Attending a Storage Auction

You can locate storage auctions at web sites like, through the classified ads section of a newspaper, or by visiting a storage auctions forum. We also cover methods for discovering smaller and more profitable storage auctions in our section titled Finding Better Storage Auctions.

Plan to arrive to each auction at least fifteen minutes early. The storage facility and auctioneer will likely require you to register and sign or review a few documents prior to being admitted. Most auctions start sharply at the listed time; being a few minutes late could cause you to be locked-out of the event. We should mention that it’s common for a storage auction to be cancelled the day it is to be held. Often debtors will pay their backrent at the last minute, negating the need for the auction. It’s not a bad idea to call the storage facility and confirm that the auction is still scheduled to take place.

Here’s a tip concerning the sign-in sheets: Clever buyers will use a P.O. Box for their contact address and a Google Voice or other phone number that is not associated with their home or cellular phone. Storage facilities are not supposed to relinquish your contact details to anyone; however, there have been cases where personal information was leaked to the irate former owners of the contents that were acquired at auction.

We recommend attending several storage auctions as an observer before taking part in the action. Doing so will help you to become familiar with their operation and protocols. During this period you can practice your ability to size-up units and make some connections with the auctioneer, facility managers, and other buyers. Some of the regulars will be eager to share their stories of incredible and unusual finds; others will likely keep their secrets for acquiring units to themselves. It’s smart to become acquainted with the auctioneer and to remain on good terms with him or her.

If you plan to start purchasing units right away, be sure to bring plenty of cash. Most auctioneers will not accept checks or credit cards. Check with the auctioneer or storage facility for accepted types of payment. Serious and experienced buyers will often bring between $2,000 and $10,000, sometimes more, to each auction. One storage auction blog recently reported that a Virginia man paid $27,000 cash for two large units stuffed with antiques!

Most storage auctions are conducted in a “live” format, meaning the auctioneer will allow for inspection of a unit, followed by an open and immediate bidding process. Other less-popular auction methods include the “blind auction,” where bidders place bids on units that are sight-unseen, and the “sealed-bid” auction, where buyers may inspect the unit and then place a confidential bid amount in a sealed envelope.

When a storage unit is auctioned, a storage facility employee will open the unit and patrons will be allowed to walk past and make a quick visual inspection. Sometimes the original debtor’s lock is cut right in front of everyone; other times the lock has been removed ahead of time and the unit re-locked by the storage company. Although you should attempt to seek out auctions where the original lock is removed in front of all the buyers, this will not always be possible, and cases of fraud are rare.

After a unit has been opened, the auctioneer will give everyone a chance to perform a quick review of the visible contents. At most auctions buyers are not allowed to enter a unit or touch any items located within. The review of a storage unit is usually done quickly, and you may have less than thirty seconds to take a peek and come up with an idea concerning the value of the contents. The most successful storage auction buyers excel at this part of the game.

Once everyone has reviewed the unit, the auctioneer will begin the bidding. These sales are done very quickly and usually culminate in a matter of a few minutes. If you are the winning bidder, expect to make payment immediately or after the last unit at that facility has been sold.

If you were a successful bidder, you will be expected to promptly remove all items from and clean the storage unit. Often you will be given a window of 24-48 hours to accomplish this. Some storage facilities will work with you to give you a longer period of time if you simply ask. They are often quite understanding if the unit in question is large and was packed full of items. Some storage facilities will charge a deposit that will be returned to you once the unit has been inspected and is confirmed to be clean.

You will need space to sort and store the items you’ve acquired. Many people getting started in this industry will use their garage or rent a storage unit of their own. You will need a truck or trailer and often some help to help you move everything. We recommend bringing a change of clothes, trash bags, rubber gloves, and hand cleaner while you are working to clear a unit.

Once you’ve moved all the content and cleaned out the storage unit, the real treasure hunt can begin!

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