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Success at Storage Unit Auctions - Tips, Tricks and Advice

Finding the auctions - aside from this site (storageunitauctions.ca), look in your local newspaper's public-announcement, legal -notice and auction classified ad sections. Some storage companies also post this information on their website, or if not, just call them directly. Auctioneer websites often list storage auctions, so sign up if they offer email/Facebook/etc. notification.

If you are in this for the long-term, introduce yourself and get to know storage operators, auctioneers and even fellow auction goers - the last group may or may not be open to information sharing, but the first two would be, especially the auctioneer's staff.

Determine your budget and stick to it. Don't get caught up with 'auction fever', and don't bid-by-ego.

Learn what 'as-is' means, as well as 'caveat emptor'. Because that is how units are sold - buyer beware! All responsibility is on the buyer, and there is no guarantee that the locker you buy will have any value whatsoever.

Auctions can be called off at the last moment due to a unit renter paying off what they owe, so try to have a backup auction to go to in the area if possible. Call the storage operator the day of (or day before) the auction to confirm that it is indeed running.

Know the auction terms - is it cash only, or are credit and debit cards accepted? Find out before bidding, as it may be the auctioneer's staff rather than the storage operator who process the sales, and they may or may not be able to take plastic.

Make sure you bring your photo ID, such as a driverís license. Usually there is a sign-in at the auctioneer's table.

Storage units are not made for comfort, so there is most likely no washroom, nor food or water available, and the storage operator will not fill these gaps for you. Outside unit auctions may also call for hats and sunscreen.

Storage unit auctions are sometimes held in high-crime areas, so be aware and take responsibility for your own well-being and safety. Stay with the auction group.

Be prepared. You've just bought a big locker chock full of good and valuable stuff - how will you get it home? Ensure you have suitable transportation (i.e. a big enough truck) and suitable help to handle your purchases.

Bring a flashlight to view dark corners of units - if you are going to multiple auctions, can you recharge it in your vehicle?

Bring enough padlocks for your unit purchases, and immediately note the unit number to avoid later confusion.

Other useful equipment and supplies: moving dolly and/or cart, garbage bags, gloves, bungee cords and rope, mover blankets, rainproof tarps, storage containers and boxes. The storage operator may require buyers clean the locker out, so bring a broom as well.

Ensure you know the rules of the sale - do you have to clear the locker out same day? Is it possible to rent the 'purchased' locker for a short period until you can empty it? For these and related questions, ask the storage operator rather than the auctioneer.

If you are a reseller, bring your tax identification, otherwise you will be charged applicable tax.

Once unlocked, don't enter the locker or touch any contents. Viewing is typically somewhat quick - around five minutes - and it can be crowded and you can be jostled by others eager to see the unit, so consider using the video function of your cell phone camera to review contents afterwards.

Have a network of buyers for the storage-unit contents you purchase. Even other auction attendees may be interested in the odd piece, which can save you hauling it, so consider every offer.

And what will you do with the garbage - junk that is of no value and you don't want to haul? Learn where the nearest Goodwill or other donation-accepting thrift store is, and ask the storage operator if they have any provision for trash, but it does cost them money for a garbage bin rental, so don't count on it - you may end up doing a run to the local dump with some of your recent purchase. Sometimes stuff is left in a locker because the previous owner couldn't be bothered to - or couldn't bear to - throw it out, and it may fall to you to take this step. It's not all treasure.

Signs of a quality unit?

There are no guarantees, but if it looks professionally packed, it is a good sign that the contents were of good quality, otherwise why bother with such packing? Aside from the neat appearance, often the boxes have the moving company name/logo on the side.

Sealed boxes show care - the previous owner valued what was inside enough to make the effort.

On the other hand, stuffed garbage bags are often a sign of low-value clothing, soft goods and similar items.

Dust can indicate older items, perhaps antiques.

The geographic area of the storage unit can be telling - if the area is well-off or poor, storage-unit contents will often be similar. And if the storage operator or auctioneer has paid for a newspaper ad, they may have considered that the units being auctioned will bring bigger money.

Seek value when bidding. Are there brand names visible? Were items stacked neatly, or thrown in? How the previous owner treated their belongings can be a sign of the value contained there.

Is this a newer or long-term rental? Long-term can often mean items that were valued, whereas a newer rental may be one of convenience for someone's junk, and possibly worth as much.

What is visible can be a sign of what is not visible - the quality of the items you can see is often also the quality of what is boxed or otherwise out of sight.

None of these tips are guarantees of success, but are some indicators that seasoned storage unit auction bidders use to their advantage.

Good luck, as long as you aren't bidding against me!

Questions or comments? Send them to info AT storageunitauctions.ca

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