Have you ever watched those storage auction shows called “Storage Wars” or “Storage Hunters?” Both shows explore the experience of storage auctions. Because of these shows, millions of Americans have been introduced to self storage auctions, albeit in a very Hollywood fashion. If you are considering jumping into the storage auction ring, turn off the TV and read our advice on what really happens and what to expect.
First of all, we never want to hold a storage auction at our property for any reason. Storage auctions are an unfortunate and necessary assignment the must happen every month. Storage auctions provide us with a means to collect delinquent funds as well as clear out the storage units so they can be available for new customers.
Here are some of our top tips for auction goers:
It is nothing like what you see on “Storage Wars” or “Storage Hunters”. Period.
Hollywood spends a great deal of time and effort to add drama to storage auctions. They are basically reality shows with hours and hours of filming and editing. Real life storage auctions are not that glamorous or dramatic. Storage Auctions can still be a lot of fun if you know what to look for, are looking for something in particular, and you follow the proper steps and tips.
Spend your first storage auction observing, and don’t make any bids. Seriously.
Watch at least one auction as a spectator. By watching experienced bidders, you will get a better understanding of the bidding process and average bid price. Take notes on which unit types get the most bids, and which ones get the lowest bids. It’s also a good idea to note how many storage units are up for auction and how many active and non-active bidders attend.
Bring a flashlight with so you can see what’s inside the storage unit.
Storage units are typically dark and unlit. Even with hall lights nearby for interior units, you cannot see what all is inside that dark storage unit, especially if it is a rather large one. Exterior and drive-up units aren’t much different. By law, no one is allowed to step into the storage unit until it has been sold. This includes the property manager, store owner or the auction bidders. You are also prohibited from touching anything. So, the only way to have any idea what is in there is to have a bright flashlight handy.
Don’t bid on everything. Be smart and bid smart.
During an auction, bidding fluctuates considerably. Don’t be afraid to offer less than the starting bid. A starting bid is typically presented to start the bidding process. The starting bid is based on a reasonable estimate for items that are visible in the unit. However, the goal is to get the unit sold so we can rent it to a new customer, which means you have some control over the price.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start small.
Although purchasing a storage unit at auction can be quite fun and exhilarating, it can also be overwhelming. For your first auction, don’t bid on a large storage unit that is filled to the top. It is amazing how much stuff can be piled into a unit! Once you win a bid and the unit is yours, you have a short amount of time to remove all the contents, typically the same day as the auction. If you buy a large and very packed unit, or you buy multiple units, it may be a very daunting task to get it emptied and off site in a day. We recommend starting off with a small unit or one that is half empty.
Remember, if you see something you simply must have in a large unit, and you buy it, you can sign a rental agreement to rent the storage unit and give yourself up to a month or more to clean it out. Buying time to sort through the items gives you a chance to really dig through your new belongings to find a treasure.
When you win a unit, look through and in everything. And I mean everything.
You never know where you may find a treasure! People store items inside items, especially if they are valuable pieces. Open every drawer, every box, every envelope, flip through pages in books and check it all out. Paper money can be easily stored inside of stuff that you may assume are worthless. There are a ton of small nooks and crannies inside a storage unit. Take some to time to go over it with a fine comb.
Once you are confident you have looked through everything; you will need to decide what you want to keep, what you plan to sell, what you plan to donate, and what is going to the dump.
Plan ahead. Don’t attend an auction on a whim, be prepared.
Preparing is a crucial step. Have a strategy in place for the items you will be keeping or selling, and where you are going to put them once they are yours. If you don’t have a good place to keep it all, rent a storage unit for a month or two so you can go through it more closely and over time, rather than rushing it. If you plan to take it all with you on auction day, have a truck with you and some friends ready to help you move and haul it away. Make a plan for all the things you may end up owning at the end of the day.
Decide how you are going to dispose of the garbage and trash from the items that are worthless. That could mean a trip to the dump. Keep in mind you will need a truck or trailer to haul these item and it could take multiple trips to the dump. You may also what to check out what it would cost to arrange a trash pickup at the storage unit.
Donating items to local shelters and missions is a great way to find a home for items that are in good shape, but are not useful to you. You can contact your local Salvation Army or AMVETS and see what items they can take and when they can collect them. They may even have a service to come and pick up your donations, either at the storage unit or at your home or office.
Several auction buyers will sell on eBay, flea markets and even at yard sales. Some of them even have second-hand or consignment shop where they sell it all. If you don’t have a strategy, then it could cost you more to get rid of it than it’s worth.
Attend a storage auction and have some fun observing and participating. They can be quite interesting and you may find something of great value to you or a loved one. But remember this is not TV and it is unlikely you will find that rare coin worth $1,000,000 or a signed Les Paul guitar…that just simply isn’t a common occurrence.
If you want to learn more or attend your first auction, visit our storage auction page for details and the auction schedule at our store and our partner facilities. You can also contact us for more information.