Prepare for a Successful Auction

When renters cannot pay for their self storage units, auctions are held to clear things out. Most of the time you are bidding on everything in the storage unit, and not individual items. 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.

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.

Auctions are usually held in one of three ways:

  1. Sealed bid.

    The facility manager opens up the unit and lets people see what is inside. Once everyone takes a look, bidders turn in their bid in a sealed envelope with their name and phone number. The highest bidder gets the contents of the unit. If that person does not pay, then the next highest bidder gets the same opportunity.

  2. Live auction.

    The unit is opened up and sold in a typical auction-style. 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. You may only have a few seconds to see the storage unit's contents before bidding begins.

  3. Blind auction.

    The manager of the self-storage facility announces the auction and does not open up the storage unit. So, the bidders are bidding on it without even seeing its contents. Usually nothing more is revealed than the size of the unit, although occasionally a contents list is published without specific details. Sealed bids are taken for a certain amount of days, or sometimes a live auction is held.

Tips for successful auctions:

  1. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time when arriving at the auction.
  2. 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.
  3. The auction time for each unit lasts only a few minutes, sometimes as little as 1-2 minutes.
  4. 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.
  5. Most auctions are cash-only, so be sure to have enough money when you arrive. If you don't have the cash to pay for what you win, the items will go the next-highest bidder.
  6. There may be a certain timeframe for taking home your items, so come 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

With a little preparation, self-storage facility auctions can be a great way to acquire some real treasures.

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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