Storage Units are abandoned for a whole bushel basket of reasons. Some of the reasons are tragic. Some are reasonable and most are just simply let go for lack of money. When the contents go to auction, those reasons disappear and suddenly the goods become a mystery. You have 10 seconds to peek inside before the storage unit door closes and the bidding begins.
Many of those who attend storage unit auctions (like me) are there for the excitement of finding something unique and valuable. Most of the people around me attend because they are buying things to supply their thrift stores. A couple own antique shops and several make a living selling items online.
Storage unit auctions are done by auctioning off the entire contents of one unit. A bid is for every single thing, good, bad, ugly and precious inside that unit. The fact that you have those 10 seconds to look before you bid, means you have to become the fastest super sleuth ever to figure out if the unit is worth your time. Things to look for are boxes who are in tact and stacked neatly; furniture that may be covered or plastic wrapped. Items that are stored in specialty boxes and plastic tubs. All of these things indicate that someone packed away something that was considered valuable and spent time and money to keep it in good condition. If a unit is in disarray and dirty and things look broken and just tossed inside, there is, more than likely, not much of value.
Many people come out to a storage unit auction just to see what others get. Some come to buy old appliances that are hidden in the darkness of a unit. They fix them up and resell them or, sometimes, they sell the appliance for the price of the metal. There is a mother and daughter team who buy units and then hold garage sales. They said that over the years, they have found some incredible toys and dishware. They hold a sale every six weeks when they have accumulated enough to have a large volume of products. They say they pay all of their bills, the cost of the unit, travel, plus some with each sale. And then, there are two older characters who look for old boats, cars and farm vehicles. I found out that they also attend auto auctions, but they have found some real collector cars behind the doors of a storage unit.
Collector glass, fine art, expensive jewelry and diamond rings have been discovered in a storage unit, but not quite as often as the television shows portray. Most units are filled with people’s household items that they are no longer using and aren’t quite ready to sell. Pictures, crock pots, Christmas decorations, out of season lawn furniture and tons of old clothes are the normal finds. These kinds of items are perfect for a thrift shop or even a vintage store. But, if you are going to bid on a storage unit, be prepared to find the normal everyday kind of stuff.
The excitement that draws people to storage unit auctions is in the unknown. You never really know what is behind the door. Sometimes people bid and win and get some really good stuff and then...sometimes they don’t. But these auctions can be good for business. When a storage facility owner is left holding the stuff from someone’s unit, if he throws it into the trash bin, he is out his rent. Most units are abandoned because a customer could not pay, late payments add up and then they just walk away from their stuff. Depending on how many units a facility rents, some owners will hold an auction once every six months while others hold them once a month. Most owners go to great lengths to work with renters of units who are in default before they start the procedures to go to auction in order to recover their rent. And the renter is notified numerous times of the date that their possessions will go up for auction. There are two notices of payments overdue, a pre-lien notice and then a certified letter that their property will be sold at auction.
Most of the time, the renters pay up or remove their stuff before the auction date. If the facility owners never hear anything, they have no choice but to go to auction so that the space can be used by other customers.
When a storage unit auction does take place, many of us are there eager and ready for the auctioneer to throw open the door and let us peek inside. I know that it has become a social thing for my little group. It is also a way to find unique and unusual finds that I can sell on Ebay, craigslist and Facebook marketplace. I am hoping to start selling at my local Flea Market and maybe even rent a space in an antique mall. Although I have bought a unit for $200 and turned around and sold it all for $600, I have to stay on top of what I am selling and where. I research items that I am not familiar with their value by finding like items on Ebay and doing a price comparison. I also was and clean everything as if it were to be in my own home. The auctions to me, are all about the price versus the value. So far, I have been very lucky!