Storage Auctions: What You Need to Know

What you need to know about online auctions

StorageTreasures has recently noticed an influx of new bidders to our website. We field a ton of questions about how auctions work, so we thought this would be a great time to publish information to help new bidders learn about storage auctions. If you are new to storage auctions or thinking about buying a storage unit to resell, this article is for you!

The process seems easy and fun on TV and YouTube, but just like any other business, auctions require knowledge, preparation, and hard work. You can’t just decide to buy a unit, pick it up, and expect to make hundreds of dollars. It is essential to educate and prepare yourself if you want to get great units and make a profit. More importantly, this preparation will help keep you from losing money on units.

There are a ton of articles and videos on the internet about storage auctions. The content can be overwhelming, and it isn’t easy to know what to trust.  There are also a lot of different features to the StorageTreasures website you might not know before you use the website. We want to help you be successful at the business of storage auctions and hopefully save you some unnecessary frustration. Our team put our heads together and came up with the things we think are most important for you to learn about buying storage units online.

Non-Lien Unit/Manager Special

There are different types of storage units StorageTreasures offers for sale. Not all units you see on the website are delinquent tenant units. We also have an option for a “Non-Lien Unit” or a “Manager Special.” Storage facilities often have a unit they keep open to gather items left around the property. Once the unit gets full, they will sell the contents as a Non-Lien Unit.  These units might have a couch or a TV that was rejected by a previous tenant. These units can also be called a “Build-Up Unit,” or a “Company Unit.” These units can still have valuable items, but it is important to note they are not a traditional lien unit.  If a storage locker is a Non-Lien unit, you will see the flag pictured below on the listing.

StorageTreasures Auctions Non-Lien Unit Flag

Private Sellers

Private Sellers are individuals who are not affiliated with a storage facility. They place items of their choosing into a storage unit they are renting and sell the unit as one lot. Private Seller units will be indicated by the same flag above for Non-Lien/Manager Special Units. You can always tell if a unit is being sold by a Private Seller because instead of seeing the name of a storage facility, the name of the seller will follow this format, “Private Seller – John G.

If you purchase a unit from a Private Seller, you will not go to the storage facility office to pay. You will need to meet with the Private Seller personally. The storage facility will not be involved in the sale in any way.

Charity Storage Units

You might also run across a unit for Charity Storage. Charity Storage is an organization that works with StorageTreausres to sell units for charity. Self storage operators will choose a unit and collect donations to sell in one lot, and then the proceeds are sent to the charity of their choice. If you bid on a Charity Storage unit, the entire bid amount will be collected on the credit card you have on file with StorageTreasures. You will not be charged sales tax because the proceeds are for a non-profit organization, but you will need to be able to pay the full bid amount upfront. Below you will see the flag and explanation indicating a unit is a Charity unit.

StorageTreasures Auctions Charity Storage FlagStorageTreasures Charity Storage Auctions More Information

 

 

 

 

 

 

StorageTreasures Invoice

Our invoices often confuse new bidders. They are a little complicated. If you win a unit, StorageTreasures will collect a few things on your credit card.

  • Buyer Premium – what you pay to use the StorageTreasures website
  • Purchase Deposit – a deposit of 0-10% that will be subtracted from what you pay the facility

It might seem like you are paying double fees, but remember the Purchase Deposit will be deducted from the amount you owe at the facility. You are not paying it twice. You are only paying it early. Here is a link to an article in our Help Center to help you better understand an invoice.

Staged Units or Picked Through Units

Staged units or picked through units are one of the most common complaints we get from new bidders. Naturally, the first thought is the facility manager or someone working at the facility must have entered the unit and removed the valuable items. There are probably dishonest people in self storage, just as there are in every business. However, we ask you to consider a few things before jumping to that conclusion.

  • Any “Lien Unit” for sale belongs to a tenant who did not pay their bill. The tenant has until the auction to pay their bill and reclaim their property. In an online auction, they have until the winning bidder takes possession of the unit to come and pay. Tenants are notorious for paying at the last minute. The manager knows if the tenant comes to pay, the unit has to be precisely as the tenant left it, with all items, or the facility could face a lawsuit. Managers cannot possibly know which tenants will pay at the last minute, so managers would put themselves in a difficult position if they did remove items.
  • Winning bidders will get a Tamper Tag number on their winning invoice. It would be best if you always make sure the Tamper Tag matches when you go to pick up the unit. Confirming the tamper tag matches and is not broken means the unit has not been opened since the photos were taken.
  • Tenants often know they are going to stop paying their bills, and they take the valuable items out before they lose access to the property. They get their essential items back, and they leave the mess for someone else to clean up.
  • Storage facilities have no choice but to sell the unit as it is. We often hear people say, “it was all garbage; why didn’t they just throw it away?” Most likely because they can’t do that. A storage facility has to go through the sale process completely to get their unit back. The only time they can dispose of the items is if they are 100% certain there is NO COMMERCIAL value. Often, they cannot take that risk because they do not see everything in the unit. Operators are not legally required to open trunks, boxes, or totes to identify the items. They are not just trying to “unload their garbage” on you. They are following the law to the best of their ability.

Identifying the quality of units is something you need to work hard on and practice. You need to hone your craft to be able to locate bad units readily.

Pictures Don’t Match

Hopefully, this will happen to very few of you, but sometimes mistakes do happen. Managers can upload the wrong photos by mistake.  The pictures you see online should always match the unit you see when you arrive at the facility. If they do not match, DO NOT GO INSIDE THE UNIT, DO NOT REMOVE ANYTHING FROM THE UNIT!! Tell the manager immediately you would like a refund because the pictures do not match. If you have difficulty in a situation involving pictures, reach out to StorageTreasures Customer Support for assistance. The most important thing to remember is not to remove anything from the unit. Once you take possession of the unit, it is much more challenging to get a refund.

Dirt, Rodents, and Spoiled Food

Unfortunately, this is going to happen. It might even happen more than you would think it would. Some storage units sit for years before non-payment and then auction. Every storage facility we have ever worked with tells tenants they are not allowed to store food or perishable items, but unfortunately, it still happens. Food storage can lead to rodents and rodent droppings. As mentioned earlier, storage operators legally have to sell the unit as they find it, or at least attempt to sell them.

Also, you will note in StorageTreasures Terms of Use, each unit is sold “as is, where is, no warranties, or guarantees.” Auctions, in general, are not known for allowing refunds, so it is tough to go back on a sale after you have entered the unit, even if it is disgusting.

Shill Bidding

Shill bidding, otherwise known as bidding on one’s own unit to drive the price higher, is prohibited by the StorageTreasures website. It is also a practice that is potentially illegal or could create a great deal of liability for the storage operator. A lot of new bidders feel some managers have an account where they bid to manipulate the price higher.

Shill bidding could be possible, but facility managers have to report to District Managers or Area Managers about the results of the auction. If a manager bids a unit up and wins, they will either need to buy the unit themselves or cancel the unit. If they cancel it, they will have to explain to their supervisor why the unit did not sell. Canceled and unsold units are watched very closely by storage operators, so bidding on their own units could potentially cost the managers a lot of money. Or even their job.

There are a handful of states in which shill bidding is entirely illegal. StorageTreasures cannot possibly police every single unit listed on our site. We need your help there. If you have a reason to believe shill bidding is occurring, please let our Customer Support team know right away, and we will investigate the issue.

Pictures

We get a lot of comments from bidders who would like to have more, clearer pictures. StorageTreasures wants this too. We want it so much. Pictures are uploaded at the facility based on the guidelines the managers have been given.  Don’t forget, online auctions are still relatively new, and we have first time sellers on the website every month. StorageTreasures has spent the last few years gathering data so we can make educated best practice recommendations. A lot of operators do not realize how much photos impact unit price. We are spreading the word wide and far!

Fees and Cost of Using StorageTreasures

Many new bidders report they think our fees are too high. A bidder premium of 10-15% is consistent with industry standards. In-person auctions often charge a bidder premium of up to 30%. Many people are confused about how much they are paying because of the Purchase Deposit. They see the Purchase Deposit listed on the invoice, so they think they are paying 25% of the total price. Don’t forget that the Purchase Deposit amount is deducted from what is paid at the facility. Thus, the bidder really isn’t paying 25%.

StorageTreasures is a vast, active website. We could not possibly run and support the website if we didn’t have a team of people behind the scenes to help you with whatever comes up. While it might appear we don’t have a lot of overhead, we do.

There are many different pricing models in the industry. Some websites allow bidders to pay a subscription fee, and others charge by the auctions. It is important to note you can sign up for our Pro Membership to save 5% on your buyer premium. Click here to learn more information.

Hopefully, we have been able to condense some of the most common questions about StorageTreasures and online auctions in a way you can learn from them. If you have any other questions, we have a Help Center with hundreds of articles for you to look through. Click here to access our Help Center. To find out more the bad reviews storage auctions get, click on this article. To practice your craft and find great units, go to StorageTreasures.

 

 

Best Selling Units of 2019 on StorageTreasures

Top 10 Selling Units 2018 01

Curiosity is a fundamental component of human nature. It makes us want to have an eye into other people’s lives to see how they live. There is no better evidence of this than the fascination with storage auctions. This curiosity is what made all the storage auction reality shows wildly popular and led to hundreds of people showing up at storage facilities on auction day. After ten years in the storage auction business, some of the most common questions I hear are, “do the units have really good stuff in them, or are the TV shows fake? While I feel the need to tell people most storage units do not contain hidden treasures, there are sometimes units that sell for incredible prices, and people always want to know what was in them. Here are 10 of the highest-priced units sold on StorageTreasures in 2019.  

10. Flat Screen TVs in Bordentown, New Jersey – Sale Price $8,410 

10x45 online storage unit filled with flat screen TVs and other merchandiseThe description provided by the storage facility for this unit said, “over 50 different named flat-screen TVs, but that wasn’t even close to everything in this 10×45 unit. There were unopened boxes of name brand luggage, comforters and pillows, and furniture. Bidding on units with flat-screen TV boxes is always a gamble, but with over 50 different ones, the odds were in the bidder’s favor, right?  

 

 

9. Band Performance and Stage Materials in Honolulu, Hawaii – Sale Price $9,070 

8x16 abandoned storage unit with touring equipment for a band including stage pieces

USA Today claims Hawaii is the #1 most expensive state in the U.S. to live in, and auction bidders there spend big as well. We have over 3,000 registered buyers in Hawaii, and two of them went head-to-head over this unit for quite a while, with 21 bids in the last 10 minutes of the listing. This unit contained everything a band would need to go on tour. There were several of the rolling boxes used to hold delicate equipment, amplifiers, speakers, DJ equipment, and even the aluminum stands to frame up the stage.  

 

8. Dolls and Collectible Figurines in North Hollywood, California – Sale Price $9,110 

Abandoned storage unit containing collectible figurines of celebrities and dolls

Is there a more appropriate place to find collectibles and figurines of famous people than NoHo, an Arts District North of Tinseltown? This unit had depictions of The Three Stooges, Bill Clinton and his saxophone, and even Abraham Lincoln. It was a 10×15 unit full of neatly stacked boxes, a bidder favorite, and other boxes that seemed to contain more collectibles. This unit contained the contents of what had once been a collectibles store.  

 

7. Lionel Train Sets in Surprise, Arizona – Sale Price $11,060 

 

Lionel-Trains-Surprise-AZNothing invokes the memory of childhood holidays quite like a Lionel Train set. However, there is a serious collector market for old trains, especially Lionel Trains. There are entire stores and giant expo shows dedicated to trains. I know this to be true because my Father-in-Law is quite the enthusiast, much to the chagrin of his four sons. Almost every box in this unit had the name, Lionel, on it, and there were also materials for building the tracks to set up the trains.  

 

6. Baseball Unit in Kingsburg, California – Sale Price $12,010 6

Baseball-Cash-Register-Kingsburg-CA

At first glance, this unit looks dirty and full of old stuff, but I have learned from bidders over the years, the more dust, the better the unit. Undisturbed dust means the items in the unit have not been touched in quite some time. The contents of this unit were once a baseball or sports memorabilia store. There are boxes of baseball cards, stacks of the plastic containers prized baseball cards go into, and even display cases for the items. While we can’t see what is in the boxes, the crown jewel of this unit was a vintage cash register covered with a thick layer of dust.  

 

5. A Mover’s Unit in Hayward, California – Sale Price $14,800 

Movers-Unit-Hayward-CA

The first thing you notice about this unit is the wrapped pallets with names on them, followed by the vast number of unused moving boxes. Unwrapped pallets of boxes are a treasure hunter’s dream. The gamble, the excitement, it is almost too much not to bid. However, the value of this unit does not stop there. There are also ornate wall hangings and home décor. Top that off with stacks of boxes in the back of this 10×30, and this unit is a goldmine.  

 

 

4. Large Safes in Alpharetta, GA – Sale Price $14,910 

Safe-Unit-Alpharetta-GA

This unit is the definition of household goods, but a lovely household, indeed. It is not surprising considering the Metro Atlanta market has always been HOT, HOT, HOT for storage auctions. This unit had home décor, tools, children’s toys, furniture, boxes, luggage, and everything else you would expect to see in a typical household goods unit, but it also had three large standing safes. In addition to that, the furniture appeared to be well made and well kept. This unit would be a reseller’s big win.  

 

3. Model Cars in Chicago, Illinois – Sale Price $15,070 

Model-Cars-Cicago-IL

There seems to be a theme with collectibles on this list and spoiler alert – it’s not over yet! This unit is a little different from other collectible units because it is all model cars. Some were in boxes, some were in cases, but the entire 10×30 was filled with model cars. This unit had almost 2,000 views on StorageTreasures and 164 bids.   

 

 

2. Artwork in Staten Island, New York – Sale Price $16,050 

Artwork-Staten-Island-NY

I have always been amazed by the experienced bidder’s ability to determine the value of storage units. To the untrained eye, this unit looks like some plywood with paint slapped on it. However, this unit contained much more than that. In the back of the 10×30 is what appears to be stacks of artwork. There were also some sculptures and photographs of the famous rocker, Courtney Love, and an advertisement picturing Marilyn Monroe offering painting services. Given its location in the Five Burroughs of New York, this unit was probably a safe gamble.  

 

1. A Little Bit of Everything and a Bidder’s Dream in North Babylon, New York – Sale Price $38,840 

Unit-Babylon-NY

This unit is the highest-selling unit in the history of StorageTreasures. There were almost 10,000 views on it and nearly 300 bids. I have always known that bidders had their favorite items to look for in a unit. We call them “furniture bidders” or “tool bidders.” This unit has just about everything a bidder could want. It had safe, comic books, power tools, clothing, gun cases, electronics equipment, collectibles, and even a box that says “Stan Lee” on the side of it. The winning bidder on this unit lived in Washington state and immediately hopped on a plane for New York as soon as the sale was over. That has to be another record for StorageTreasures; farthest distance traveled for a storage unit. 

10 Ways To Profit From A Storage Auction

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10 Ways To Profit From A Storage Auction

When you get into the storage bidding business, you can be competing with dozens, sometimes hundreds of other bidders for only a few units. In order to make the most of your opportunity to profit from a winning bid, you need to be knowledgeable about not only the items themselves but how to determine what may be hidden in each unit before you even begin the bidding process.

This includes being prepared with a plan of action, capital, a bidding strategy, and knowing what to look for in every storage unit.
Here are a few steps to follow and things to consider to maximize your profit margin:

Locate Worthwhile Storage Auctions

You are likely to have multiple auctions happening in your area on any given day, so choosing the one that will give you the opportunity to make the most profit out of your time is crucial. Visiting them individually can be time-consuming, so choose them from a storage auction list that is available online. Check out their website first which should list the auction dates. You can then get an idea of their regularly scheduled auction times, and plan accordingly.

Create a Plan

Not only does the actual scheduling of each auction in your daily planner need to happen, but the pre-planning stages of what to do with the items once you have won your bid needs to be taken into consideration. Figure out how you will transport the storage contents from the site and if you will pay someone to help you with this in anticipation of larger items that you can’t move alone. This includes the cost of renting a vehicle or trailer.

Bid Wisely

Take a financial inventory of what is within your means to bid. Know what your capital threshold is and stick to it. Consistently bidding over your financial means will cut your profit margin more and more, leading to no profit at all. Consistently set your bidding boundaries and stick to them.

What Should I Look For?
Most every storage auction begins with the auctioneer giving the bidders an opportunity to view the contents of each unit. This is your opportunity to get a feel for what the items are actually worth and how to properly bid. These are some of the things you should be typically looking for if any items inside could possibly hold any value:

Climate Control

The importance of this cannot be measured whether you live in an area where the climate is exceedingly humid all year or varied between extreme heat and cold. When people store valuables, they often don’t take into consideration the damage that weather conditions may have on paper items like comic books and sports card, or metal objects for oxidation from extreme moisture. Climate control alleviates these issues.

Overall Quality of Visible Items

Don’t try to guess what may be in the boxes in a storage unit; instead, make a determination by observing any items that are not in boxes. If you see one or two things that are definitely antique quality, then the odds are there are more contained in the boxes as well. But, if you see a whole lot of piles of rusty junk, then the boxes will probably contain more of the same.

Professional Moving Boxes

When people take the time to hire a professional moving company, it usually means that they have items that take greater care to move and so must be of greater value. Not many people will pay money to move furniture they have already bought second hand or hand-me-down appliances.

Dust

If you observe them in a storage unit, it could be mean you are looking at quite valuable contents. An even layer of dust on all the contents usually tells a bidder that the storage unit has been left undisturbed for a long time. If there is a smattering of open boxes among untouched ones, then more than likely anything of value has already been removed from the unit.

Know Your “Junk”

What may look like junk to an untrained eye is actually a goldmine to someone who knows what they are looking at and how much it is worth. Many people store what appears to be garbage in their storage units and are actually objects that can be turned into scrap yards for cash. Anything that looks like copper, steel, coils of electrical wire that may contain copper or other precious metals, and boxes of random metal were probably collected for a reason. Become familiar with what the going rate is for scrap metal in your area and how to identify it.

Know When to Pass

Use your best judgment when you are making a decision to bid on a storage unit. Don’t always feel like you are going to be missing out on the find of the century just because you are listening to the buzz from the other bidders about the unit. They may be trying to persuade others to bid on it and waste their money so they can reap the profits from other units in the auction that are yet unseen. So, have confidence in what you observe when the unit is opened, and focus on what your intuition is telling you as opposed to what you are hearing from other bidders.

Reselling the Items
Once you have made all the right decisions about bidding and found your treasures, you need to follow your plan through with selling techniques that maximize your bottom line. You can choose one of the following means of reselling or do several of these on a regular basis:

• Open your own store
• Use a third-party seller (consignment shop)
• Sell online only (eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace among others)
• Yard sale
• Flea Markets

There are several other means to sell individual items that you can explore depending upon the value of an item and what the item actually is since there may be specific buyers that collect certain things.

Best Online Storage Auctions

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Storage auctions can be a fun way to make some extra money, provided you know what you are bidding on and can make an informed decision about your strike price. The best online storage auctions are ones that provide the information you need and have a clear interface.

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Why Do Storage Facilities Host Auctions?

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Storage facilities host auctions for a number of reasons. First, they need to recoup their losses. Second, they need to compensate the tenants for the possessions they sell. Finally, they need to clear out overdue units. It’s a lawful measure that appeals to facility owners and buyers alike. While you can benefit from receiving goods at a low price, everyone wins with auctions.

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5 Reasons To Switch To Online Storage Auctions

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Online storage auctions have emerged as a useful technology in our increasingly connected world. Whereas auctions used to be cramped and time-consuming, now you can virtually attend from anywhere on a much more flexible schedule. Here are five reasons to make the switch to online storage options:

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Things To Know About Storage Auctions

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Storage auctions are a great way to pick up unique goods at reasonable prices, and put some sweat equity into improving and expanding your inventory. Whether or not you intend to resell storage auction items, you can take advantage of online storage auctions to discover the best items up for grabs. Use these tips to score storage treasures in online auctions.

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