5 Tips for Inspecting a Unit

storage hallwayIn Monday’s blog, we answered the question, is all fair in love, war, and storage unit auction?

The answer is, for the most part, yes. Part of any good storage auction is a healthy bidding approach and trying to get the competitive edge over the other guy.

The one exception to the rule and one way that storage unit auctions should never be unfair, is in the security of the storage unit prior to the auction. This is important both for legal reasons pertaining to state lien laws, and also for your peace of mind and profit making capabilities.

If a unit has been tampered with, staged, or items have been removed, this generally doesn’t bode well for your ability to make a profit, as many of the “high value” items may have been removed.

This is simply bad business and you should avoid any facility that partakes in these types of practices.

But how do you know if a unit has been tampered with or staged? In today’s blog we’ll provide 5 Tips for Inspecting a Unit that should allow you the information you need to confidently bid.

Know State Laws

To begin with, you have to take the time to familiarize yourself with the laws in your state. Depending on the state you live in, auction laws can vary greatly in terms of what is required to hold an auction and what facilities are required to do to prepare a unit for a storage unit auction.

In some states, facility personnel is legally required to cut the previous tenant’s lock from the storage unit and take an inventory of what they can see from the door. This information is then posted in the public notice that they are required to file by law.

In other states, facility personnel are obligated to enter the unit and remove any personal paperwork and related items from previous tenants. This means that they are essentially required to enter the unit and rifle through the contents to find these types of documents.

In other states, the laws vary.

Being well read on the laws in your state will allow you to see red flags, but will also allow you to recognize when a facility has just done their due diligence according to the letter of the law. If you have questions on the state of the unit, this knowledge can be helpful. It never hurts to ask the facility staff about their process as well.

Dust Check

From the door of any self storage facility, there is one tell tale sign of an untouched unit. Keep an eye on the dust levels inside a unit once the door goes up. The more dust and dirt you can see accumulated on top of items and in the nooks and crannies of the unit, the better the odds are that nobody has been inside in quite some time. This means that the unit is fairly secure and that you can bid to your heart’s content.

Tamper Tag

double locksOne way to know for sure that a unit hasn’t been ransacked is the presence of a tamper tag. These tags are used by auctioneer companies in conjunction with the lock that the facility puts on each unit once they’ve completed their inventory.

If you see that seal as well as the lock, you know that a  reputable, licensed, auctioneer is conducting the inventory. You know that the seal is not valid once broken and that the serial number HAS to match the file on the unit at auction time. You also know that both auctioneer and facility have been present during the inventory process and are accountable to each other in a checks and balances system.

If you don’t see the tag, there isn’t a reason to be alarmed, as not all auctioneers use these and in some states, facilities aren’t required by law to have an auctioneer complete the storage unit auction, and so as a cost saving method, they host the auction themselves.

However, if you do see the tag, you know without a shadow of a doubt that the unit is worth your bid.

Obvious Staging

It is unfortunate when the doors of a storage unit go up, and you can see right away that all is not right. Items that have been staged are usually fairly easy to spot amidst the rest of the unit. These staged items will normally stick out like a sore thumb. Items that are sitting directly on top of their boxes, facing the door of the unit just so and otherwise seeming out of place are all red flags that the unit has been staged. Not only does that mean it’s possible that a facility staged the room, but also that they added or removed items from the storage unit prior to the auction.

Check Against the Announcement

Before attending a storage unit, there are several ways to find out what has been listed in the public notice. At Storage Unit Auction List, many of our listings now include the public notice inventory information. This can include the name and address of the previous tenant, as well as the items or types of items within the locker. All our information comes directly from the facilities that we contact on a daily basis.

You can also call the facility ahead of the auction to double check the information that you’ve gotten through Storage Unit Auction List, or any public notice that you’ve read.

As you’re reviewing a storage unit, complete a mental checklist in your head of what you see versus what you read about in the public notice or heard from the facility.

Do you see the majority of items listed? If you can see them from your vantage point, this means the facility was able to see them as well. If you can’t see many of the items, this may point to the facility having enter the unit and taken a more in depth inventory. Again, whether or not this is cause for alarm is dependent on the laws of your state, but it is something to keep in mind. If you see roughly the same items that are listed in the public notice, then you can bid with a bit more ease!


4 thoughts on “5 Tips for Inspecting a Unit”

  1. Is it normal for a storage facility to have (1) key for all locks on units that are up for auction -vs- cutting the lock off @ time of sale ?

  2. There is a storage company in NJ that stages lockers.It always has a lot of lockers.They do not cut locks and only have little wire locks on the doors (so I quess they do not care if someone breaks into the lockers,this is an obvious RED Flag)and when the door goes up there is always something of value facing the crowd like a Vio flat screen box or an Apple computer turned just showing the back.Furniture never matches the vases or picture frames all easy to spot if you have done this for a while.My friend who did not listen to me about these things bought a big room there and surprise,surprise.The banana boxes stacked up were empty or filled with old newspaper,and the cheap glassware that was wrapped in newspaper was wrapped in newspaper that was just 2 weeks old,NUFF Said!!!LET THE BUYER BEWARE.

  3. Hi David, in most states, the facility is required to cut the previous tenants lock off before the auction to take an inventory from the door for the public notice that they are required to publish by law. When they replace the lock with their own, they may add locks with one master key as a point of convenience.

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