Self-storage auctions are on the rise, both in number and in the amount of consumer participation, according to an article in the Quincy, Mass., Patriot Ledger. Paul Maglio, president of Storage Auction Solutions, said people are drawn to these auctions to look for items they can mark up and sell for extra money, with crowds at his auctions being double what they used to be. In addition, more storage renters find themselves unable to pay rent, causing unit “foreclosures” that result in more sales, he said.
Maglio, whose company conducts self-storage auctions throughout New England, was the auctioneer at Storage Pros in Brockton, Mass., last week. The auction was one of five in the area that day. A crowd of about 50 attended the one at Storage Pros, where the contents of six units were up for bidding.
Storage Pros Manager Paul Alves said he’s seen many customers affected by job loss and other economic factors.
Auction participant Michael Keene of Taunton, Mass., said storage auctions are becoming more competitive as greater numbers attend.
The topic of self-storage auctions was the subject of a recent “This American Life” segment produced by Chicago Public Radio. On Jan. 22, the show featured a report by Jon Mooallem, author for The New York Times Magazine. He visited self-storage auctions in Northern California, learning about the techniques people use to discern “junk” from “treasure” during lien sales, as they are not allowed to rummage through storage units in advance.
As Cable Networks start airing shows highlighting the best finds from various storage facilities auctions, questions arise from the general public who are not familiar with the industry. Here are a few answers for those who want to jump on the bandwagon and strike it rich at their neighborhood storage facility’s next auction.
1. If you don’t pay your storage rent, the operator will sell your goods. In fact, one show’s tag line is, “If you don’t pay your bills, they’ll take your stuff.” OK, this is true, but the show fails to explain there is a lengthy, detailed legislative process governing the practice. In most cases, the operator would prefer to resolve the delinquency in almost any other manner than a lien sale.
2. Self-storage operators make tons of money on these auctions, sometimes thousands of dollars! Wrong. Most operators are lucky just to recoup what they lost in unpaid rent. In most cases, the operator must forward any overage from the sale to the renter. I’ve even heard operators tell stories about units being sold for as little as $5.
3. Self-storage “lockers” are often filled with incredible and bountiful booty, including cars, gold and cash. Show intros flash images of cash, coins, cars, guitars, furniture, signed celebrity memorabilia and more. I have no doubt that living in storage units around the world are treasures untold; but the majority of units contain your average, run-of-the-mill household and business overflow. Most people who have actual treasures as showcased on the shows stored in their units pay their rent. There is the occasional situation though, that makes the gamble and the hunt worthwhile for some.
4. Self-storage auctions are vicious, cut-throat affairs that require diligence, skill and a gambler’s bravado. The word is now out on self-storage sales, and bargain-hunters aplenty are on the prowl. But in a lot of cases, auctions don’t get the publicity they need to be truly successful. Many an auction is a lonely affair involving only the operator, maybe an auctioneer, and maybe a dozen interested parties. Rarely are there hordes of people pounding at the gate, but with the media hype surrounding the auctions, the numbers are growing.
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