Montie Desai, of WHAM Auctions, Appraisals & Real Estate LCC, Greer, S.C., says his company’s estate auctions have hit an all-time high.
“I see the aging population as the reason for the high volume of sales our company is handling — from deaths to simple downsizing by baby boomers,” Desai says.
Desai’s company has nearly eliminated live auctions and typically sells personal property through timed online auctions.
“We can safely say that they are bringing two to three times more money to our clients,” he says of online auctions.
Desai says he used to send low-value, everyday household items to flea markets; however, with those items increasingly struggling even at flea markets, he now donates the items.
He says true antiques are setting records, rare art remains strong and he’s benefitting from what he calls a “mindboggling” amount of baby boomers’ belongings on the market.
However, other auction professionals report struggles with estate auctions.
“It’s been a down year overall, and I don’t look for any improvements,” says Ralph Lesh Jr., CAI, of Lesh Auction Co. in Newport, Pa.
Lesh sells estate items solely through live auctions in his rural Pennsylvania community and says that while coins, guns and fine antiques do well, the plummeting value of furniture, appliances and basic household items has hurt his business
“Some of this stuff that was bringing good money five years ago isn’t bringing anything. And the things that weren’t doing well in the 60s are worth all the money in the world,” Lesh says. “And it can fluctuate from one auction to another. It certainly is not predictable.”
Despite the downturn, Lesh considers estate auctions worth his while. He does not charge a buyer’s premium, which he believes helps him.
Mack Gibson II, CAI, of Gibson Realty & Auction in Providence, Ky., says the number of estate auctions he has per year has dropped from 60 to 40 in recent years. The good news, he says, is that his company was busier than usual this past fall.
“I think things are picking up a little bit, and prices are getting better,” Gibson says.
Gibson sells strictly through live auctions and says online advertising has expanded his market.
He believes he’s receiving fewer estates in part because estates do not have as many assets as they once did. And he thinks the drop in the value of household goods could be tied to both the younger generations’ lack of interest in antique items and senior citizens having less disposable income to spend at auctions.
Gibson also notes that when he settles estates, automobiles with low mileage, moderately priced homes and farm equipment sell well.