Buying storage units at auction

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Cygnet, Dec 22, 2004.

  1. Cygnet

    Cygnet Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Has anyone ever done this?

    I need to make some money for home improvements and my options are to take a second job -- which I'm loathe to do because the job I have now sometimes has fairly lucrative overtime and I have health problems as well and need time off occasionally for doctor visits. Yadda yadda. A second job just doesn't work for me.

    I've talked to several people who've bought the contents of abandoned (behind on the rent) storage units at auction and sold the contents on ebay, yard sales, etc, for spare cash.

    Has anyone here done that? Horror stories? What do you do if you buy a storage unit and it's full of illegal stuff -- obviously stolen guns, drugs, dead bodies, etc.? Call the cops, I guess?

    Has this worked out for anyone?

    Tips? Pitfalls?

    Which is better, storage units in a wealthy neighborhood or in a poor neighborhood?

    I *have* a market in mind -- there's a fairly busy swap meet with a $2 (two-dollar) fee to park there and sell your junk. Basically, it's just an empty field next door to and owned by a local liquor/convenience store, and the liquor store owner makes money from the extra traffic. The swap meet gets tons of traffic and I'm there every few weekends anyway, selling birds.

    Leva
     
  2. ed/IL

    ed/IL Well-Known Member

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    Go to a few auctions and see what you can learn. A friend works at a storage place and he said there is some good deals. You are not allowed in the units so you look from the outside with door open. Some people had mirror on a stick to look around a little better. Also once you buy you take everything not leaving the trash behind. Where you sell makes a big difference. If the $2 market is no good you will have to find a better one. Pricing your items can be a little tricky. Might be a fun way to make a few bucks. I say go for it.
     

  3. Mandy

    Mandy Well-Known Member

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    I can tell you first hand, (I manage a storage facility) it is hit or miss. I unfortunately have been the one to cut open storage units and more often then not it is junk. Sometimes there is something worth while, but rarely. We do private auctions here, but it is still the same idea. Most of the time people who go delinquent, dont care, because there is nothing really worth anything to them. The law here requires we provide a month to pay with certified letters and putting it in paper under legal notices, so people get ample warning. The ones that usually "feel" they have anything worth anything pay-up, the ones that dont contact you and "abandone" 9 out of 10 times have junk.

    Hope this helps
    Mandy

    P.S. As for neighborhoods, I have had everything from Dodge Vipers, to garbage, litterlally stored here. In this business you get all types of people and "stuff"
     
  4. Blu3duk

    Blu3duk Well-Known Member

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    My wife used to work at a place that also had storage units, and we were given a couple to do with what we wanted..... if we had bought it we would not have made a whole lot but i found a computer in there that agfter i reloaded it sold it for $200. Some of the stuff we hauled to the dumpster, couch with only one leg and the stuffing coming out, family pictures and such [what do you do with things like that?] we did have a yard sale that we sold some ofthe things in but not for alot of profit, mostly so we did not have to store them in our barn or they were to good to just throw out.

    AS for bidding on a unit, if you cansee whats there, then it might be alright, but you need to factor in what your labor is gonna be before you bid..... mostly you have to either clear it out within a day or two or pay storage fee to keep it there too above your bid.

    William
     
  5. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    I know a couple of people who have done this (although usually it is auctioned off by the item locally, then remaining contents). Was told the few finds weren't enough above hauling off all the trash (and some people do store garbages full of household trash) to make it worth their while. As noted, if there was anything of value in there they people would settle up and take out what they wanted - then abandon the rest. Few finds have been things they missed (of no apparent value other than a collector). Just bid very low.

    Ken Scharabok
     
  6. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

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    Isn't it amazing the amount of money people will spend to store a bunch of junk hardly worth hauling to the dump?!?

    Kathleen
     
  7. CraftyDiva

    CraftyDiva Is anybody here?

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    I've heard most of the times your buying plain old junk. Like others stated, if it was worth anything the owners would pay the overdue storage fees.

    Since your thinking of selling at a swap meet, why not just buy items wholesale and sell them? You can get some pretty good deals from closeouts and overstock dealers and turn a good profit (if you know what your buying will sell in your area).

    Check out........ http://www.surplus.net/ and see if any of the companies have something you could double (at least) your money with. There are a few companies listed, some require buying by the skid some just the case or piece. It's worth a look see.

    Or do a search for closeouts/overstocks, you should get quite a few to check out.
     
  8. texastami

    texastami Zone 7B Supporter

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    I have a friend who got started doing this when her husband got laid off........ when he went back to work, she continued and has for almost 18 months....

    They would buy a few units and then have a yard sale... turned into a full time 3 day kind of thing..... and while it was ok in the beginning, it has become quite a PITA for them now......... they are tied down every TH/FR/SAT, and when they aren't OPEN, people are calling, knocking on their door asking them to open.... its really irritating.... and dangerous.... (she has had some REAL weirdos show up when she is there alone with her 2 children under age 4...) since they have introduced all these people to their neighborhood, they have been robbed (2x now in the past year -- stuff sitting outside NOT FOR SALE) and they have had 2 dogs stolen....... too many weird people for my liking!! I have spent more nites than I care to count over there helping her "empty the trailer" and get stuff sorted and put out for Thursday..... (some of the stuff is just too NASTY...... smelly and down right dirty...... we have found USED ADULT TOYS, used needles, nasty food, etc) On some weekends she would make $200 others, she would barely make $30.... never could tell.... but we always invested at least 6 hours of sorting and cleaning of the stuff EVERY TIME WE did it!!

    However, the worst part was when on 3 separate occassions, they purchased units, brought them to their home and had the OWNERS of the units SHOW UP AT THEIR HOUSE DEMANDING THEM BACK.....(got their name from the Storage Unit managers)........ one time the woman brought her family and they spent 3 hours picking through the stuff for baby pics, etc (her baby had died in infancy and she had lost her other child to an accident...and she let them just take the stuff at no charge.... the second time, a woman showed up with a man with a gun, and it got ugly quickly (they were arrested) and the last time - the woman bought back her unit for $800....(they paid $100 for it) (looking back, they believe the woman had some "stuff"hidden in the unit that she HAD to have back - ie: stolen stuff or drugs..... they hadn't even unloaded the trailer yet and SHE offered them the $800 right off the bat and called someone to help her unload their trailer into her pickup...... they never saw what her "stuff" was..... but it was too freaky for me......

    I can't imagine living like that......and its sad to see Grandma's stuff be given up.... sometimes I have wished I could have tracked down the family of the owners to see if they wanted the 1894 wedding pics or the family history a loving grandma wrote out...... the one that haunts me is the unit that came with a woman's binders full of writings (10 3-ring binders FULL of writings she had written to her husband and children and had 4 children she really loved..... I started reading them and couldn't stop.... in the end through some detective work of my own and some clues she had written down in the end, I learned she had lost her children to CPS, (she left them for a week alone) her husband left her and she died of AIDS... it was horrible.... I stopped helping sort units after that...... too hard not to become emotionally connected... the wondering "What happened to these people?"

    They have a huge 4 room addition on their garage (that used to be a daycare) full of stuff right now they can't get rid of.......(all the good stuff is gone) and they don't have time to go to any more auctions due to his work schedule.....
    They did manage to find some really good stuff in a few of the units... some gold coins worth big bucks.... and some collector's stuff that brought top dollar.... but to me, its not worth the hassle of sorting all the "nasty junk" to find the riches... too time consuming..... 2 outta 20 isn't exactly a great return.....

    They are getting out of the business at the first of the year - taking what is left to the dump and she is going to open a daycare instead... (yeah, well, thats a whole nother story!!)

    Now on the other end, being a buyer of her stuff, I have gotten more homeschooling books, household stuff, crafts, that I wouldn't have gotten any where else..... but sometimes, its almost too much!! I stopped going over there almost 4 months ago when she's open (I don't need more stuff!)

    This is just my friends experience......

    I wish you the best of luck if you choose this endeavor....
     
  9. Mandy

    Mandy Well-Known Member

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    I cant believe how, crazy that was of the storage managers to tell the people where their stuff went. We never tell anyone who comes back, where their stuff is. If they didn't pay in the alotted time given to them, then they show up after their stuff is gone, it is too bad, so sad; but your stuff is gone. It does stink having to tell people tha,t but I would never risk the safety of my auction man!!

    And yes it is sad some of the things people let go, pictures of their children or families, birth cert., family things. Though garbage to someone else, one would think these things ment something to these people, but often times it doesn't. :no:

    Mandy
     
  10. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    I see more and more vendors at flea markets selling out of banana boxes. (These are the 10" x 16" x 20" heavy-duty, double cover cardboard boxes bananas and other produce is commonly shipped in - free at supermarkets if you know the folks.) They put the top cover down for a base and then set the box with contents on it. When they are ready to leave boxing is reversed and all boxes go into trailer (or truck) in good order since they are the same size.

    On having to collect state sales tax I suspect it varies state-by-state. In TN if you sell below a certain amount (aimed at garage salers) you don't. Most flea market vendors I've bought from say it is included in the price. I collect it on my eBay sales delivered in TN and turn it over to the state quarterly. By doing so, I also avoid paying sales tax on what I buy for my use in production (e.g., steel stock) or for resale.

    Ken Scharabok

    Added: The 100% markup is the criteria I use. When I am considering something for resale my evaluation is am I reasonably confident of being able to turn it over within a short period of time at, at least, a 100% markup. So far the ones where I have done better than 100% more than offset those I don't. Whatever you do, you will end up with some dogs.
     
  11. texastami

    texastami Zone 7B Supporter

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    Actually, it is apparently AGAINST the law to give out the name of the winning bidder at the storage auction (or so my friend says) and she made that very clear to the managers who did it... (two times it was the same manager)... The first time was a sympathy thing...... :( Keep in mind, the people always came within a few hours of having their things auctioned and hauled off.... it was never more than a day........
     
  12. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    Can the owner of the contents bid against their own goods? Say you are $300 behind in rent. If they bid less then the $300 they save some money.

    P.S. I once bought out the remaining contents of a backyard shed. Found a box of very old family photos. Was able to return them to the family through the auctioneer company. Another time bought out a complete locker. Found a group of wedding pictures. A friend knew one of the party in them and they were returned through the friend (who was sworn not to say who bought their items).
     
  13. Mandy

    Mandy Well-Known Member

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    Ken, no the owner can not bid.... if they have money to bid, they have money to pay. If they were to come to the facility I worked at, there is no public auction anyway. However, if they came in, before the items were sold, but were scheduled for auction, I would give them the opertunity to pay and get their stuff, but they would have to vacate right away. We have removed some late fees in order to have at least the rent paid for so the people could have their things. I hate selling peoples stuff, I would much rather work a deal, give them their things, and send them on their way.

    Mandy

    P.S. I have held on to and still have, from a unit we auctioned, baby pics and a babies first book. I felt bad getting rid of it