The Booming Business of Estate Sales: Expect the Unexpected

On any given weekend, at any major intersection, the colorful eye-catching signs of estate sales are fast becoming one of the hottest tickets in town.

According to the National Estate Sales Association (NESA) there has been a staggering 650% increase in the number of estate sales nationwide since 2006. The United States Census estimates that since 2010, approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 each day until 2030. As the age group who are most likely to have an estate sales, that means things will continue to grow. NESA also reports that an estimated $100M of revenue is generated nationally each month from estate sales.

These statistics are mirrored in the booming estate sale industry in northern Illinois which has more than doubled over the past 10 years. Here, local entrepreneurs share why this industry is booming, the benefits of property liquidation through estate sales, and intriguing aspects of this trade.

Midwest Values

Carrie Poulisse, who owns Nana’s Treasures Estate Sales, gives a surprising reason for the uptick in the estate sale industry. “In 2021, the housing market went crazy with many people downsizing their residences, moving into assisted living, or inheriting a home due to a death in the family. In many of these situations, the adult children just don’t have enough time off of work or live close enough to clean out their parents’ homes. It’s an overwhelming task for most families.”

Hiring a reputable estate sale company, Poulisse said, streamlines the process. “Since we don’t have that emotional attachment to things in the sale; we can price the items, set up the sale, and run things more efficiently.” Poulisse adds that any personal papers, photos, or family mementos that are found in preparing an estate sale are always set aside for family members.

“I look at what we do as a benefit to the families,” Poulisse said. “Whether it’s getting their loved ones settled in assisted living or selling a family home, we try to make this time of transition as easy as possible.”

Holly Bauscher, owner of Estate Sales by Holly, contends that using an estate sale service helps families secure the full value items being sold. “The benefits of hiring an estate sale company are that we know the worth of items and how much they can sell for. A lot of times, families undervalue the items they’re trying to sell; whereas an estate sale company has a better sense of how much these things are worth.”

“We use websites like WorthPoint and Ebay to determine how to price vintage or antique pieces,” she said. “We check other auctions and we do research into pricing. Many times, we can price estate sale items at 70% of the item’s retail value. The families we work with just don’t have the time to consider all these variables.”

Beyond using the internet to appraise estate sale items, technology has played a major role in contemporizing the estate sale industry. According to Janet Govig of Hidden Treasures by Janet, “When I first started my estate sale business 28 years ago, we relied on newspaper ads, ads in weekly shopper publications, signs and word of mouth to publicize a sale.”

Online Exposure

“Now, the internet has really opened up advertising for estate sales. There are dedicated websites in almost every local market where people can not only see the location of the sales but also see photos of what is being sold. We get so much more exposure for the sales because of that online presence,” she said.

“Being able to preview an estate sale through an online photo gallery definitely brings more people to the event,” Govig commented. “People might come to see the house and how it’s decorated, but the photos attract core buyers with cash in hand.”

The success of an estate sale, Poulisse said, is directly related to the items in the sale. “We have found that Millennials are very specific as to what kind of furniture they want… a grandparent may have some beautiful furniture, but if no one in the family wants those pieces; they will often be part of an estate sale.”

“Glassware, figurines, antiques, and collections can be difficult to move at an estate sale,” she said. “It all depends on what people are looking for and if they can use the items.”

Estate sales can be advantageous for those who aren’t afraid to think outside the box, Poulisse said. “We have learned that many people don’t have a use for traditional china cabinets and two-piece buffet type furniture. However, many times a vintage piece can be repurposed for more contemporary use. Remaking estate sale furniture gives you a quality piece, updated to your tastes for a great value.”

Working in the estate sale industry, Govig said, is never dull. “I just love it. We’re helping families in a time of need and meeting interesting people. We have a dedicated bunch of estate sale patrons in our area and they’re like family.”

“One of the best sales I managed was on an Easter Sunday,” she said. “I think after people finished eating there wasn’t a lot to do and they just flooded the sale. That’s what makes this job so fascinating; every sale is different; we’re helping people and you have to expect the unexpected.”

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Featured Image Credit: Pexels.


Lynne Conner
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Lynne Conner is a freelance photojournalist with 30+ years of experience. She has won several regional and national awards for her work and loves writing about lifestyle, business, parenting, finances, health, religion and technology.  Her blog can be found at www.lynnelovesthepast.blog and she is currently working on her first book.