8 Things to Know before Attending a Storage Auction

Krista Diamond | May 23, 2021 @ 10:00 AM

On a good day, attending a storage auction is like opening your presents on Christmas morning. On a bad day, it’s like gambling away an entire paycheck at a casino. When you bid on a storage unit, there’s no way of knowing whether the previous owner was a collector of fine jewelry or a hoarder of used mattresses. A storage auction is risky, thrilling, often rewarding and occasionally disappointing but it is certainly never boring. If you’re looking to attend one for the first time, it’s crucial that you know a few things first.

First, how a storage auction works

Storage auctions are relatively simple.
  1. A storage unit becomes available after a renter fails to pay.
  2. From there the facility has to advertise the auction. You can find these everywhere online and even in the newspaper (if you still read one).
  3. You must register to participate in the auction through the storage unit company.
  4. You must attend the showing (some of these are now done online thanks to the COVID pandemic).
  5. You bid on the unit.
  6. If you win, you pay
Here's our 8 helpful tips and tricks to finding the auction thats right for you:

Finding an Auction

Storage facilities are legally required to advertise auctions, so finding one is easy. You can get information about the next storage auction in your area by searching online, checking your local newspaper, calling nearby storage facilities or stopping by any community spot where flyers for events are posted. Websites like Storage Treasures are another great place to find auctions that you can attend in person or online from the comfort of your own couch, no pants required.

Here's a list of other websites where you can find Storage Unit Auctions:

Expect Competition

Thanks to a little program on A&E, storage auctions have gone from being a niche interest to a thing everyone’s interested in. Many storage bidders and facility owners have noticed an uptick in auction attendance as a result. This means fierce competition for you. Get there early and bring your A-game.

Don’t Be a Jerk

Before bidding, you’ll have to sign in and agree to some ground rules, but you should also agree to the rules of being a decent person. Even if another bidder is driving you crazy, keep things civil.

Stick to Your Budget

It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of a storage auction and end up spending next month’s rent. Avoid the temptation to throw away your money by determining your budget before the auction. Factor in other costs, such as deposits, taxes, cleaning fees, truck rental and even money spent on the gas needed to travel to and from the auction.

Bid on What You See

This is tough advice to follow, given that you won’t be able to see much, but for a first timer, it’s advice to take to heart. Typically, before the bidding begins, the auctioneer or facility manager will open the door to the storage unit and allow everyone to look inside for a few moments from a distance. While you won’t be able to step inside or touch anything, this is you chance to identify any items you’re interested in.

Have a Plan for the Haul

If you bid on a storage unit and win, you may have as little as 48 hours to clean it out. Make sure you have a vehicle for hauling the items as well as a place to store them all. Since you’re already at a storage facility, renting a unit might not be a bad idea. Be aware that you won’t be able to use the storage facility’s dumpsters and you will likely have to pay a fee if you don’t empty the storage unit in time. Communicate with the facility manager if this is an issue or better yet, don’t bid on a massive storage unit full of furniture if you live in a studio apartment.

Return Personal Items

While sorting out treasures from trash, you’ll probably encounter some personal items. It’s not uncommon to find passports, social security cards, birth certificates and even the occasional urn full of ashes (yep, it happens). You should avoid contacting the former tenant and instead turn the items over to the storage facility. Most facilities will do their best to get personal belongings back to their owner and won’t ask you to get involved.

Sell, Donate, Dispose or Keep?

Before bidding, have a plan for potential outcomes. In a perfect world, every abandoned storage unit would have a Ferrari parked inside of it, but reality is usually more of a mixed bag. You’ll probably find some things you want to sell, some things you want to keep and a whole bunch of stuff that you want to throw away. Figure out ahead what kinds of things you’d be interested in keeping as well as where you plan on selling any items of value (eBay, a pawn shop, a consignment shop, etc.). Do some quick research on charities that accept used clothing and furniture as well as recycling centers and the types of items they’ll take off your hands. As a last resort, know what the deal is with your local dump or landfill. Throwing some stuff away might feel like a waste, but it’s better than ending up on an episode of Hoarders. After all, wouldn’t you rather be on an episode of Storage Wars?

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