How the COVID-19 pandemic has altered estate sales

Quinn’s is aggressively hiring in all positions, from people who physically move the merchandise to the auction experts who write the auction listing descriptions to administrative staff. (Courtesy Quinn’s Auction Galleries)

Estate sales can be emotional for families, and now they are also complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has largely sidelined the in-person estate sale.

“In a traditional estate sale. People come through your house. There can be 25 or 30 people coming through. How do you do that in COVID?” said Matt Quinn, at Quinn’s Auction Galleries in Falls Church, Virginia.

The answer is moving estate sales online, and traditional estate sales companies as well as auction houses are doing a lot of them. Quinn’s itself reports its biggest July for business in its history — more than twice as much business as a year ago

“We have shifted to an online-only auction model in the home that allows us to go into the home, sort things, organize them, describe them, photograph them, put them up online, give the buyer confidence to buy and then execute those sales,” Quinn said.

Quinn’s is aggressively hiring in all positions, from people who physically move the merchandise to the auction experts who write the auction listing descriptions to administrative staff.

Many estate sales come after the death of a family member, and self-managing an estate sale is probably not something a grieving family would want to do, but with the time and the right technology, it could be done.

Quinn still recommends hiring a professional to evaluate the contents being sold.

“The biggest risk families have is not understanding the the value of objects in the home. We’ve seen it too many times, when there’s been a $100,000 painting on the steps of a Goodwill, or somebody bought something at an estate sale for $10 and later sold it at an auction for $100,000,” Quinn said.

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