By Peggy Bisbey, Certified Self Storage Manager
Thanks to shows like “Storage Wars” and “Storage Hunters,” millions of Americans have been introduced to self storage auctions, yet very few truly know what they entail. So if you’re thinking of getting into the storage auction game, turn off the TV and follow our expert advice on what to expect.
First of all, we never want to hold an auction at our stores. It’s the unfortunate but necessary task that we must take care of each month in order to gain back some of the money we are owed and most importantly free up the units to be available for new customers.
If you have never attended a storage auction before, we have a few tips for your first one:
It’s Not Like What You See on TV.
Try to remember that this is not a reality show, and most auctions aren’t quite as glamorous as what you see on TV. But, they can still be fun if you know what to look for and which steps to take.
Be an Observer at Your First Storage Auction.
This is the perfect opportunity for you to watch and learn. You can get an idea of what to bid on and how to bid. Take notes of what types of units get the most bids, and which ones don’t. You can even note how many units are up for auction and how many bidders are present.
Always Bring a Flashlight.
A flashlight is a must for most experienced bidders. A flashlight can help you see farther into the storage unit and into the spaces that you otherwise could not see. By law, we are not permitted to step into the storage unit until it has been sold (neither are the bidders). You cannot touch anything either. So if you want to really get an idea of what’s in there, a flashlight is necessary.
Be a Wise Storage Auction Buyer.
Bidding can sometimes go backwards, and then back up. Don’t be afraid to offer less than the opening bid that is offered. We typically put a starting bid at a price we think is reasonable for what we can see in the storage unit. However, we want to get it sold as well so we can rent it to a new customer. That means you have some control with the bidding.
The process of buying a full storage unit can be overwhelming, especially if you have never done this before. You will need to remove all of the contents from the storage unit within a short amount of time, typically the same day, once you have won the auction. If you buy a large storage unit with stuff packed floor to ceiling, or you bought more than one storage unit, it can be a daunting task. So we recommend starting off your first experience by buying a unit that is not too full or go with a smaller one.
If you start big anyway because you saw something (or a few somethings) in there that you simply must have, then you can sign a rental agreement to rent the storage unit and give yourself up to a month or more to clean it out if you cannot complete it within the permitted time frame.
Leave No Stone Unturned.
You never know where you might find a treasure within the storage unit you won at auction, so examine every item. Feel inside of pants pockets, go through drawers and flip through pages of books. Look in every nook and cranny of every item to be sure you aren’t leaving anything worthwhile behind. Then you can decide which items you want to keep, which ones to sell, which ones to donate and what is truly just garbage.
Have a Plan in Place before You Attend a Storage Auction.
You need to have a strategy in place for the stuff you buy. You may want to keep things, donate some stuff, sell others and trash the rest. Make sure you have a place to put all the items (or rent the storage unit for a month or two so you can take some time to go through it). If you plan to donate some of it, contact your local Salvation Army or shelter and see what items they need or will take. If you end up with a lot of garbage, have a plan to dispose of it. That could mean calling the local dump or paying extra for a garbage hauler to make a trip to the storage unit or your home to pick it up.
For example: Many auction buyers will sell on eBay and other online auction sites, flea markets and even at yard sales. Some of them even have second-hand or consignment shops where they sell it all. If you don’t have a strategy then it could cost you more than it’s worth.
If you plan to remove all your “treasures” and not rent the storage unit, then bring a truck with a trailer or a box truck so you have enough room to pack it all up and take with you. It may also be smart to bring a friend or have one on call to help you move things if you win an auctioned unit.
If you have never attended a self storage auction before, I highly recommend it. It can be quite interesting and you may find something of great value to you or someone you love. Just be realistic and don’t expect to find an ancient coin worth $1,000,000 or a signed Les Paul guitar…that 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 all our locations and our partner facilities. You can also contact us for more information.