Mini Storage Unit Auctions - Our Experience
John and Kathy Go To Mini Self Storage Unit Auctions...
I have to start this little mini self storage unit auction webpage with a disclaimer: Generally, I do NOT like auctions.
After about ... oh, say ... 15 minutes, I'm bored. I have about 15 minutes, given my short little attention span and my short little attention span to walk around an auction, and then retire to the car with my book (which I ALWAYS bring with me when I go to auctions with John).
Q: So what is this article and demonstration actually about, and why am I writing it to begin with if I don't much like auctions?
A: The page is a peek into and behind the scenes of one of the "real life" mini storage unit auctions we have attended. I'm writing this article because - as I mentioned - I get bored just hanging around auctions. But, since I enjoy writing Squidoo pages, I thought, "Wow! This might be a cool topic!" And so here we are!
Q: Why do we go to these auctions to begin with?
A: You'll learn a little more about this in the next paragraphs, but in a nutshell, we've been buying and selling online for a long time - and auctions are one way of acquiring the inventory. You know the old saying, "You can't sell from an empty cart?" That's how it is when you sell on eBay or through any other venue. You need inventory to sell.
Q: So, why do I go with John to begin with? After all, as you'll learn - this is John's business, not mine.
A: Why, for lunch, of course! If I help him with auctions and yard sales, he buys me lunch. Such a deal!
Let me explain a bit more.
This is MORE a lens about my hubby's interests - which (you guessed it!) - include buying and selling stuff.
I will introduce John and his hobby-gone-awry in a moment...
But anyway, since I do go with John on his yard saling and mini self storage unit auctions days, and since I quickly become as bored as I could possibly imagine, I decided to do something useful with myself at a recent auction.
I decided to DOCUMENT our experience, and then share it with you, so that you could suffer with me so I wouldn't feel so alone. :)
So, I guess I should introduce the players on this day...
But before I introduce my husband, John... Let's get into the Auction Mood with a little song...
Leroy Vandyke Sings "The Auctioneer Song"
Is this required listening before being accepted into Auctioneer School? Perhaps it should be! Let's sing along with Leroy!
Meet John... My Husband :)
If it weren't for John, I would never have
=> 1) ever gone to a yard sale,
=> 2) ever have gone to mini storage unit auctions, and
=> 3) ever have learned to make his Meme's famous Sunday afternoon soup. :)
If it weren't for John...
=> I'd still be single.
=> I'd be more bored than I am when I go to auctions.
If it weren't for John, I wouldn't have as much fun in my life as I do - John is my biggest supporter, the only guy who would sit through and applaud my lonely singing sets at the Freyburg Fair when no one else was listening. He agreed with me when I told him that we needed to get out of northern New Hampshire for the winters otherwise I was going to completely lose my mind with all that darkness, cold, and snow...
So, I'm a pretty lucky gal.
I've got the best husband anyone could ever hope for. The kind of guy that most women only dream of.
When I met John, he was looking for different lines of work. Up until about 1988, he had been a fairly high profile ice and rock climber and instructor. When he became a parent, he knew that this kind of life was pretty risky now that he had someone who might need him around some day.
He is a very analytical, logical, and extremely practical man - he could have been a lawyer, but at some point, he became a carpenter. "By default, not design," he says. He is an excellent builder and carpenter.
When I met him, he also had an interesting hobby... Buying, selling, and re-binding old books.
One day, when I brought home our very first computer back in 1998 or so, he stumbled onto this thing called "eBay." Intrigued, he thought, "Maybe I can sell some of my books this way." So, in January 1999 he chose a 2-volume set about the Wright Brothers, and loaded a description into eBay and ran it. No pictures or anything. He sold it for $52.50. He was hooked.
It turns out that eBay helped John pay the mortgage for 6 months in late 2001 - early 2002 when he was homebound with a broken hip and arm. Those were good times w/ eBay.
As with other aspects of the world and economy, the whole resale market has changed, and the used book market has taken an undeniable turn for the worse. So, we adapted. We had to find other stuff to sell.
This last winter here in Myrtle Beach, SC, we decided to try buying at storage unit auctions - hoping to find some cool stuff to sell.
(By the way, we'll be writing more on this topic in the future... and will have some pretty helpful tidbits to pass along!)
Meet Ray & Christine Keasler - Managers at Strand Storage Center
Mini Storage Units in Surfside Beach, SC
Without mini and self storage unit centers, there would be no reality TV show about auction wars or anything else like that.
Those shows don't seem to talk much about the folks behind the actual self storage facilities... But I will!
Because I like these guys, and want you to meet them.
While I was wandering around the facility during this gorgeous day, I happened upon Ray. I knew right away that he worked there.
Perhaps it was the "Strand Storage Center" jacket he wore... :)
Anyway, we struck up a conversation about the whole event, and THAT was when I had my "ah ha!" moment, and decided to write a lens on this topic. So, THANK YOU Ray for the idea!
It turns out that Ray and his wife Christine have been managing the Surfisde Beach, SC Strand Storage Center for about 11 years, at the time of this writing (which is March 2011).
Unfortunately, sometimes "stuff happens" in people's lives, and they don't keep up with their rent. At some point - usually about 90 days or so after not paying the rent - managers need to free up the units so that other, paying renters can store their stuff...
Site of Mini Storage Unit Auctions
March 4, 2011
About the facility where the mini storage unit auctions were held that beautiful day in March 2011. :)
According to Ray, This particular facility is:
=> 136,000 square feet,
=> with 1,005 units, and
=> parking for 50 vehicles (campers and boats).
There are regular seasonal custsomers "Snow Birds" who store their RVs off season, for example.
They won "Storage Center of the Year" for 2004, 05, 06, 07, 08, and 09.
They support Toys for Tots.
How can you NOT love this place?
Oh... and it's CLEAN. Did I mention that? Plus, I like the color scheme - brick, green, beige... all very nice.
Meet "The Sisters..." Southern Sisters - the Auctioneers at this Event
Southern Sisters Estate & Consignments Auctions out of Little River, SC
John really enjoys going to auctions run by Jane Squires and her sister Jackie Squires, aka "Southern Sisters," Estate & Consignment Auctioneers out of Little River, SC.
He says - and this is a direct plug for you Southern Sisters gals if you're reading this! - that he would do business with them anyday. For several reasons:
=> 1) They always greet people and are nice. I guess that's the ol' Southern Hospitality thing going on there... but whatever it is, it works. John always feels welcome, and not like an outsider (which he is, because his northern accent gives him away every time).
=> 2) For these mini storage unit auctions, they typically piece out the unit instead of just selling the whole kit-'n-caboodle in one shot....which...
=> 3) Means that they are getting as much money for their customer as possible.
Q: Do they auction off the whole unit like they do on those TV shows?
A: According to Ray, the manager for the Surfside Beach Strand Storage Center, Southern Sisters DOES, on occasion, sell the whole unit - but they really do like to piece it out.
This can turn out great for the management (not QUITE as great for the buyers sometimes). Why? Well, at this particular auction, the "Sisters" uncovered some gold jewelry while emptying the unit to get ready for the auction. They were able to sell the jewelry separately, and for a good chunk of change.
It was more of a typical style auction this way.
By the way, find Southern Sisters at (find 'em on www.AuctionZip.com and search for them there - or within 30 miles of zip code 29572 (our zip code for the winter).
The Process Behind These Mini Storage Unit Auctions
...at least the way it's done in South Carolina. Your state laws may (and probably do) vary.
Ray gave me the general run-down regarding these mini storage unit auctions, at least the way the law dictates in South Carolina.
First of all, it's important to note Ray's take on the whole mini storage unit auctions.
He hates to have to do it - "It's peoples' lives," he said, showing true concern.
Laws differ from state to state. In SC, the law is that they have to be delinquent for at least 50 consecutive days.
By the time you've sent the customer certified letters, had 2 advertisements in the newspaper - it's about 120 days after all is said and done.
Interestingly, according to Ray, the housing market largely dictates the storage unit business. If people are not buying or selling, business comes to a standstill.
Interested in the Business of Mini Storage Unit Auctions - Evidently you are not alone!
Here are a few things I found that might be helpful when it comes to learning the business of mini storage unit auctions.
Let the Mini Storage Unit Auctions Begin
This is where the alleged fun starts...
So, Ray opened up the first unit, and the Southern Sisters crew began unloading it.
This is where it really differs from the TV shows. It took them quite a while to unload this thing. It was JAM PACKED... and the stuff just kept coming out. They auctioned off the stuff from that unit, and then went to the next one.
I was already bored. It was about that moment when I got the idea to write this lens.
(PS: I also filmed some of the "auction action" and as soon as I finish making the video, I'll include it here)
"A Day at the Mini Storage Unit Auctions"
I finally finished this "Day at the Mini Storage Unit Auction" video!
Some of the Stuff at these Mini Storage Unit Auctions
Why people put some of this stuff into storage to begin with is a question I have been asking for a long time.
I mean, here is a list of some of the ... uh... JUNK that I've seen come out of these things - in just the last month.
This is just a PARTIAL list...
=> Used old bras and other used old lingerie
=> 1/2 used boxes of old breakfast cereals, Tang, spaghetti, and other dry, packaged foods that look like the perfect home for gross bugs
=> Someone's grandparents' outdated medicines and over-the-counter remedies such as Metamucil and nasal sprays
=> A backpack full of dirty socks full of holes
=> Old school papers - such as hand-written term papers dating from 1980 (of course, if they were signed by a person who is now famous, that would be a different story)
=> Broken dishes
=> Non-stick pans that have yucky stuff burned on them, with the non-stick surface scraped off and shredded
=> Torn and dingy towels, blankets, and clothes - also covered in animal hair as an added bonus
=> Greasy and stained plastic containers
=> Empty fast food containers, coffee cups, etc (in their defense, maybe the people were eating some fast food when they were loading the unit, and just shoved the wrappers into the boxes in their haste to store their stuff)
What are YOUR Thoughts on Mini Storage Unit Auctions?
Are you interested in buying at Mini Storage Unit Auctions?
Here's the Result of a Photo We Won
"Instant Ancestors," anyone?
This was a lot of old Black & White photos. We got one photo, of altar boys w/ prayer books. We sold it on eBay for $8.00
eBay isn't the ONLY game in town for Selling... Try Craigslist!
When we are down south for the winter, it turns out that we sell quite a bit on Craigslist. BUT... we also BUY stuff on Craigslist for resale. Here are a few resources you can refer to if this is something that interests you.
Meet Chuck... What Chuck Purchases at Mini Storage Unit Auctions
Chuck is a guy who goes to mini storage unit auctions, and I happened to meet him here. See this first photo? That's Chuck's stuff.
He has an antiques and collectibles booth at a place (I think it's called Crow's Nest) up in Shallotte, NC.
He bought one lot that included the conch shell (see photo below) for about $25. He was pretty psyched, because he sells a lot of LARGE sharks' teeth and shells.
Chuck expects to get about $50 for the Conch Shell alone.
There Always Seem to be Yearbooks at Mini Storage Unit Auctions
High School... College... Even Wedding Albums & Family Photos
This is one of the sad things, in my opinion, about buying at mini storage unit auctions...
As Ray said earlier, "This is someone's life..." He truly does NOT like to have to resort to selling off a storage unit.
I cannot speak for other storage unit facilities, or auctioneers other than the lovely Southern Sisters, but here bidders are asked to respect the former renters and return important-looking papers and such to the office so that they can attempt to get them back to their owners.
Note: I feature another lensmaster, below, who discusses this issue in his lens as well...
I have seen boxes of family photos and wedding albums and scrap books being pulled out of these places. I always feel a little sad for the families. It makes me realize that what John has often said is true: "At the end of the day, we're all pretty much reduced to a lot at an auction or yard sale."
After he first mentioned that sentiment to me, I promptly got rid of most of my old photos and memories. I really don't want to have someone bidding on my high school scrapbook. It's gone. Sitting in some pile of recycling somewhere...
Anyway, as you can see from the picture, we wound up with some year books. If you look at the photo just below, you'll see we sold 5 of them for $75.00 on eBay.
Camping Gear Seems to be a Good Bet at Mini Storage Unit Auctions
At least we do ok with it!
John is very fond of camping and climbing gear. He knows it very well...
So, when we go to mini storage unit auctions, we hope for good camping gear. In this case, we came upon a lot of Marlboro back packs and sleeping bags. They were surprisingly clean - and didn't even smell! They were like new.
We won the lot, along with some junk (old torn socks and underwear) - but wisely disposed of the socks and underwear.
Here are the results:
=> Sleeping Bag # 1 sold for $14.95
=> Sleeping Bag #2 sold for $23.25
=> Back pack #1 sold for $16.50
=> Back pack #2 sold for $45.00 (this was never used at all)
Our Tally from This Mini Storage Unit Auction Day... - To date, anyway...
Ok... We bought SOME stuff - not an entire unit, but a bunch of stuff.
It turned out that we purchased about $107.80 worth of stuff that day... Although we haven't sold EVERYTHING, here's a quick rundown of what we've sold out of the lot (so far):
- Instant Ancestors for $8.00
- 2 Sleeping Bags - sold for a total of $38.20
- 2 Back Packs - sold for a total of $61.50
- 10 Different Yearbooks - sold for a total of $199.75
- 21 Weightlifting Magazines/Newsletters sold so far - $53.94 (we're not done with these yet)
Some Other Cool Stuff
Introducing John's "buying and selling to make money" site!
As you've seen from this webpage, John and I (mostly John) have been buying and selling on eBay since 1999. A lot of people have asked us for advice and help.
John now offers his experiences - the Good, the Bad, AND the Ugly - to help other people learn effective buying and selling strategies on his website www.BuyingAndSellingToMakeMoney.com
As of this update (December 2012) we are still hoping to build and include a free newsletter... The sign up sheet will be on the site when it does happen.
For now, however, we're just loading it with advice, some videos (Turns out that John is a natural on YouTube! - his "channel" is here at "johnsyardsalefinds" on YouTube).
THE BLOG IS LIVE! You can check us out here at www.BuyingAndSellingToMakeMoney.com - We're adding content every time we come across something new to share!
We have a lot of great information, with nearly 30 years of John's experience - we're REAL people... not some hypey internet marketers trying to sell a bunch of junk (like one might find in some of these mini storage unit auctions). John has taught numerous people, and he - like me - loves helping others. (We DO offer a few items that we market, but not a gajillion!)
By the way, it's another way for me to be of value when I accompany John on his rounds - kind of a way to help me earn the lunch I always get afterwards. :)
Thanks so much for reading and visiting!
This Just Added! - What Happened When We Took Our Stuff To Auction...
Ok guys - I know this has nothing to do with storage unit auctions, but we do a lot of buying AND selling at "live" auctions - the typical, old-fashioned "country auction" and I just made this video about how John likes to present things. If any of you are into selling at live auction, this might help.
I absolutely love hearing from readers, and hope you will leave me your feedback. Thank you so very much for visiting!