If you are buying storage units for a living, you need to be prepared when you are headed to a storage auction! Bring these items to help you win at the storage wars:
Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means I receive a commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate relationships include, but are not limited to Amazon Associates, Walmart.com, and Etsy.
Buying Storage Units For A Living
Our family has been buying storage units for a living for over five years now. It is a family side hustle for us. So many people ask us questions about it that we wrote an eBook you can buy on my shop page or towards the end of this article. The following tips come from that book (that tells you everything you need to know to be successful in the abandoned storage unit auction business).
What do I bring with me to storage auctions?
We have learned from experience what to bring to the auction. Don't forget the following items so you have no regrets!
Smartphone with a camera
If there is a crowd, you will only get a minute to look into the unit so others can have a turn to look too. That's just enough time to snap some photos. Then get out of the way and look at the photos, enlarge the photo to read box labels or see if that really is a gun case back there. This will help you see what is there and determine how much to bid.
If others are taking a long time to look before bidding starts, you may have time to go on eBay and see what that antique board game has sold for in the past that you see in the unit. Just keep in mind, that box might be empty so don't bid too high!
After you win the unit and start going through the items, you will snap photos of large items to sell right out of the storage locker. You could even post them on Facebook, etc. right then and there.
To call your wife to see if she wants the Coach purse you found while loading up the unit. Or, to call your husband to see if he wants the poker table or laptop, etc.
To check lists in your memos to see if someone is looking for an item you can watch for while emptying the storage garage.
If your flashlight batteries aren't working, you can download an app to make your Smartphone into a flashlight.
To record in your memo the addresses and unit numbers of the auctions you win so you can find them again. You could also record your lock number so you know which key to bring.
Most of the auctions we have been to only accept cash.
You may want another form of payment for food, gas, garbage/recycling fees or renting a truck or trailer for hauling.
You may have to pay your buddy for help or buy lunch or gas for him/her.
When you are buying storage units for a living, you end up with a waiting list of people who are looking for something. Just the other day, my Dad (who is a landlord) was looking for a window air conditioner for one of his buildings. We usually do find those, but didn't have one the day he called, so now he's on my waiting list. After you have won the auction and are looking through the unit, you can call or text someone on your waiting list and ask, “Were you looking for a gas dryer or electric dryer?” Try to keep that list in the memos on your Smartphone. Then, you could send a photo to customers on your waiting list and they could hopefully come get the item while you are there packing up. That's money in your pocket to pay back part or all of your locker cost plus it's less to move, right?
This could be a friend or family member who is also bidding, but agree not to bid each other up. You can always buy that box of baseball cards or Ty beanie babies from him/her after it is won. Or trade it for something he/she wants out of the unit you won.
In our case, this is usually an older child who we pay commissions to. He/she also gets first dibs on treasure that we agree to let them keep.
It's nice to have someone to help lift heavy items, hold a flashlight, or to take you to the doctor if you drop a very heavy item on your little toe.
Food and Water
Buying storage units for a living is thirsty work! It is very much like moving from one house to another. Always have water so you can stay hydrated, even in the winter.
In a caravan sale (you follow the group from one location to another, which can go on several hours if some locations are in other towns) you may not have time to stop for food because you could risk losing the group you are following. Or, if they gave you a list of each location in order, you might have to miss a few units being auctioned if you stop to eat.
Locks and Keys
Be sure to bring locks and keys. Don't bid on more units than you have locks for!
Sometimes, the storage facility business will make you use their lock and key and you have to return it to them, but it's best to be prepared.
Some items are dirty or too gross for me to pick up with my bare hands.
Baby Wipes or Hand Sanitizer
You may need to wash your hands at some point.
Quality Garbage Bags
“Amy always talks about garbage in the units!” That's because I have seen a LOT of garbage! Even the cleanest units that were moved with a professional moving company will have garbage.
Believe it or not, some people are not as organized as you and just throw their stuff (without a container) into the unit, maybe in a hurry. You need something to carry the keepers in and a garbage bag works. Just keep it separate from the bags that are going to the dump!
When bidding, it helps you to see in the back. My husband, Mike, was at an auction that went later into the night and there were no lights to see what you were bidding on. Sometimes, you have to go inside a building and the hallway is not well-lit and the unit inside has no lighting; so be sure to bring a quality flashlight or other light. The guy with the flashlight has the advantage.
When trying to empty the unit before dark, you may need it if there are a lot of items left as the sun is going down.
This is helpful to see if items will fit in your vehicle or to put measurements on listings from your Smartphone.
Learn all about the abandoned storage auction resale business in our book.
If you found this helpful, please encourage me by “buying me a coffee”. Thank you!
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