Storage Unit Assessment
Before the auctioneer starts the bidding process, you and the other patrons will be given a brief moment to review the storage unit. Most auctioneers and storage facility operators will not allow you to step inside the unit before the auction, and in some areas they are prohibited from doing so by state laws.
Being able to quickly size up the value of a storage unit’s contents is an important skill. You may have only a few minutes to review the contents of a storage locker, deduce an approximate value, and determine your maximum bid. At crowded storage auctions the auctioneer may file a long line of bidders past a unit, and you may literally have 30 seconds to make these decisions.
You should educate yourself on the value of antiques and modern furniture, electronics, and collectible items. Being able to assess the value of the many oddball items you will come across is a skill that takes time to develop. Some buyers will use a smartphone to quickly search the Internet for information on an item that is visible in a unit. You have to be quick to accomplish this before the bidding starts! Experience in these areas will help you buy better units for less money and avoid overpayment for less-profitable units.
Professionals who supply their business using items they’ve acquired at storage auctions will often be conservative in their estimate of a unit’s value. Many will base their bid strictly on what can be seen during the short review period before the auction. Some experienced auction veterans believe in bidding on only what can be seen in the unit, and they think that blind bids on boxes for which the contents are unknown is simply gambling. While true, there are some signs you can look for that may project the value of contents hidden in boxes, bags, or suitcases.
Unit Organization & Cleanliness
A clean and organized storage unit is usually a sign of value. Thick cardboard boxes that are neatly stacked are often an indicator of worthwhile contents. Moving or storage facility boxes that were paid for (as opposed to free boxes that someone gathered from work or another business) may be a sign of the care that was taken when packing valuable items. A common belief among many veteran buyers is that liquor boxes will often yield profitable contents.
Although a clean and orderly unit may indicate higher value, don’t be turned off by units that have thick layers of dust on their contents. Such units may have valuable items that are in great condition and have simply not been used or disturbed in a long time.
It’s generally recommended to steer clear of units that are dirty or visibly cluttered with a lot of low-value items, like cheap furniture, used clothes, or toys.
Visible Presence of Valuable Items
If you can see items of value while reviewing the unit, try to quickly deduce price points for their later sale. If you can see antique or high-quality modern furniture, take note of their appearance, condition, and whether or not all the necessary pieces are present to complete a set. Often furniture that is wrapped in plastic may be of higher-quality construction or from a good brand name.
Seeing higher-value contents during the pre-auction review may be an indicator of other profitable items being hidden from view.
Climate Controlled Storage Units
Indoor climate-controlled storage units can be a worthwhile venture for bidding on. Many self storage customers choose these types of units for storing higher-value items like electronics, antiques, art, comics, baseball cards, and other collectibles.