Auctions: Tips for Consumers

When self storage units are abandoned or their rent goes unpaid, auctions are held to remove the items and make room for a new renter. These auctions are open to the general public, and most people in attendance are there for the sole purpose of reselling things for a profit.

Auctions at self storage facilities are different than typical auctions. Most of the time you are bidding on everything in the storage unit. On a typical auction day, several storage units will be auctioned off. Each storage unit is auctioned off one by one. Bids can start as low as a few dollars and end up at a few hundred dollars, or even higher depending on the contents of the storage unit.

  1. The best way to find out about these auctions is to look for ads in the newspaper or on the internet. You can also consult auction newsletters or directly call local storage facilities.
  2. If you haven't attended a lot of self storage auctions, you may want to observe a few before attending them as an actual bidder. That way you will be prepared and know exactly what to expect when you are ready to buy.
  3. Contact the auction company or self-storage facility the day before or the morning of the auction to make sure it is still scheduled, especially if you have to travel far. Sometimes the renter of the self-storage unit will pay their rent just before the auction in order to avoid losing their belongings, which results in a cancellation of the auction. You can also ask how many units are up for auction when contacting the company or facility.
  4. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time when arriving at the auction. Most self-storage facilities allow you to view the storage unit, but the exact contents may be hidden in boxes and storage bins. You will not be able to open any boxes or ask any questions. You want to examine the overall condition of the unit. If things are well-organized and labeled, bids will generally be higher than a unit that has things in large piles and damaged boxes. Some units are tightly packed, and you won't even be able to see past a wall of boxes. Sometimes you will only be able to see the outside of the unit and not go inside, or the door may even be shut and the unit's contents only will be revealed just before the auction. Be sure to bring a flashlight for investigating what is in the back of the unit.
  5. Know what you are willing to pay before the auction begins. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the auction and end up paying more than you originally wanted to.
  6. You may only have a few seconds to see the storage unit's contents before bidding begins. The auction time for each unit lasts only a few minutes, sometimes as little as 1-2 minutes.
  7. Typical items that you find at auctions are household appliances, furniture, electronics, toys, clothes, and household goods. Sometimes storage units contain such treasures as money, jewelry, and antiques. You may even end up with someone's entire business or household belongings, as many people put these things in storage units when they are moving their homes or businesses.
  8. Be sure you know all of the regulations for buying before attending. Some require pre-registration, where you can also view the unit's contents. Some are cash only and require identification in order to purchase things.
  9. There may also be a certain timeframe for taking home your items, so be prepared with a means of transportation. Many auctions require you to take home your items immediately following the auction. If you do not come prepared with a truck or van, then someone else may end up taking home your winnings. Be sure to bring a lock if you intend to keep the items there and not bring them home immediately, as the storage facility will not lock the unit for you.
  10. You will want to bring work gloves and packing supplies, such as boxes, bubble wrap, and tarps. Since you won't know exactly what you are taking home, it is important to be prepared. Things may already be in boxes, but they may also be loose and scattered all over the storage unit.
  11. Most storage facilities will not let you use their garbage dumpsters, and you are expected to leave the storage unit clean and ready to be rented out. Be sure to bring trash bags and brooms to clean things up.
  12. You may be required to return personal items such as pictures and documents, so be sure to find out all of the regulations and requests from the storage facility manager before leaving.

If you like surprises, self storage unit auctions can be a lot of fun. You never know what you will find beneath the tarps and boxes.

The advice on this website is provided as a courtesy for informational purposes only. "Storage Tips" are offered as-is and no warranty is expressed or implied. For more information, see StorageFront's Terms and Conditions.

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