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First-Time Storage Auction – Tips to Be Successful

Most of you have at least heard of shows like “Storage Wars” or “Storage Hunters” about storage auctions, and likely many of you have watched at least once. Because of these shows, millions of Americans have been introduced to self storage auctions, albeit in a very Hollywood fashion. If you are considering jumping into the storage auction ring, turn off the TV and read our advice on what really happens and what to expect.

First things first, we never want to hold a storage auction at our property for any reason. However, it is the unfortunate and necessary task the must happen every month. These storage auctions help us to gain back some of the money we are owed and more importantly clear out the storage units so they can be available for new customers.

Here are some of our tips for a first-time storage auction goer, or even a season veteran:

It is nothing like what you see on “Storage Wars” or “Storage Hunters”. Period.
You need to think about what you see on those shows for a moment. They are basically a reality show with hours and hours of filming and editing to produce just one half hour show. Storage auctions in the real world are not that glamorous. However, they can still be a lot of fun if you know what to look for, are looking for something in particular, and you follow the proper steps and tips.

Plan to observe at your first storage auction, and don’t make any bids. Seriously.
The only way you are going to learn how they work and how people make bids, is by watching at least one as a spectator. By watching the “pros”, you will get a better understanding of what to bid, how to bid and how much to bid. Take notes on which unit types get the most bids, and which ones don’t. It’s also a good idea to note how many storage units are up for auction and how many active and non-active bidders attend.

Bring a flashlight with you to you can see what’s 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. Exterior and drive-up units aren’t much different. The sun can help light them up, but depending on the time of year and time of day, and even the direction of the sun in relation to that storage unit, it can be very hard to see what is in there. By law, no one is allowed to step into the storage unit until it has been sold. That means the property manager, store owner or the auction bidders – no one is allowed. You are also prohibited from touching anything. So, the only way to have any idea what is in there is to have a flashlight handy, and a good bright one at that.

Don’t bid on everything. Be smart and bid smart.
Just like any type of auction, the bidding can go up, then down, then back up. With that being said, don’t be afraid to offer less than the starting bid. We will typically assign a starting bid that we believe is reasonable for what we can see is in the storage unit. However, the goal is to get the unit sold so we can rent it to a new customer, which means you have some control with the bidding.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start small.
Although purchasing a storage unit at auction can be quite fun and exhilarating, it can also be overwhelming if you are not prepared. For your first auction, don’t bid on a large storage unit that is filled to the top. You would be surprised at just how much stuff is actually in there! Once you win a bid and the unit is yours, you have a short amount of time to remove all the contents, typically the same day as the auction. If you buy a large and very packed unit, or you buy multiple units, it may be a very daunting task to get it emptied and off site in a day. We recommend starting off with a small unit or one that is half empty for your first bidding.

Remember though, if you see something you simply must have in one of those “scary” large units, and you buy it, you can sign a rental agreement to rent the storage unit and give yourself up a month or more to clean it out. This can make the process easier for you rather than rushing through it and having to figure out quickly what to do with all of that stuff that is now yours.

When you win a unit, look through and in everything. And I mean everything.
There are a ton of small nooks and crannies inside a storage unit, and inside everything that is inside that storage unit. You never know where you may find a treasure! That means examine everything with a fine tooth comb. 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 look through it all, then decide what you want to keep, what you plan to sell and what you will be donating, and also what is simply garbage.

Moving TruckPlan ahead. Don’t attend an auction on a whim, be prepared.
This is a crucial step. Make a plan for all the things you may end up owning at the end of the day. Have a strategy in place for the items you will be keeping or selling, and where you are going to put them once they are yours. If you don’t have a good place to keep it all, rent a storage unit for a month or two so you can go through it more closely and over time, rather than rushing it. If you plan to take it all with you on auction day, have a truck with you and some friends ready to help you move and haul it away.

Decide how you are going to dispose of the garbage and trash from the items that are worthless. That could mean a trip to the dump, which also means a way to get it there – a truck or trailer to haul it, and maybe multiple trips. You may also what to check out what it would cost to arrange a trash pickup at the storage unit that day or on short notice.

You will also likely have things you want to donate. They are in good shape, but you just don’t want them. You can contact your local Salvation Army or shelter and see what items they need or will take. They may even have a service to come and pick up your donations, either at the storage unit or at your home or office.

For example: Many auction buyers will sell on eBay, flea markets and even at yard sales. Some of them even have second-hand or consignment shops where they sell it all. If you don’t have a strategy then it could cost you more than it’s worth.

If you have yet to attend a storage auction, you really should do so at some point. They can be quite interesting and you may find something of great value to you or a loved one. But remember this is not TV and it is unlikely you will find that rare coin worth $1,000,000 or a signed Les Paul guitar…that just simply isn’t a common occurrence.

If you want to learn more or attend your first auction, visit our storage auction page for details and the auction schedule at our store and our partner facilities. You can also contact us for more information