It all started back in 2005. At first, before we became Transition Squad®, we started as a service to help people sell homes privately. Our first client had a mother who had dementia. It was really a Transition Squad® type client, but we weren't doing that at the time. Our founder had gone through his own dad's transition and saw the pain that many of his friends were also starting to go through as they had reached that age where parents were getting older. That's when the light bulb went off and he realized that there was a much bigger, more satisfying need in helping people at such a time rather than trying to help people save some commission on their home sale. So he decided to pivot the business' direction to a senior downsizing company.
Without much experience in that line of work, the first few projects helped clients with organizing, packing and move management. However, the biggest challenge clients were asking about was "what do I do with all my stuff?"
After scratching our heads wondering how other companies handled this (back then, there weren't many companies to compare to), our research determined that the few companies doing this were simply packing everything up and shipping it to auction houses. So that's what we did for the first few clients, after all, why re-invent the wheel - or so we thought.
We then found out that in most cases, buyers at these auctions were paying pennies on the dollar from which the auction house was taking their cut. The auction houses had difficulty selling big items so they were disposed of, the cost charged against the seller's proceeds. From the few projects we did like this, our clients got back approximately $20 for their whole houseful of memories, which didn't even cover our charges to pack up or ship. Ridiculous! "Surely we could find a better way!"
So we set out to design a process which would take away the burden, find a good home for our clients' belongings and also maximize their net proceeds. We were determined, however, not to be a liquidator like many other companies in this space were.
The most inefficient and expensive parts of the process were the packing and shipping. We realized that it would be much more efficient and cost effective to bring the buyers to the items rather than sending the items to the buyers. So we decided to start holding estate sales right from our clients' homes. There would be no packing or shipping costs as buyers would take their purchases with them. Our seller clients would get immediate cash which could be used to cover the costs of disposing of anything that was not sold.
Our first estate sale in Scarborough was packed with buyers. Our client had come home from Spain to handle his mother's affairs. He couldn't stay long so he just gave us his keys and we handled everything from selling the contents to managing repairs to the home before putting it on the market for sale. We put up signs in the neighborhood and posted pictures of what we would be selling on our website. We sold well over half of everything in the home and generated more than enough to cover removal of the rest. Our client was thrilled.
Our estate sales became very popular in the second hand buyer community. We always had people lined up from the middle of the night, sometimes even sleep in their cars outside overnight, just to be the first ones allowed in and grab the best stuff.
However, after every estate sale, there were still some nice things remaining that had good value. So we built an online auction feature on our website to sell any leftover items. After each estate sale we would run around the home and take photos of what was left. We lowered the price and posted the items on our new auction page.
Over the years, our estate sales followed by online auctions became an even more effective and popular tool. Depending on what was for sale, we would have anywhere from 500 to 2000 people go through a home on a weekend morning and afternoon. We typically cleared out 50, 60, even 70% of the home during the physical estate sale and then another 10, 20, 30% with the auction, thus leaving very little to be cleared out, which meant huge cost savings for our clients. In most cases, our clients were receiving more from the sales than the cost of removal so they were in a positive position without having to do any work.
Then one day we got a call from a client living in a high-rise condominium. The board refused to let us hold an estate sale there. They didn't want strangers in the building and the logistics for parking would have been a nightmare. However, they did allow us to conduct an online auction with only the winners coming to pick up their items.
We were quite concerned because we had never done an auction only event. We relied on holding the estate sale first to clear out most of the items, albeit at negotiated prices but still at far more than the pennies on the dollar the auction houses in our previous research were generating. However, we priced everything the same way as we would for an estate sale and crossed our fingers.
During our estate sales, if we priced something at $5, buyers would often offer us 50 cents and we would haggle to somewhere inbetween. But with our auctions, much to our suprise and delight, the prices on most items started to climb rapidly. We quickly realized what was happening. At an estate sale, the early birds took the most desirable items at the best prices. Once taken, there was no opportunity for others to buy them for even more. As well, the estate sale was limited in both time and reach as only buyers who could make it there could purchase. However, with an online auction, it was a competitive bidding environment that spanned a week or more and anyone could bid from anywhere and only the winners needed to come pick up during the designated pickup window.
The condo was our first online auction event and we never looked back. Going forward, every event was an online auction first and for anything left over, we held a mini estate sale to sell even more.
Our business grew rapidly over the next several years. Then COVID hit! Online shopping became the craze. Our business was considered an essential service as people still needed to move and sell their contents. We grew busier each month and bidding activity went through the roof.
COVID proved to us that that our business model will thrive during good times and bad. It also allowed us to streamline all of our operations to create something very efficient, repeatable, scalable and profitable. There is ample supply of products to sell and clients needing our services in every market. Our vision is to expand our model throughout North America and to recruit and coach others who wish to join us on our journey.