquiries about what they do, but they haven’t experienced an increase in revenues overall, but haven’t experienced a decrease. Harrison says, “we’re much more selective about the types of sales that we will take on.“ Their company has been in business for over 25 years and say they have a large following of loyal buyers who are out for the thrill of treasure hunting.
Jeff Baker’s company is relatively new to the Estate Sale Industry, having started recently in 2008, they don’t have comparables pre and post recession. However, he is attentive to noticing shopping trends at his sales, stating, “the recession has driven people to shop previously owned merchandise.” Baker says what fuels his day-to-day business is the fact that people need to downsize. “There seems to be an overall attitude in the present economy, that it is no longer beneficial to own and maintain a large estate, even if you can afford it. So many of our clients are downsizing by choice and I believe this has resulted in an increase in business for us.”
Helaine Fendelman says “Pre-recession I was working on one or two house liquidations a month. During the recession there may have been one or two in a year and half. As the market has opened, I have been back to working on one or two a month with smaller sales of individual items or collections ranging from two to three a month.”
What types of clients are you working with?
Lauri Harrison’s company works with families that need to liquidate their parent’s home as well as elderly looking to downsize to move into retirement housing or simply to downsize in general. She says, “In general, half of our estate sales is due to a death and the other half is due to downsizing (due to divorce or moving to a retirement community).”
Jeff Baker’s company works with a variety of clients from all walks in need of downsizing, including businesses needing to liquidate stores and entire inventories. Baker has a large referral base thanks to Estate Planning Attorneys. Baker says, “We have a number of clients who turn to us after their parents pass away. In many cases the grown children don’t live near their parents anymore. They also don’t have the time or interest to sort through a life time’s worth of possessions.” “Our services give them one less thing to worry about, one less burden. And for children, sorting through a parent’s home can be very emotional, and simply too difficult for them.”
In Westchester, Helaine Fendelman says, “clients range from older women and men selling their personal treasures, to children having to liquidate the family manse and contents within.” Fendelman also notices that clients of all ages she’s works with feel the need to capitalize on a rising market and are selling one piece or an entire collections.
AMS Estate Liquidation has been serving Metro Denver since 1985 and is one of the most trusted estate sale companies in the area. The company has had an “A” rating with the Better Business Bureau since 1986. We handle in-home tag sales and appraisals. AMS is owned by its four person crew, Nick, Betty, Terry and Marilou. http://www.AMSestate.com
J.A. Baker LLC offers the complete solutions for all estate and personal property needs. Baker is an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers and meets the Qualified Appraiser requirements of the IRS. HIs company specializes in appraisals of personal property and handles all aspects of estate and tag sales. http://www.jabakerllc.com
Helaine Fendelman & Associates specializes in fine arts, antiques and household personal property appraisal and sales. Founded in 1994, Helaine Fendelman & Associates is a leading independent and accredited appraisal and sales firm, with offices in New York City. A well-known television host, book author and syndicated columnist, Helaine Fendelman brings more than 30 years of experience in the art, antiques and collectibles fields to individuals, professionals and organizations seeking appraisals as well as assistance with the sale of art, antiques and household items. http://www.helainefendelman.com/