Expert: Estate Sales Booming as People Look to Downsize Homes or Move to New Areas for Remote Work

Thanks to whole-home cleanouts, house downsizing and the boom in residential real estate, estate-sale companies also are growing to meet the demand of senior citizens, families ready to move and people looking to relocate because of remote workplaces.

Aaron’s Estate Sales in Birmingham is a good example of this trend. The family owned estate-sale company has watched its business more than double throughout 2020, and owner Aaron Siepierski said he is looking to hire 30 to 50 more people to help him with this increase in sales volume.

Siepierski said he is moving fast to boost his fleet of trucks and hire additional workers to maintain this uptick in estate sales. He hopes that his effort to provide quality sales alongside a safety-focused environment that highlights coronavirus protocols for his staff and clients will keep his estate-sale company busy well into 2021 and beyond.

“As time went on, we started to get an explosion of calls for estate sales – something like we’ve never experienced before. Everyone wanted to have sales, especially people who were selling their houses or had been waiting for months and didn’t want to look at their stuff anymore,” Siepierski said. “We’re finding that we’re doing about three times the amount of work than before the shutdown. That puts a lot of pressure on getting enough staff, especially in this climate, as well as making sure staff and clients are safe.”

Home as castle
The coronavirus pandemic has challenged most businesses, no matter what their size or industry. Some companies, however, have seen an increase in sales and revenues; home-improvement retailers, for example, are selling more products than ever as U.S. households seek to make their nests more up-to-date or fix those things that have made them crazy since the pandemic has kept them home more often to notice.

Siepierski said estate sales are growing for the same reason. People are moving homes and hiring his company for many house-related issues. Some are downsizing because they may have lost a job or want to pay off debt. Some are moving to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates. Others are looking to change homes to move to a more rural area, hoping to save money now that offices are letting people live anywhere and work remotely.

In August, the most recent data available, RE/MAX of Southeastern Michigan said its Metro Detroit Housing Report saw year-over-year home sales fell in August — sales are down 12.3 percent over last year. Jeanette Schneider, executive vice president of RE/MAX of Southeastern Michigan, said the decline in sales is not due to lack of buyer interest. Rather, there just aren’t enough homes available to meet current buyer demand. Months supply of inventory is currently 2 months — the lowest level reported since March 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

Estate-sale companies also are having their own challenges, Siepierski added, so there are fewer around if they cannot reopen for health or other reasons. That’s shuttling more business toward Aaron’s Estate Sales and helping him get back on his feet after an initial slowdown when the pandemic and quarantines were happening in Michigan.

Siepierski also has had several big-name sales of late, which boosted his presence in the marketplace and got more customers coming his way. For example, he recently did the estate of Denny McLain, the former Detroit Tiger Cy Young Award winner, which took place in early October at McLain’s home in Wixom.

Highs and lows
On the plus side, Siepierski said he was able to restart his business fairly quickly when Michigan’s coronavirus cases stabilized and he was able to get his employees back to work. He also started selling more items online and through social-media events, such as a Facebook Live sale of items he had to offer through clients.

Once his staff was back, he started doing trainings, including a week-long session to restart, to get everyone in a safety mindset for when they could hold in-person sales again. This training and extra safety precautions adds costs, but all of it is worth it if it helps everyone stay healthy and promotes care for customers, Siepierski said.

To have in-home sales, Siepierski said they limit how many people can be inside during the sale. They are installing temporary hand-sanitizing stations around the homes. They also are allowing some hand-washing areas for people, as well.

The key to these efforts is to maintain the enjoyment of an estate sale while keeping the current environment in mind. Everyone likes finding a treasure, but some people also may need to shop more economically given any change in their financial status, so estate sales may fill that need, Siepierski added.

“It’s an experience where you’ll never know what you’re going to find,” Siepierski said. “And when money may be tight, people still want quality and something that’s meaningful.”

His goal for the rest of the year and in the future is to offer people of all ages — but especially seniors — quality service when they need to have estate sales. Ultimately, Siepierski said he wants to be the top choice of downsizing households.

“Our goal is to help every senior in metro Detroit in Michigan be able to downsize and provide the level of service that they deserve,” Siepierski said. “For a lot of us, this has been a time to step back, press a reset button and go at everything from a different viewpoint.”