How to Bid at a Storage Unit Auction

A storage unit auction is like most auctions. You register when you arrive. You follow the crowd around to the items, which happens to be a full storage unit. And when bidding begins, you either raise your hand at the auctioneer or lift a bidding card. But, the things that are different are that you are bidding on a whole lot of stuff at once, you are bidding on stuff that is unknown and the main tool that you need to make decisions is a flashlight. Storage unit auctions are unique in their reason to exist and beneficial for those looking to get a bunch of stuff at one time. Consignment shops, thrift stores, antique dealers, online sellers frequent these sales and they have the tricks for success down pat. The following is a list of things to do in order to win a very good deal at a storage unit auction!

Storage unit auctions happen reluctantly. Most facilities do not want to do auctions but, in order to recover unpaid rent on the unit, it is the only way they can recover financially. After the auction, the storage unit facility takes the money and puts it toward the debt; if there is money left over then it is distributed to the original renter. Sometimes a facility will schedule several units to be  auctioned on the same day and then when you arrive, there are only a couple of units that are going to be bid upon. The renter has the chance to recover their belongings and pay up on the rent up until the morning of the auction. So, be prepared for less than advertised.

Every storage unit facility has their own rules, but generally, when the door of the unit is thrown open for a 30 second preview, it is the first time that the facility has seen the stuff inside too. When they do throw it open, check out the smell to see if it is moldy. This could be from dampness in the unit or even dirt. Also, look for bugs, droppings from mice and any cockroaches. Bugs are not a good thing to bid on! And, take note of anything that looks hazardous such as storage drums which could have dangerous things inside. Most facilities will not allow bidding on these types of units, but it is their first times looking inside too!

When everyone has gotten their 30 second look inside the unit, the door closes and the bidding begins. Although there have been bids at $1 for a unit because there is no minimum bid, the auctioneer tries to start the bidding at $200. Most units will sell for between $100 and $250.  The auctioneer will guide the bidding process upwards with bids going up in $10-$25 increments. If you have never been to a storage unit auction before, it is a good idea to just keep quiet for a bidding process or two. You will want to identify the buyers as they can give you clues as to the actual value of the unit. Most people who do this often or professionally, know what to look for and how much to bid. By watching the “pros”, you will get a better understanding of what to bid, how to bid and how much to bid. Keep track of which unit types get the most bids, and which ones don’t.

When you feel that you are ready to start bidding, don’t get caught up in the excitement. Double check that you really want the unit before you begin bidding. There’s no need to buy a unit every time you attend a storage auction. Have a goal in mind and bid on the units that make sense for you. Set a limit for yourself to ensure you can make a profit later. When the door is thrown open, learn to check for clues about the stuff inside. One clue I heard and stuck with me was to look for luggage. If there is a lot of luggage, then the person probably traveled and is likely to have nice things. This could mean that there are some unique items in the boxes as a result of the travels.

Also, look for organized boxes which tells that the things inside could be in good condition. Plastic boxes will not have mice or bug problems.Take note of the cleanliness of the unit and how things are stored. Are boxes arranged on shelves and is the furniture covered in blankets or plastic? When things are stored with care, you will normally find things in good condition and may have a higher value.

Another big trick of the trade is to bring a flashlight so you can see what is inside the storage unit.

Storage units are typically not lighted inside. 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. The only way to have any idea what is in there is to have a flashlight handy, and a good bright one at that. You don’t want to bid unless you see and feel that there is value all the way to the back of the unit.

Once you win a bid, you have a short amount of time to remove all the contents. The facility wants that unit back so they can rent it again. You typically have one day to empty it out, so you need to be prepared with the right type of vehicle and helping hands. If you buy a large or a very stuffed full unit, or you buy multiple units, you may want to pay the rent so that you have some time to go through everything. Some units may seem to be full of  junk, but, you must go through everything because you may find some hidden gems. While going through a unit, look through and in everything. There are lots of small nooks and crannies inside furniture and there are pockets in shirts that could hold a surprise. Open every drawer, every box, every envelope, flip through pages in books and check it all out. Paper money can be easily missed inside of things that you may assume are worthless.

Once you have gone through everything, then you need to make a couple of piles. One pile is for what you are going to keep and the other is for trash. And the trash pile can be divided between trash for the garbage and the other for donation. You will need to make arrangements for both of these piles as there is not a donation bin at the facility and they do not want you filling up their trash bin. Have a trash run scheduled and maybe a donation service can come and pick things up.

And the final step is to have a strategy for the items that you keep. Are you going to be selling these items? Are you providing goods for a thrift or antique store? You will need to know what you are going to do with all of your newly purchased stuff! Many auction buyers will sell on eBay, Craigslist, flea markets, yard sales and on social media sites. And, many of those people make a very good living selling their storage unit wins.

Being prepared before a storage unit auction happens is the key to success. Knowing what you are going to do with the items is the basis for good organization and business achievement. Although a storage unit auction is rarely like those on TV, they can be fun and exciting and even can produce some incredible treasures!

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