An Inside Look at Storage Auctions, From Rookie Auction Hunter Jack Walsh

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There are many ways for someone to get started in the storage auction hunting business. Some people have been in the business for years full time. Some may have gotten the bug from watching Storage Wars in the past few years and decided to give the business a try, prepping excitedly before their first auction, imagining how their experience will vary in comparison to the show. Some people start out by trying to find auctions themselves, while others subscribe to Storage Unit Auction List for the most comprehensive storage auction list online.

Jack Walsh, a rookie storage auction buyer from Hendersonville, NC didn’t do any of these things. Sure, Jack had seen Storage Wars, but never considered attending an auction himself. It was pure coincidence when he stumbled onto his first storage auction. I recently had the chance to quiz the new buyer on his love of storage auctions and how he got started.

How Long Have You Been Attending Auctions?
Not very long, I just recently stumbled into my first one because I happened to be at the facility, where I store my RV, when an army of buyers marched through the gates. I was just at the right place at the right time!

What Was Your First Auction Experience Like?
Well, I’ve watched Storage Wars before, and like the show, there are always key players. When I saw everyone coming in, I was curious and started talking with the manager of the facility, who told me that they were having an auction. He explained to me that it was actually the 7th auction of the day and that this would be their last auction. It was a caravan style auction, so they had all been driving around from facility to facility all day long. I immediately asked how I could get a number and start bidding. Because I knew the manager from renting there, he gave me the proper paperwork to get registered.

Once they raised the lid on the unit, all the experienced buyers took out their flashlights and started looking into the unit and trying to determine if it was worth a bid. They had all obviously been bidding against each other all day, so I decided to wait it out. I let everyone else start bidding, and I picked a maximum bid that I was comfortable with. Everyone was friendly to one another, but it was a competition! So when I started hearing people say that they were running out of money, that’s when I jumped in and started to bid. Everybody started looking around, trying to figure out who was bidding against them, like “Whose the new guy?” Once they figured out that I was the bidder, they all started to pool their money to bid against me. But, in the end, I won my first unit.

After I won, the storage facility employees were cooperative and explained all the rules to me about what I needed to do, and how long I had to do it.
The whole thing was like a treasure hunt. The things I ended up finding were exciting, to say the least! I actually gave someone a gag gift from the unit I won!
There was definitely a strategy going into my first auction. I learned a lot just by watching it all unfold around me and I learned a lot as my unit unfolded when I did win. It was a 10X10 unit and it was absolutely stacked floor to ceiling perfectly. Every square foot was occupied by boxes and there was no room to look beyond the boxes. It was definitely an elderly person’s unit. With this one, I think it was organized well, but I have that having some space to see beyond that into the rest of the unit would have been helpful because you can’t go in or touch and you’re at the mercy of the “glass” door. I was at the auction as more of a novelty than interested as a serious buyer, but when I won, I became a serious buyer.

We ended up making lots of runs to the dump and to Goodwill, but we also traded items and made our money back on the unit!

How Many Auctions Have You Won and How Much Money Have You Made?
I’ve been to other types of auctions in the past, but as far as storage auctions, I’ve only been to the one. I don’t buy professionally, but I learned a lot and now when I go, I have a better idea of what I’m looking for. I can’t wait to be a full time guy like some of the guys that I met. There is a sense of competition, where it’s almost like playing poker because it’s, “Should I show them my hand or bid them up and get them out of the game? Am I bluffing or do I really want the unit?”

What Was Your Best Find?
The best find, that I didn’t know had any value was the old books that I found in the unit. There are people who specialize in everything. If it’s old, there is someone who knows something about it. Before you get rid of anything, let somebody who knows what they are talking about take a look.

What Was Your Craziest or Most Interesting Find?
Well, I mentioned that I gave someone a gag gift from the unit. I actually found a replacement hip inside the unit and gave that to my friend who was having hip surgery. But while it did seem to be an elderly person’s unit, there were some funny things in there too. The previous tenant must have been pretty wild in their younger days!

What Advice Do You Wish You Had When You Got Started?
I wish I had access to a list of auctions that told me where auctions are taking place and when so that it wasn’t just dumb luck. That way, I could have been more prepared. Second, I would want to be somewhat educated on what things and their marketplace worth. If you have that knowledge- focus on what you know and what your specialty is when you are just getting started.

StorageUnitActionList.com, a member of the Self Storage Association, provides our customers with a comprehensive auction list in multiple auction formats for all 50 states and over 51,000 facilities. Subscribers can review over 10,000 auctions each month through their personal dashboard making storage auctions easy to find whether you’re treasure hunting for fun or running a profitable business.

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