Self-storage units have surged in popularity this past decade and incidentally so have unpaid storage bills. Unfortunately for those who have either abandoned or stopped payment on their storage unit, they will have the contents of their unit auctioned off to the highest bidders.
I’ve always found auctions to be rather exciting so I attended a few storage auctions last summer. What I found is that storage companies have so many units default that they hold auctions at least once a month.
While seeing another person’s belongings being auctioned off is never pleasant, the auctions do provide an opportunity for those who are interested in making a little extra money. These auctions are usually attended by a small handful of people who partake in storage auctions on a full-time basis. They are the professionals and usually resell the storage contents in their second hand stores for a profit. However, storage auctions can be attended by the general public and there is an opportunity for anyone to make money. Here’s what you need to know:
After the lock has been cut and the door opened, everyone is allowed a chance to peer inside at what has been left behind. Before the bidding begins you will see the professionals quickly adding in their minds the resell value of the items left behind. Although calculating the profit potential of a unit is a bit of a guess because the auction rules usually prohibit anyone from stepping inside the unit or opening any boxes. If a storage unit is packed full you might not realize that there is valuable furniture and electronics behind the initial rows of carboard boxes.
The auction is conducted like any other auction and is usually presided by a professional auctioneer. The auction will usually start with a minimum bid of $50 or so and you can raise the bid just by raising your hand. I’ve seen storage auctions go for as little as $5 and as much as a $1,000 for a unit, although most are sold for a couple of hundred dollars.
Once you’ve successfully purchased a storage unit you will need to begin the process of sorting your new treasure and cleaning out the unit. You are responsible for cleaning out the entire unit and disposing of any trash that might be inside. One downside of storage auctions is that the storage companies will very rarely allow you to dispose of the trash in their dumpsters, meaning you will need a way to transport it to the dump yourself.
Opening each box is very exciting because you never know what you will find. It’s not uncommon to find cds and dvds, but it also possible to find valuable collector items. I have even heard of auction winners finding hundreds of dollars in cash stowed in a old shoebox box!
Selling Your Loot
It’s time to start turning your new property into profit by reselling it. A lot of the professionals have permanenet flea market stands or second hand stores, but for an ammeter reseller you will need to get a little more creative. Craigslist is a great way to sell any furniture, while Ebay is a wonderful resource for selling collectors items. I also like to take advantage of nearby pawn shops who will usually give cash for tools, electronics, and dvds.
Remember, even items that you can’t resell have to be removed from the storage unit. Try listing any unwanted items on the Free section of Craigslist. Often times you can find somebody willing to pick it up within a few minutes. Having a garage sale at your own home is another great way to sell small items along with furniture.
If you are interested in attending a storage auction you can find them listed in your newspaper classifieds under the legal section. Another great resource is auctionzip.com which provides an online directory of upcoming auctions all over the country.
Good Luck Penny Hoarders!