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Estate sale companies find stress and joy in pandemic business

estate sale
Posted at 10:37 AM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 13:37:18-04

More than 625,000 lives have ended because of the pandemic, but for countless families that is where the struggle of knowing what to do with their loved one’s belongings begins.

“I remember walking in her house the first time after she had passed away, and I remember standing in the living room and looking at everything and going, ‘Oh my gosh. What am I going to do?'” said Diane Kraft.

Kraft’s 92-year-old aunt, Phyllis White, contracted COVID-19 in a nursing home in March and later died from complications. She says knowing what to do with so many personal belongings was tough. Some of those things, like her old photos or even perfume that reminded Kraft of her aunt’s smell, brought tears.

“It was really hard,” she said.

Kraft gave a call to a local estate sale company to help her sort through the items, only to find she was lucky she was able to book an appointment because of the increased demand due to the pandemic.

“[We’re] very busy,” said Sarah Skinner, owner of Front Porch Estate Sales in Denver. “We’ve actually had to expand our operation and hire more people and get a bigger crew, and we still can’t take all the phone calls.”

At the start of the year, Skinner’s business was made up of herself and her friend, Melissa Slaugenhoop. But since January, they have had to hire eight additional employees to meet the demand coming their way.

“It’s business for us, but it’s also somebody’s house, home, belongings, and loved one, usually,” said Skinner. “So, we are very sensitive and do everything we can respect that, comfort, and be a human.”

Since January, Skinner says she has only been able to take three days off from work. The other days are spent fielding calls, visiting homes, combing through belongings, and pricing them accordingly online.

That does not take into account the tedious hours spent accounting or driving to and from these homes.

“[It’s] every day,” said Slaugenhoop. “Lately, we’ve been talking about how we’re going to give ourselves time. [We’re] still working seven days a week.”

Slaugenhoop and Skinner say it is the joy they get in finding old belongings new homes that help keep their motor going. When Kraft approached them about her aunt’s home, they were tasked with helping sell a 1973 vintage car, one of Kraft’s aunt’s prized possessions. After doing so, the elation they all felt helped act as a motivator to keep doing what they are doing.

“The guy that bought it is going to name it Phyllis,” said Kraft. “Maybe someday we’ll see this car, this 1973 white hornet named Phyllis, running around the streets and that just makes me smile. That’s a great example of something finding a great home.”

“It kind of touches your heart a little bit when you know you’re putting stuff out and you know that was somebody’s loved one,” said Skinner. “As long as your heart’s in the right place so is your motor.”