Since its debut in 2010 the TV series Storage Wars has turned self storage auctions into a cultural phenomenon. Along with several similar shows and spin-offs, the once niche world of storage auctions has been brought into primetime. Storage Express holds auctions at all 87 of its facilities and the following tips can help prepare you for the thrill of the auction. When self-storage units are abandoned or unpaid after a number of months, Storage Express holds public auctions to help clean out the delinquent storage units and try to recover rent owed. Auctions are common in the storage industry and are open to the general public. It’s an unfortunate, but necessary step for self-storage operators. For many, it’s a great way to find unique items of interest at a fraction of the cost.
Show up early
Before you can enter the property and make a bid you will need to register with the auctioneer and be assigned a bidder number. A good rule of thumb is to arrive 15 minutes before the auction start time. If you are late you will not be allowed to enter the property, even if you already have a bidder number.
Be prepared for a long day
When several properties are located near each other buyers will visit multiple locations in a single day. Many Storage Express auctions start at 9 a.m. and do not conclude until after 3 p.m. moving from facility to facility. “The auction usually will be like a train, starting at one place and going through the day to other stops. There usually are no planned stops or breaks so go to the bathroom that morning and bring plenty of snacks,” said Storage Express Auction Coordinator Unata Taylor.
In addition to a long day on the auction trail you also have to be ready to clean out any storage spaces you buy. Storage Express doesn’t allow buyers to rent the storage space they bought and gives 24 hours to clean out the space. Taylor said that new buyers often forget to take into account how much space they will need to haul the items they bought. “If you don’t think you can do it within the time frame make other arrangements with the auctioneer or auction coordinator,” she said.
Bring the right equipment
The most important thing to bring is plenty of cash. The sales are cash only and payment is required before leaving the property.
“The veteran buyer always has plenty of cash to spend the entire day on the auction trail,” said Taylor. You don’t want to miss out on that fantastic space late in the day because you were tapped out before noon.
A few other things can make the auction experience easier. A flashlight is a must as most spaces don’t have lights inside. You will also want to have your own locks to secure any spaces you have bought until the auction is finished. Lastly bring some work gloves and wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. You never know what you will find in a storage space.
Win some, lose some
Not every space is going to be a winner, and some may end up being big losers. “The best tip I have ever heard a veteran give a newbie is to always expect the worst and then the space is always better than planned,” Taylor said. Of course that doesn’t mean there aren’t jackpots. Taylor remembered when one buyer found a 1963 Corvette Stingray that was buried under boxes and clothes. No one saw it in the space when they were bidding. “The buyer actually drove the car off the property. The keys were still in it,” she said.
While it can seem like random chance to a new buyer, the veterans can take a look at the contents and decide what spaces to bid on. Taylor said that it’s a good idea to watch the seasoned buyers and take note of what they are bidding on and what they are letting go. While you may like something in the space that doesn’t mean that you will be able to find someone to sell it to she said. The most important thing is to have a short memory and not get discouraged. “Remember there is always another auction somewhere else the next day. The next opportunity is around the corner,” said Taylor.
Storage auctions are an unfortunate, but necessary, part of the industry. While self storage operators would prefer to avoid auctions, in some cases they are the only way to recover any of the unpaid rent owed. For buyers, the auction gives them an opportunity to find unique or valuable items at a great price. With a little preparation these tips can give you a head start when it’s time to head out on the auction trail.
Contributed by Tim Dunn