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Auctions Expert Bidding and Buying Advice

Updated on February 20, 2020

Buying Storage Lockers At Auction

After fifteen years of auction experience I have seen and heard it all. I've written a series of articles on HubPages that will inform and expose the inns and outs of the storage locker business and their auctions.

What To Do First at the Storage Locker Auction

On auction day, I like to get to the storage office early. This gives me an opportunity to chit chat with the employees or owners. Once they get to know you as a serious player, they won't mind answering a few questions. Keep in mind that if the auction was posted for 12:00 noon that day, the locker owners legally have right up pay their bill right up until 12:00. As I am registering, I ask some basic questions starting with, "How many lockers are going to be auctioned off?" If there are a lot of units to be sold you might be picky with some of the early units that look sketchy. Next, I ask what are the sizes of lockers? Lockers come in many sizes such as small, medium, and large. I then ask how full the lockers are just because they large in size doesn't mean they are full of stuff. I also ask in which order they are to be auctioned. This is important because you don't want to run out of cash buying a bunch of small sketchy units if the larger units with the best merchandise are going to be auctioned off last. Next, I ask if any of the lockers are owned by the same person. This is important because if you don't buy them both you could end up with lots of missing parts to your furniture etc. Last but not least, some storage facilities will take a pictures of the merchandise inside the locker before the sale I will ask to see them. This can give you a good leg up on the competition so you know which ones you want to bid on. Once the auction starts I can use all this information to plot my auction strategy. Keep in mind, that is why you need to get to the office early so other people do not overhear you asking all these questions. The less they know, the better for you.

Storage Locker Bidding And Buying Advice

The best advice I can give you is DO NOT get into a bidding war with someone who has more money than brains. Some people will bid like crazy just to protect what they see as their home turf or honey hole. They want to intimidate you and scare you off, especially if they haven't seen you before. Some bidders will try to intimidate you with aggressive body language, loud bids and other verbal comments. My advice is to stay calm and let your bidding do your talking. Remember you are there to make money not to compete with those knuckle heads.

Here is what I do first. I like to see if the unit makes sense to me. For example, if the locker has toys, cribs, and bags of clothing, the unit is most likely owned by a young mom with kids so the odds of finding anything of real value in that locker are slim to none. On the other hand if you see tool boxes, fishing poles, hunting gear and related items, then stands to reason the rest of the stuff you can't see will be worth good bucks. I tend to be very suspicious of lockers when they look thrown together with unrelated items. High on my list of red flags are lockers full of nothing but boxes that you can't see in. Buying these units are a complete gamble and are usually do not work out well for you. Think about it how can you make sense of something you cannot see, so for that reason I tend to pass on these lockers unless they are going really cheap and I am in need of lots of smalls.

Perhaps the biggest red flag is the open gun-safe ruse, owners, and managers of storage facilities routinely place safes front and center of the unit sometimes just barely cracked open to stimulate your imagination and bidding. Believe me, it works! I have seen units like this go through the roof and there's usually nothing in them but junk. Meanwhile back at the office they are lighting the victory cigars at your expense.

Heavy boxes when stacked will look smashed by the weight of each other. Boxes like this could be anything from tools, books, d├ęcor, housewares, basically what we in the business call "smalls". Boxes that are light keep their shape and tend to have plastic toys, Halloween, Christmas and birthday decorations in them this stuff is practically worthless and ends up in the dumpster. Good signs to look for are dirt, dust, and cobwebs I like these signs because it tells me this locker has been there for a long time undisturbed not picked over by the previous renter or facility.

This is how I try to estimate my locker bid. Let us say I can see 50% of what is inside the locker and it looks like good stuff. I try to estimate the resale value of what I can see so I can at least make my money back. I am gambling that the 50% I cannot see will be worth at least as much as the 50% I could see so hopefully on this, some profit can be made. When it comes to bidding I tend to sit back and let the initial bidders fight it out first, once it gets down to the last 2 bidders and the auctioneer says last chance, going once, going twice, I jump in. Now the last bidder who thought he had it in the bag has a new fight he was hoping for. From this point on I don't hesitate bidding right up to my limit win or lose time to move on to the next unit, You can't take being out bid personal. That is how you lose money.

Eventually after you go to enough auctions, you will get to know most of the other bidders we all have the same goal which is to make money. It is not uncommon to extend a professional courtesy to other top buyers rather than running up bids against each other. Guys that I know have actually come up to me and said, "I really need smalls can you work with me," or something to that effect, I may or may not lay off depending on my own needs. That is something everyone in the business understands. After the bidding, the guy will usually say something or tip his cap if he knows you have laid off bidding against him and later down the road at another auction, hopefully the favor gets paid back.

Storage Unit Does Not Make Sense

Don't walk, run! Not a safe buy. Nothing but a gamble.
Don't walk, run! Not a safe buy. Nothing but a gamble.

Storage Unit That Makes Sense

This unit is very easy to read. You can clearly see the most of the contents. This locker would be easy to figure out a bid.
This unit is very easy to read. You can clearly see the most of the contents. This locker would be easy to figure out a bid.

After the Storage Locker Auction

Once the auction is over, it is time to go back to the office and pay. If the auction method was a silent sealed bid, everybody goes back to the office to open the bids. Experienced bidders like to crowd around the counter when the paper bids are being opened and try to look at their competitors bids. They will even hang around when you are paying to hope they can hear or see the money you are paying the office worker. They do this so the next time they will have a better idea of how much more or less to bid against you. I take my time and wait to be the last person to pay, by then most of the spies have paid left. I usually ask the office worker to keep the transaction quiet right in front of people, if needed.

Processing Your Locker

Once you get your winnings home, the fun begins! I like to use rubber totes to separate all the smalls and clothing. Totes are nice because you can store them outside if space is an issue. Hopefully you have planned ahead for the large amount of trash you are going to have. I always rented a 4 cubic yard dumpster for this. I also have a backhoe to compress the trash in the dumpster to save money. Another great way to get rid of unwanted clothing is to take them to charity donation bins.

I like to sort outside next to my dumpster as this keeps any mice, roaches, and snakes out of my building. I look through everything very carefully, because money or jewelry can be hidden in clothing, pill bottles, shoes, etc. I always have lots cleaning supplies on hand because many of the items you are going to get will require some cleaning or repair.

If refrigerators and freezers have been in storage for a long time, they usually have mold inside. I just leave them in the trailer and drive them straight down to the car wash. I spray them down with bleach and wait a few minutes and spray them out. One talent you will definitely need to develop is refinishing. You would want to do that to get any money out of your furniture because they are usually scratched or even broken from all the moving.

Not one locker makes sense at this auction. Looks Like the same person owned them all. Amazing that they happen to have all the titles for those scooters.

Are TV Storage Wars Shows Real or Faked?

Do you believe you were ripped off at a bogus storage locker auction?

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