Breaking the Myths of Storage Unit Auctions

Checking out a storage auction

Conrad Switzer wrote about the Dymon Self Storage  storage auction process in last week’s blog.  Today, I wanted to focus on how self storage auctions have become very popular in the United States and Canada and how there are quite a few misconceptions about storage auctions. Storage unit auctions have become quite the popular event in the US and Canada. The auctions have been going on for years, but have received a lot of attention because of reality TV shows. Storage Wars  and Auction Hunters  are two extremely popular storage unit auction reality shows on cable TV. There has been a lot of discussion about the “reality” of these shows. Do they actually depict the reality of storage auctions? In some cases yes and in other cases no. The shows actually film hours and hours of storage auction activity in a day or a week. That material needs to be edited down to “TV time” (or 22 or 48 minutes depending on the length of the program). Obviously, the most exciting material will find its way to be part of the show that is broadcast. The many non-interesting storage units will not be shown on the program. The shows, especially Storage Wars, builds up the tension between the “star” bidders and follow them as they try to find treasures and then sell their finds to make a profit. Because of the popularity of these shows, more people are showing up to storage auctions to find out how the auction really works and ultimately to see if they can end up finding that elusive treasure.

In reality, most storage units do not contain any type of treasure. They either contain business items, such as inventory or paperwork, or household goods such as furniture, appliances or electronics. The point of the auction is to recoup the lost rent on the storage unit. In some states in the United States, the highest bid can only be the amount owed for rent on the storage unit. Most storage facilities actually lose money in the storage auction process, because the rents are not fully covered. There have also been complaints that it is unfair to put the items up in a storage unit up for auction as their units are private property. Based on state lien laws, the delinquent renter is given multiple notices that they are behind with the payment for their storage unit. The renter could even pay up to the time of the actual storage unit. Most of the time, there is a very small amount of storage units that go up for auction in the year. Some data show only 2% out of thousands of storage units go up for auction in Canada and the United States in a year.

There really are not specific lien laws governing Canadian storage auctions, so each city or province will have different types of auctions. The most popular type of auction in the United States is bidding on the entire content of the storage unit. An auctioneer is in charge of the entire process. Each auction participant is allowed to briefly see the contents of the storage unit. Based on that brief view, a bidder can decide what they want to bid on the contents of the entire storage unit. There are some veterans of this process who know exactly what to look for in an auctioned storage unit. The highest bidder wins the auction and has to have the items removed from the unit within a 24-48 hour time period. In some auctions in Canada, certain items from storage units are auctioned off in combination with items from other storage units. New websites have been developed where participants do not even have to leave the comforts of their homes to bid on a storage unit auction. They can see the contents online and bid accordingly.

Check with your local storage facility for information on their storage unit auction process. If you decide to become a participant in this exciting event, good luck and happy auctioning!


2 comments on “Breaking the Myths of Storage Unit Auctions

  1. my self storage site
    March 24, 2013 at 8:37 PM #

    Cool post! I will totally bookmark this for future reference.
    Appreciate it!

  2. Kelly's Self Storage
    May 24, 2013 at 5:54 AM #

    A very interesting post, Storage Wars and Storage Hunters are such popular programs. But so are self storage units, they are a growing business in the US and also in the UK.

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