Storage Auction 101: Getting the Most from Your Experience as a Bidder

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When you think storage auctions, if you are like a good portion of the population, the images you conjure up are similar to what you have witnessed on popular television programs. While storage auctions are pretty darn exhilarating and definitely exciting to be a part of, the whole thing is usually not as dramatic as what you see on TV. If you want to make the most out of your storage auction experience as a buyer, there are a few key points that you should become familiar with before you go.

Pre-Auction Planning & Preparation

It can sometimes be difficult to find auctions that allow just any participants to take part as bidders, and sometimes, it can be difficult to find these auctions at all. Make sure you keep a close watch on sites like Locate Auctions, which gather all of the latest storage auctions happening near you. Here, you can gather useful information before hopping in your box truck and heading off into the sunset to nab a good deal. Before you start your engine, don't forget to pack these essentials:

  1. Flashlight. Most of the time there will be ample lighting to allow you to get a good glimpse at the contents of the storage units. This handy tool will help you scout out potential treasures lurking in the far corners.
  2. Lock. You're going to need a personal lock (maybe even a few) to keep your winnings safe if you are the high bidder unless you are removing the contents right away.
  3. Cash. There are still some facilities that do not accept credit cards. Unless you are certain they take other forms of credit, it is always best to have cash on hand.

On the day of the auction when you arrive at the storage unit facility, you will be required to apply for a bidders number and give your personal contact information, which may include offering valid photo ID. Some of the more high-end storage facilities require an entry fee, which is held as deposit against any bids that you do win while you are at the auction. And, you may be required to pay a cleaning deposit, which is held to ensure that you do clean out the unit within the allotted time frame (usually a day or two) if you win.

What to Expect Just Before the Auction Begins

Prior to the beginning of the storage auction, bidders are usually given a pamphlet or handout that gives a general overview of how many units will be sold that day and their size. The auctioneer will likely go over a few etiquette rules and guidelines that have to be followed. Unlike more traditional property auctions, such as with homes or vehicles, you will likely not be given a substantial amount of time to assess the units before bidding actually begins. In most cases, the auctioneer will cut the lock on specific units one-by-one, giving bidders only a brief opportunity to survey the items inside of the unit. You will not typically be allowed to step inside or even reach inside of the units or open containers or boxes.

What to Look For

During the short amount of time you have to view and evaluate the contents of the storage unit, here are a few things to look out for:

  1. Neat & Tidy Packaging. Are the contents of the unit neatly packed and organized or are they carelessly thrown into storage? The amount of care and effort put into packing the unit is indicative to having things worth caring about inside.
  2. Signs of Age. Do you see a layer of dust covering the contents? Are there any items in the unit that are not from this decade? There could be forgotten treasures inside.
  3. Signs of Expendable Income. Motorcycle helmets, game consoles, brand name clothing and accessories, oh my... If the original owner could afford those types of things that are visible from the outside of the unit, there is no telling what goodies are hidden in boxes.
  4. Evidence of Rummage. Does it look like the boxes in the unit were picked through? It is likely that the original owner took all the valuables before the auction. This is a bad sign for bidders.
  5. Labeled or Branded Boxes. Bidders, don't be fooled by these boxes. They are just as likely to contain junk!

This list is by no means a fool-proof tactic for determining whether a unit is worth anything. Bidding on storage units is still very much a gamble but these are sensible clues that are helpful for beginners.

Bidding Etiquette to Remember as a Storage Unit Buyer

Amidst all of the hustle and excitement of the auction-going crowd, it is easy to feel a little overwhelmed or even get a little overzealous. To make sure you don't make a few auction bidding mistakes, there are a few general rules that you should keep in mind when it comes to bidding etiquette:

  1. Avoid driving up a bid. Steer clear of bidding wars if you want to win a unit for less. This isn't TV; in real life you want to make friends. Subtlety place your bids to get the best price and not make enemies.
  2. Stay calm. An auction is exciting, but it can also be a bit chaotic and stressful. Maintain your composure and remember that an auction is a place of business.
  3. Follow the rules to the letter. At every storage facility auction, there are rules to be followed. Don't disregard these rules even if you see others doing everything wrong. Breaking the rules could land you with a bad reputation and get you kicked out of the event.
  4. Don't get caught up in "winning". When you are in the middle of a bidding war, it can be difficult to let a unit go even though you know it is in your best judgment. Going a little overboard is expected sometimes, but make sure you don't get so caught up in winning a unit that you make etiquette mistakes in addition to spending more money than you intended.

Take Your Storage Auction Endeavors in Stride

If you are like most storage auction bidders, you intend to purchase units that are brimming with items for resale. This is a good way to turn a quick profit, but don't get caught up in the gamble of the idea. There are units out there that are filled with basic leftovers and nothing of real value and you will sometimes win a unit that turns out to be a bust. However, you never know which unit could be a big score. There are no hard and fast rules to go by when it comes to looking for units that will bring you the most profit. Just keep your eyes open and follow your instincts and watch veteran bidders and get familiar with what they seem to go for at an auction.


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Locate Auctions is a leading source for auction listings in North America, bringing auctioneers and bidders together in one easy-to-use online tool.

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