My grandmother lived with our family from the day I was born until the enviable age of ninety-six. Shortly after my grandmother’s funeral, my mom and I sorted through my grandmother’s things in the first floor bedroom of my parent’s house. I touched my grandmother’s favorite leopard brooch and the baby booties she knitted. We only had one bedroom to go through. I couldn’t imagine confronting an entire home filled with the items she loved.
I recently met Diane, a woman who was coping with her mom’s death and dealing with her mom’s house. Diane felt overwhelmed, so she contacted an online estate company, EVERYTHING BUT THE HOUSE (EBTH), to help her out. For Diane, it was a relief not to have to go through her mom’s knickknacks and furniture by herself. EBTH cataloged her mom’s belongings, sold the valuable items and discarded the items that the family no longer wanted. In addition to the emotional support, the financial benefits shocked Diane, “My childhood trash can turned out to be a valuable vase by a Spanish artist.”
I hadn’t heard about EBTH before and I wanted to learn more. I reached out to Jacquie Denny, the Co-Founder and Chief Development Officer of EBTH, and was honored that she took the time to speak with me. EBTH is an online marketplace for authenticated pre-owned goods and estate sales.
An Interview with Jacquie Denny, Co-Founder and Chief Development Officer of the online estate company Everything But The House:
Hi, Jacquie! Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I’ve heard great things about EBTH and wanted to learn more about the company and how the process works.
Thank you for the opportunity, Ali. At EBTH we set expectations and help you through the emotional ups and downs of liquidating personal contents. So, the first step is to contact EBTH through our website. If you’re in one of our locations, it takes about 30 to 45 minutes for the EBTH consultant to walk through the property with you. You share the project that you want us to do and we’ll look at the contents and talk about the market.
What if I don’t live in EBTH’s 8 market locations?
You will have a more interactive process with one of our specialists. You’ll send pictures first and then you can mail in certain items like couture, jewelry, or collectibles if you live within the United States. The more remote people are, the more this service is needed since you have a small buyer’s market when you live in a rural area. We also offer select sales around the country for those not in our market locations, which are done on a case-by-case basis.
(EBTH has locations in Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Columbus, OH; Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX; and Washington, D.C.)
What are some of the emotional benefits of using EBTH?
Let’s say your mom passes away in Detroit, but your family is scattered around the country. With a local estate sale, you are held captive to that Detroit audience and your siblings don’t get to see the visual auction. They don’t get closure. Relationship issues happen in families if they don’t see what happened with mom’s things.
When there’s an online sale, even if your siblings are all over the world, they can see mom’s auction. No one is questioning it at Thanksgiving dinner.
It helps people feel connected no matter where they live and seeing the online auction gives them closure.
Why it is helpful to have someone outside the family assess our loved one’s belongings?
Some people say, “My parents have the ugliest art in the world. I can’t wait to get it out of the house.” However, they may not have the same taste. Also, siblings may have a different point of view and everyone is stressed already about the situation. It’s helpful to use someone who is seeing it from a fair market value standpoint.
We overprice the things we like and we undervalue the things we don’t like.
You mentioned that the consultant discusses the market during the initial walk-through. What does the market look like these days?
The truth is that our parents bought their antiques and fine items at the top of the market. That generation really drove the prices and, now that they are emptying their contents at the same time, the market has changed. Your mom may say that the table is worth $8,000, but we will tell you that it’s only worth $2,500. You can decide whether you want to keep the table or sell it at auction.
Can I change my mind once I decide to sell an item?
Until the minute you sign that contract, you can make changes. Once you sign the contract, anything that you indicated as part of the auction needs to stay because we start with the photography, cataloging, and marketing right away.
How does the auction process work?
Everything on our platform starts with no reserve. I remind people that the auction isn’t over until it’s over because people get anxious. I don’t want it to sell at $10 and neither do you. We have over 1 million bidders a month around the world and there are a lot of forces behind the scenes to get to current market value.
What would you tell someone who wants to do a DIY sale?
A lot of times families have many donatable items when they empty their kid’s closet, but they don’t realize they have a rare Pokémon card. A mint condition Pikachu Illustrator sold at a Heritage auction for over $50,000. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, go for it. However, if you put that one card in the donation pile . . .
What items don’t sell well?
Big furniture pieces – china cabinets, 500 pound wall entertainment media units, large desks – are very unpopular. The way we live has changed. Our technology either hangs on the wall or it sits on our lap and is mobile. If these huge pieces of furniture sell for more than $100, we’re cheering because even charities won’t take them now.
What happens to items that are not salable?
Before we put the sale up, we have a local donation source to pick up the items that are non-salable. If they’re lightly stained or terribly out of date like that Sears couch in hunter green plaid – no one is decorating with that. We source to local charities.
Who typically receives the donation of non-salable items?
It depends on customer choice, but we typically work with charities in the local communities. We are very blessed with finding small, local charities where we can make the most impact. These are places where someone actually needs a mattress for a kid to sleep on.
When I give something to a charity, I want it to impact someone who is less fortunate.
Do I need to have a large estate to work with EBTH?
No, you can sell anything from one item to an entire household. We help people through relocation sales or downsizing sales whether they are moving from four bedrooms to two. Or, maybe it’s a lifestyle change where two people move in together and they’re deciding which house to do. We will address it.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, Jacquie.
Thank you, Ali.