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Industry Veteran Offers inside Tips for Storage Unit Auction Success

by Lance Watkins (07/13/12).

Laura and Dan Dotson, auctioneers for the A&E television series “Storage Wars,” work the crowd at a storage unit auction. They are the co-founders of Storage Treasures. How would you fare at an auction like this?

If you desire to find or collect treasures, storage auctions offer another place to hunt. Consider this: the storage industry has enough space for every person in the United States to stand in a storage unit at the same time. Every kind of item in America sees the inside of a storage unit and may end up at an auction that you can attend.

The storage industry is interesting, in that every state has a set of storage lien laws to follow when a tenant becomes delinquent or abandons a unit. Very few industries are regulated in this way. The process can happen in less than 70 days, however it’s more common for 90 to 150 days to pass before a unit goes to auction. There are 13,000 McDonalds in the US and more than 50,000 storage facilities. With many facilities having auctions every 30 to 90 days, that’s a lot of auctions.

The process on auction day can vary, but the standard is essentially what you see on TV on shows like Storage Wars. The door is opened and everybody gets time to look in the unit and then the bidding starts. Many times you have a clear idea of what’s inside, lots of times you don’t. Think it’s luck? Think again. No more lucky than a trained antique pro walking into an estate sale and seeing something of value. Storage auction hunters are looking for hundreds of clues to what might be in the unit, how long the items have been stored or even why the items were stored. When someone pays to store items for years, they might have spent over $10,000. Chances are they stored valuable items. Read the free info on Storage Treasures website to learn more or find auctions near you. Most auctions are during the week and if you plan ahead, they might just fit into you route.

A storage unit in Chino, Calif., that sold for $600 at auction. Can you spot anything worth having in there?

A few beginner tips:

• Always call the facility before the auction—many are canceled. The tenant can come in and pay what he owes right up to the time of the auction, which means the facility cannot sell the unit. The storage industry only sells units as a last resort; they hate auctions;

• Watch many units sell before bidding. Ask lots of questions of the storage manager and the auctioneer. They are very helpful;

• The auctions are social, fun and family affairs—most of our facilities will even have strollers for use!

• Remember to factor sales tax into your bid if you don’t have a resale license and the facility collects sales tax;

• Find out whether the facility or auctioneer charges a buyer’s premium and if so, factor it into your bid—most of you reading this are auction savvy;

• There will be a cleaning deposit and a set amount of time to empty the unit. If you see something you want and you think it might take you more time to remove, ask the manager or auctioneer for more time before the bidding starts. If they don’t have a renter waiting for the unit they usually are kind;

• If you see something in a unit someone else buys, ask to buy the item. Very few people do this and it is a huge lost opportunity. The person is buying the unit to sell the stuff, they might not even be interested in the object that catches your eye;

• Treat the manager and auctioneer well! They have lots of information they will share with friendly auction hunters.

Storage Treasures is the combination of the nation’s top storage auctioneer, reality TV, 75 years combined storage industry experience with a hundred storage facilities, and the top pickers and resellers in the county. Please come check us out. It’s free and you can follow our Pro Contributor blogs, where professionals teach others the inside tips of buying and selling in every opportunity. Storage auctions, estate sales, flea markets, garage sales and more … since you are reading this on WorthPoint, we are guessing you like finding values of mystery objects. Let us help as well.

Lance Watkins is the CEO of StorageTreasures, a platform designed to democratize the lien process for the North American self-storage industry. Lance is the founder and CEO of Storage Outlet, a Southern California Storage Company and a Partner of PRP Storage, a full service self-storage property management company. His 14 years in the storage development, acquisition, management, operations, marketing and digital branding has awarded Lance a seat on the board on the Self-Storage Associations Large Owners Group.


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