Estate sales are a huge business, but they are also not nearly as efficient as they could be. In an effort to quickly liquidate a home’s possessions, many estate sales end up selling objects below their true value or fail to find a new home for them. That’s something a company called Everything But The House would like to change.
Everything But The House operates a full-service estate sale service that combines the best of the online and offline worlds to drive efficiency in the process. In other words, the company makes it easy for those who need to liquidate assets, either because someone died or a household is downsizing, or whatever else might cause people to need to sell all their stuff in a short period of time.
To do that, EBTH takes what you might do for any typical estate sale and adds a bit of marketplace dynamics to the process. The company has employees that go to a house, categorizes and inventories items, and then tries to determine their value before they go on sale. It also handles the disposal of all items it believes can’t be sold.
Estate sales previously were only accessible to those who lived nearby, but EBTH puts all items from a sale online and allows users from around the world to bid on those items. By doing so, it opens each sale up to a whole new world of buyers.
While the majority of items are still sold to local buyers who go to a house to pick the items up, opening up to outside buyers. That, in turn, drives up demand and prices that its users typically get for the items that are listed.
Local buyers pick up their goods two days after a sale ends, while those who bid from outside the region will have their items shipped to them. The whole process, from showing up at a house to the close of the auction and shipping and fulfillment, takes about 30 days.
Everything But The House isn’t your usual startup. The website was founded years ago as a way to help a local estate sales business in Cincinnati, Ohio to show off the goods it sold to local buyers. Founded by Jacquie Denny and Brian Graves, the site operated that way until about 2012, when brothers Andy and Jon Nielsen stumbled upon it along with partner Mike Reynolds.
They had been part of Riverstone Development Group but were hoping to find a different business to grow and scale, according to Andy Nielsen, who is now CEO of the company. So they agreed on an ownership structure which made sense for everyone involved and began building out the necessary systems and infrastructure the company would need to replicate its business in other markets.
The company’s second market was Lexington, Ky. and the next after that was Louisville, Ky. It’s now in six different cities, and in each case, EBTH found that its business model worked. All of which is why now, after having been bootstrapped for years and years, EBTH is ready to take on funding.
The company has raised $13 million in Series A funding from investors that include Spark Capital and Greycroft Partners, with participation from other individual investors. According to Nielsen, part of the draw for investors came from the company’s traction in non-traditional tech markets.
“That’s where the sex appeal is, because this is not coming out of New York or San Francisco or Boston… We’ve been able to prove out so much of this business outside of those markets,” he told me.
However, the funding will be used primarily to accelerate expansion into markets like those. Now that EBTH has shown it works in what many would consider smaller markets in the middle of the U.S., it’s looking to take on some bigger cities on the coasts in 2015. That includes Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, the Gulf Coast of Florida, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.
After that, EBTH will look to be in the top 50 markets of the U.S. by the end of 2016. But, of course, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The good news is that for EBTH, after seven or eight years of bootstrapping and growing slow, that’s probably not going to be an issue.