Although they’ve technically been around for decades now, storage auctions have just recently entered mainstream popularity due largely in part to TV shows like Storage Hunters. These shows have presented the industry in front of millions of Americans, showing them what it’s like to participate in the rewarding business of buying and selling abandoned storage units at auction. But many people are still confused regarding how exactly storage auctions work.
Self-storage facilities generally operate by renting or leasing out individual units. If someone needs additional space to store their belongings, they may sign a 1 or 2-year lease with a self-storage facility, giving them access to a unit for the duration of the lease. Tenants are then required to pay “rent” for the unit, as specified in the facility’s terms and conditions. If the tenant fails to pay his or her bill, the facility will have the legal authority to sell the contents of the unit at auction in an effort to recoup some of its lost expense. Facilities won’t auction a tenant’s belongings if they are just 1 week, or even 1 month late, but rather it requires multiple delinquent notices.
Before the auction begins, the self-storage facility must notify the public of the auction. This is typically done by placing an ad in a local newspaper, or publishing a notice online. Different cities and counties have different laws regarding auction notifications, so check with your respective municipality to find out more. Some places require facilities to make a public notice at least 1 week in advance, which seems to be the norm for most US cities.
When the actual auction occurs, the auctioneer will cut the lock (if it has one) and allow bidders to peer inside to see what kind of contents the unit has. Keep in mind that bidders are prohibited from touching anything inside the unit, as they can only look. Next, the auctioneer will begin to auction, usually opening with a low bid. The person with the highest bid wins the auction and will be given permission to take anything from within the unit.
The winning bidder typically has between 24-48 hours to clean out the unit’s contents. This includes both valuable items and junk/non-valuables. Failure to clean out a unit could result in your name being blacklisted from future auctions, meaning you won’t be able to participate in other auctions at the facility.