Monday, May 25, 2009

Baby Boomers Downsizing

We get calls from many different people, the elderly, the not-so-elderly, daughters and sons, lawyers and realtors. They usually all have the same questions when they call us; what have I got and how do I dispose of it effectively and profitably? We work hard at getting these calls, spending alot of time and effort and money in marketing and advertising.

In most cases we are able to be of some assistance or at least offer a piece of advice that will put the client on the right path to accomplishing their goal. There is however one group that seems to consistently be the most problematic; the baby boomers trying to downsize themselves.

When couples in their 50s to early 60s call us to help them with their first downsize, it's rarely a good fit. And here's some of the reasons I think this is the case;

  • The boomers (and their generational neighbors by a few years) are not old enough yet for their stuff to have that 'antique' value. And unless they were architects or people with modernist tastes (ie: they bought 1950s-60s Scandinavian teak and all the other Modern goodies that went with it), their furnishings and contents are not really very hot at the moment.

  • They are a different generation than their parents. The boomers were the first post war generation, and probably the first of what has become the throw away generations. They like to redecorate and update regularly, and not do all the things antique dealers love like horde and stash stuff away for a rainy day.

  • They are only doing their first downsize. This means that they are probably keeping the best stuff, which usually translates into the most saleable stuff. And so they should, but that's what makes money. The same is true for the family heirlooms like silver and jewelry, some of which usually shakes loose when it is an estate situation or a final downsize.

  • A baby boomer downsizing is usually selling mainly furniture. Furniture in today's market, in Toronto, is the very hardest stuff to place at the moment. The smalls (industry term for contents that are not furniture) are key to a good sale and the most saleable stuff, but they are being kept because they are easily boxed up and transported, and probably still needed in their new homes.

We work so hard to get the calls and when it comes to this group, the largest generation out there, we often have very little to offer, which as a small business is really the pits.

And so when it comes to this group, what do we suggest? Well, usually a more self involved approach. I have seen some boomers have success by doing it themselves. Spending the time, notifying friends and family that might have a kid in college or need some cottage furniture, using resources like craigslist and eBay and knocking on the doors of individuals that might be in need of what they are offering. Taking this time does turn out the desired result, but hiring a company to do it would eat into what precious funds you would realize and maybe not even cover the entire cost. So while it's not an easy answer, I have seen it work.

We hope you understand what we have outlined. And please accept that if we could help you, we would! Sometimes, it just doesn't make sense (or money) for either of us.

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