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How to Make Storage Auctions Work for You

Updated on October 30, 2011

The world of storage unit auctions jumped into the public’s eye with TV shows like “Auction Hunters” and “Storage Wars.” Every episode shows the great finds that ordinary people make, just from buying old storage units. While not everyone makes money with storage, there are a few things you can do to make storage unit auctions work for you.

How it Works

When a person rents a storage unit, they pay a fee for the unit. The company that owns the unit gives the individual notice when their next bill comes due. If the individual does not pay the total amount or work out a payment plan, the unit and everything inside becomes the property of the storage company. That company runs auctions and sells the units to the public.

Finding Auctions

Before you can make money with a storage unit auction, you must know where the auctions are. Most companies host auctions on-site and wait until they have multiple units available before holding an auction. Often times, the owner of the company runs ads in local newspapers, informing potential buyers of the sales. The company might also place a sign in front that lets people know the date and time of the auction.

What You Need

Bring as much cash as possible to the storage unit auction, as most companies do not accept debit cards, credit cards, or cash. You should also bring a smart phone, or a cell phone with internet capabilities. You might even find it helpful to bring a netbook or iPad. As soon as you see something inside the unit that peaks your interest, look up the value online. That gives you a starting point on how to bid.

Big Low

The secret to making money at a storage unit auction is buying units as low as possible. Remember that you must make back your original investment, just to break even. If you buy a unit for $400, you want to get more than $400 back when you sell everything inside. Place a cap or limit on how much you want to spend on a specific unit and do not go over that. The more money you spend on a unit, the more you risk losing money on the deal.

Where to Sell

When you watch a show like “Storage Wars” or “Auction Hunters”, you might notice that the participants typically own a thrift store, antique store or sell at a swap meet. If you want to make money off storage unit auctions, you must have a selling location. If you are just starting out, consider selling at a local flea market or swap meet. As you sell more items, put back money to open your own shop. You can also sell collectibles and hard-to-find items online.

Get Help

Unless you have experience buying and selling everything in the world, you need some help. Even if you have experience with antiques and collectibles, you will eventually run across something you have not seen before. Get help from local experts and appraisers. Ask for an honest evaluation of those items, including a price. You want to make as much money as possible off everything you buy in a storage unit. You never know when one of those experts will make an offer on something you bring to them.

Low Expectations

Do not expect to immediately start making money from storage units because it does take time. TV shows make the units look great, full of collectibles and items that fetch a high price on the secondary market. You will more likely see units full of garbage bags or empty units. Keep your expectations low, especially when you first start out. With time and experience, you will learn how to look for the best units and find those units that earn you the most money.


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    • trimar7 profile image

      trimar7 6 years ago from New York

      This is certainly an intriguing prospect for those of us who love garage sales, estate sales or any kind of treasure hunting venture. Good hub!