You might remember a while ago we featured an post on 25 tips for shopping estate sales. That post was prompted by an article Siobhan wrote for her blog The Goods, titled Want to Sell vintage? Shop Estate Sales. In her post I was one of the vintage sellers interviewed so I asked her if I could return the favor. Not only did she agree to the interview but she got her boss Mike to allow me to interview him as well. Here is Siobhan’s interview:
How did you get into the estate/garage/yard sale business?
I’m a copywriter, so my job changes depending on what I’m writing about. I jumped at the chance to write about something I actually enjoy – vintage, antiques, collectibles, and everything else that goes along with estate sales. I’ve always been a thrift shopper, and I love vintage things and antiques, learning history, going into people’s old homes, seeing their stuff and wondering about their lives.
What does your job entail? What are your responsibilities within your job?
Since this is a tiny company, I wear many hats, all of them content related. I plan and write for our two blogs, one is industry-related and the other, The Goods, is focused on estate sale shoppers. I research – which means a lot of reading and talking to people. Sometimes I attend estate sales. I manage all the email and social media. Then I try to make sure our content is found by promoting it as well as I can. I also track our analytics data to see what’s working and what’s not.
What is your favorite part of working at Estate Sales.org?
Besides getting to learn a lot about old things, provenance and history, I love talking to the people who run estate sales. They are all so smart and curious having come to the industry from all walks of life. They know a lot about a lot. They’re the kind of people you want to sit next to in a bar or coffee shop. They can tell you about history, how things were made, where they were made, why they were made that way. Most of them have an eye for good design – or more importantly, an eye for what’s interesting. And they have fascinating stories.
The estate sale industry has rapidly grown due to downsizing of the aging population. How has that affected your business? What opportunities do you see being created in the future?
I recently heard the Millennials just surpassed the Baby Boomers in population. Which means all this downsizing and figuring out senior-related issues is only going to continue – because the Millennials, though still in denial, will all get old one day and need liquidation services. Right now the issue is that they don’t want to take on a lot of the Boomers’ stuff – hence the need for estate sales. So who knows? If they continue to be minimalist and mobile, maybe there won’t be as big of a need for estate sales in the future, but I doubt it. Stuff will always exist (to fill the void), and since we’re human, there’s too much of it. Liquidation services will always be needed, too – professionals who are experts in pricing and appraisal, and who will run the whole thing because it can be quite a production.
How has technology impacted your business? Has it made it easier, or more difficult, in what ways?
Our business is built on the internet, so giving shoppers a way to find sales and companies – and giving estate sale companies a way to easily advertise was a game-changer for the industry. With everything moving toward mobile, technology is even more important.
Do you shop estate or garage sales? If so, can you share a favorite story or find?
I do shop estate sales – there are a lot of cool ones in my neighborhood in Austin. Here’s a weird story about our website. I regularly go through the site looking for photos to use on social media or interesting finds. One day I was looking at a sale for what looked like an old dance studio…. and all the photos started to look very familiar. It turns out my ballet teacher had died and her estate sale was listed on our site! She had lived in a house attached to the studio, and as a child I always wanted to see inside her house. So now, twenty-something years later I got to. It was a weird, unexpected look into my past I wasn’t expecting. You never know what you’re gonna find at an estate sale – even virtually.
What advice can you offer for shoppers?
Check out EstateSales.org to see photos of the sale first to decide if it’s worth driving out to. Get there early on day 1 for the good (midcentury) stuff, get there on later days for the discounts. Neighborhoods matter. Go with a friend for more fun, but it’s even more fun if you have different tastes.
Do you have any advice for those wanting to get into the estate sale business?
Learn everything you can about everything – but don’t think you can learn it all in a book. This is a very tactile business, so attend sales and antique fairs, touch and examine things, talk to people, ask questions.
What new trends do you see coming in the industry?
I see more sales moving toward mobile, with online auctions becoming the norm, although I think actual estate sales will always exist. You just can’t recreate the tactile experience (or that old house smell) digitally.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think that covered it – thank you so much!