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Old 11-01-2010, 08:51 PM
 
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Just recently heard about these storage unit auctions. Anyone ever been to one?

Is there actually good stuff in the units?

What does a unit typically go for? etc, etc, etc.
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Old 11-01-2010, 09:11 PM
 
Location: Columbia MO
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I represented people who bought, er, invested in storage unit auctions. I can't tell you that this was how it is elsewhere, but in Houston in the late 80s to early 90s, there was a group of regulars that worked together. If a stranger, say, like you, came along and wanted to bid, one of the regulars would outbid you unless you were a total idiot (in which case they'd let you be an idiot and waste your money on what probably was junk)...because what you wouldn't see was what they did when you or some other newbie didn't show up.

First, the rules were that you couldn't enter into the unit before or during the auction. You couldn't even reach inside and move stuff around to see if something good was buried somewhere. So the regulars had their plan-- one person, and only one person, bid on the stuff in the lockers when each one came up for bid. Opening bid was a dollar-- that's what the designated bidder bid. No competition. No more than a dollar, ever. The stuff in the locker was sold to him. The regulars, and the auctioneer, moved from unit to unit, buying the stuff inside for a dollar, each time. Houston in the late 80s, there were a lot of people just abandoning their stuff in these lockers when they left, because they fell behind on the monthly payments and management wouldn't let them into their locker unless they caught up.

So that was the public auction. The real auction started after the auctioneer left. I mean, let's face it, there was a reason why people didn't have a problem leaving most of this stuff behind-- a buck might have been an overpayment for some of the contents. But there was enough stuff in them worth something to make this second auction worthwhile. There was no auctioneer, but they'd go back from locker to locker, and as someone would find something good, the other guys would offer the owner something for it, then someone else would offer a buck more, and that was the real auction. There'd be horse-trading and such, and it was all cash, right then. A lot of these guys started off carrying thousands of dollars in cash, but when a few of them got robbed (I knew them because I worked for a foreclosure lawyer, and the public sales there were all cash too), they switched over to carrying bundles of certified checks made out to themselves, which they would endorse over to the person they were paying.

Storage locker auctions were kind of the minor leagues compared to foreclosure auctions and tax sales, but a lot of the guys i knew liked doing it, not so much for the money but for the action. And they tended to be middle eastern, guys who liked to deal and dicker and trade. They were a lot more honest than the mortgage companies or my boss' compeitition, lawyers who would do any damn thing to get business-- hookers, drugs, forgery, you name it. And this was 20 years ago! I thought I wanted to do this for a living but when I had a 90-minute "chat" with the FBI over stuff a colleague was doing, I got the hell out of it, and I'm glad I did. But I'm digressing.

You should ask the owner or manager of a storage unit place how the auctions happen there. There may be some state laws involved, I don't know. But ask. And if you go to one, just watch at first, although you'll probably make the regulars nervous. If there's only one bidder for each one and the winning bid is always a dollar, you know the fix is in.
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Old 11-01-2010, 09:35 PM
 
1,096 posts, read 3,985,421 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyrano View Post
I represented people who bought, er, invested in storage unit auctions. I can't tell you that this was how it is elsewhere, but in Houston in the late 80s to early 90s, there was a group of regulars that worked together. If a stranger, say, like you, came along and wanted to bid, one of the regulars would outbid you unless you were a total idiot (in which case they'd let you be an idiot and waste your money on what probably was junk)...because what you wouldn't see was what they did when you or some other newbie didn't show up.

First, the rules were that you couldn't enter into the unit before or during the auction. You couldn't even reach inside and move stuff around to see if something good was buried somewhere. So the regulars had their plan-- one person, and only one person, bid on the stuff in the lockers when each one came up for bid. Opening bid was a dollar-- that's what the designated bidder bid. No competition. No more than a dollar, ever. The stuff in the locker was sold to him. The regulars, and the auctioneer, moved from unit to unit, buying the stuff inside for a dollar, each time. Houston in the late 80s, there were a lot of people just abandoning their stuff in these lockers when they left, because they fell behind on the monthly payments and management wouldn't let them into their locker unless they caught up.

So that was the public auction. The real auction started after the auctioneer left. I mean, let's face it, there was a reason why people didn't have a problem leaving most of this stuff behind-- a buck might have been an overpayment for some of the contents. But there was enough stuff in them worth something to make this second auction worthwhile. There was no auctioneer, but they'd go back from locker to locker, and as someone would find something good, the other guys would offer the owner something for it, then someone else would offer a buck more, and that was the real auction. There'd be horse-trading and such, and it was all cash, right then. A lot of these guys started off carrying thousands of dollars in cash, but when a few of them got robbed (I knew them because I worked for a foreclosure lawyer, and the public sales there were all cash too), they switched over to carrying bundles of certified checks made out to themselves, which they would endorse over to the person they were paying.

Storage locker auctions were kind of the minor leagues compared to foreclosure auctions and tax sales, but a lot of the guys i knew liked doing it, not so much for the money but for the action. And they tended to be middle eastern, guys who liked to deal and dicker and trade. They were a lot more honest than the mortgage companies or my boss' compeitition, lawyers who would do any damn thing to get business-- hookers, drugs, forgery, you name it. And this was 20 years ago! I thought I wanted to do this for a living but when I had a 90-minute "chat" with the FBI over stuff a colleague was doing, I got the hell out of it, and I'm glad I did. But I'm digressing.

You should ask the owner or manager of a storage unit place how the auctions happen there. There may be some state laws involved, I don't know. But ask. And if you go to one, just watch at first, although you'll probably make the regulars nervous. If there's only one bidder for each one and the winning bid is always a dollar, you know the fix is in.
I was kinda confused by your post, didn't really follow what you were talking about.

Are you saying the facility manager takes the good stuff otu before the auction begins?

I don't disagree that that does probably happen but I hear sometimes people show up to buy their own stuff back so what happens if tehy win it and contents are missing?
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Old 11-02-2010, 07:55 PM
 
Location: Columbia MO
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No. The regular bidders chase away any interlopers by outbidding them, or let the fools bid way too much for the stuff. The deal with the auction is that you can't see 9/10 or more of the stuff in the unit because you aren't allowed to go in there and look before the auction. So sometimes, all that junk really is worth only a dollar, or more likely has a negative worth, since you either have to clear it out in 24-72 hours, or rent the space yourself. The owner isn't likely to go in and take stuff out beforehand, because of the risk that the renter may come up with the money and redeem his stuff (unlikely, but it does happen, maybe mom lends them some money), only to find out that something valuable is missing. Maybe it's different where you live, but from what I saw, it was very much an insider's game, the insiders being the regular bidders. The second, private auction is where they divvy up anything of real value.
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Old 11-03-2010, 05:42 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rfr69 View Post
Just recently heard about these storage unit auctions. Anyone ever been to one?
I went to one once and did not see anything of any value. Also they want you to bid blind on a lot of the stuff. There are four groups: keep, sell, donate and trash. All I saw was donate or trash, nothing in the keep or sell group. At least nothing that I wanted to mess around with.
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Old 11-03-2010, 07:14 AM
 
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Coworker knows someone who owns one of these storage businesses, he first roots through the units, removes some of the items he classifies as "good stuff", and then sets the units to auction.
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Old 11-03-2010, 07:30 AM
 
Location: playing in the colorful Colorado dirt
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Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you get the shaft. Everything is bid on sight unseen and you have a limited time to remove your "treasure".

Clothing can be donated for a tax credit as can many other items. Jewelry can be worth something if your lucky enough to find any. Even if it looks like costume jewelry it could still be valuable. Several years ago,I bought a large quantity of what I thought was mostly junk jewelry, 2 gallon zip-lock bags full of it for $10. I make jewelry and I often take and re-purpose the old stuff. Anyway, I went home and dumped it out and started checking out my bounty. There among the junk I found a Black Hills Gold bracelet with a matching ring, an art deco silver and onyx pin (1920's) several pairs of earrings in silver and 18kt gold,some with gemstones. Also, there was enough scrap gold that I made a nice profit. The pin was appraised at $250-300.

I went back to where I had bought it (yard sale) and asked the woman if she was aware of the contents of those bags. She was, but none of her kids wanted any of it. That $10 turned out to be worth about $700-800.

Like I said, sometimes you get lucky!
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Old 11-03-2010, 04:44 PM
 
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Originally Posted by gsfan View Post
Coworker knows someone who owns one of these storage businesses, he first roots through the units, removes some of the items he classifies as "good stuff", and then sets the units to auction.
I don't doubt this happens but people can and do from what I hear show up and bid on their own stuff. If someone were to show up and a "good" item was missing the faciliity manager would have some trouble for himself.

I was asking the other day because I was hoping to attend one and did attend my first one the other day so I'll give you all a little report of my expereince.

Only one unit was being auctioned off. I thought there would be more since I watched some youtube. videos to get an idea of how these worked and on youtube they were all multiple unit auctions.

Mine wasn't an auction format where the person calls out prices, it was silent bid. The manager opened the unit adn gave us about 3 minutes to view from the door, could not touch anything. I was surprised that it was myself and only like 4 other people.

The unit was a 15x15. It was pretty much floor to floor and wall to wall. Most stuff was either boxed, in totes or in garbage bags so you coudln't see much. The thing we could see was a box for a 50" plasma tv. Everyone seemed to think there wasn't a tv in there but I thought there was. I bid $400 and wound up winning.

I had no background or idea what to bid or what they typically go for. For the amount of stuff and assuming there was a tv I didn't think it was a bad price. Everyone seemed surprised I bid as much as I did. I was kinda worried and second guessing myself as to whether I paid too much.

Let me say this was my first one but I imagine my experience was a rarity. if someone has thousands of dollars worth of stuff in a unit why not try to sell one or two expensive items so you dont lose everything.

Anyhow, I was given 24 hours to clear everything out of the unit.

Turns out there was a tv in the box. I sold that on craigslist today for $500 so already made back my money plus $100. the amount of stuff is overwhelming and I'm sure it will cost me money to throw some stuff away but I'm going to make out pretty good. I'm just going to list some of the good stuff becaue there's too much to list but 4 really nice well made pottery barn stools. Baseball and basketball cards. Makita power tools, dewalt power tools, ryobi power tools. A bag of Dooney and Bourke purses. Lots of designer clothing DKNY, Diesel, Forever 21, Limited, mostly womens but some mens stuff. About 8 nice leather jackets. Tons of shoes, not really expensive stuff but nine west and other stuff that can be sold on ebay and at platos closet and stuff. I got a Wii Fit. A nice bamboo chair.

There are lots of easy to sell items. Lots of stuff I can take to platos and resale shops. I've already donated a ton of stuff but want to try to make money off more stuff I dont donate. The problem is I have boxes of literally thousands of tshirts, not name brand or sports team either plain or company names and logos,e tc. With tehse its much more work but I figure I can go to a flea market and charge like $1 per shirt. I also have tons of kitchen stuff and cookware. Probably 3 complete sets of calphalon cookware, ikea dishes, stemware, cappucino maker, etc. I think 3 or 4 families must have had a full kitchen worth of stuff in there.

It was exciting finding lots of cool stuff but also kind of sad finding kids backpacks, family pics, etc, I'm assuming someoens whole life was bascially in there.

I brought back personal items to teh place hopefully the guy can get that stuff back to them.

Anyhow, I'm up about $900 now and have only sold like 4 big ticket items. My downfall is my gf and friends, sister mom comming over and wanting to take all my good stuff...lol. I also recently bought a place so lots of the stuff I'm going to keep adn it will save me tons of money on not having to go to crate and barrel and spend a fortune on dishes and other stuff like that.

Like I said I think my experience is probably not the norm. I watched a video on youtube where a guy said he saw a unit full of factory sealed boxes. For all he knew it was a store taht wennt out of businesses inventory which could be big money. He said he spent like $800 and the whole unit was full of boxes of dixy cups and napkins.

Anyhow, just wanted to post a quick report. I have long wondered about these things but never knew anyone who had been to one to ask if they are worthwhile and if there's really good stuff or if its just full of gym socks and garbage.
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Old 11-07-2010, 12:29 PM
 
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Default still sorthing through stuff

Still going through boxes from the auction. Keep finding other cool little things like Crabtree & Evelyn uponened candle sets, video games, etc.
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Old 11-08-2010, 07:02 AM
 
Location: Vermont
5,439 posts, read 14,324,626 times
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this is one thing i do not understand - storage units - unless you are in the process of moving. people paying to store the junk they dont care enough to actually use....good job on profiting from it though.
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