Category Archives: How to make money with storage units

How do I become a buyer and reseller of Jewelry?

Hi Dirk, I read your post about selling jewelry and wonder how I go about becoming a buyer and seller of jewelry?  I’ve been to storage auctions as you suggest and there’s too much other junk involved.  Any suggestions?

Tamara, Kansas City, MO.

Dear Tamara, thank you for the question, I haven’t had one in such a while that I thought nobody was interested in buying and selling things anymore.  My faith is restored!

Ok, so you want to be a buyer and seller of jewelry; here’s how you do it.  First, recognize that you can be anything you want to be in this world.  If you want to be a jewelry buyer, imagine your self or pretend that you are and be prepared to take action on it.  You need to start with research.  I recommend you start with costume jewelry.  You need a price guide to train your eye to spot pieces that people are selling cheap because they do not know their true value.  Here’s a great book that we often use in our business:

Learn all that you can before you set out to buy. Your next step is to shop at garage sales, flea markets and on craigslist. There are sellers of jewelry all over the place and the three places I mentioned above are the most likely to be selling pieces under value. At every garage sale you should ask, are you selling any jewelry? Even if they are not displaying it, they might have some they hadn’t even considered selling. We find this all the time and when we do, we make an offer to buy everything. People have garage sales for a variety of reasons and if they’re not professionals, they WILL sell you their stuff for practically nothing. They just want to get rid of things, make the rent or whatever. You are most likely to get gold, silver and diamonds from this buying situation.

After you have bought some jewelry, you need to identify and grade what you have before you re-sell it. There are some tools you can acquire to help you with this task. You need a simple test to determine if it’s predious metal and what karat. Consider the following:

This is an inexpensive tester you can start with so that you are not ever underselling any piece. You can also take the tester with you when you’re re-selling at flea markets, craft shows or wherever you will be selling your merchandise and make a few extra bucks by testing pieces for $5 per test. You’d be surprised how many people need metals tested. You should also invest in a diamond tester. I once sold a piece of jewelry with diamonds for $40 and heard later that the buyer re-sold it for $1400. I wasn’t sure if they were real diamonds or not and he pulled out his tester on the spot and happily handed me the forty bucks I was asking for. You don’t want to have that happen to you so get a diamond tester.

We had a funny jewelry buying experience I’ll leave you with. My wife found a seller on craigslist – she was offering 50 pieces of costume jewelry for $40. It sounded promising just from the title; at a dollar a piece, we’re guaranteed profit. We showed up to their house with cash in hand and checked out the goods. This place was straight up ghetto and we walked into a crime scene in progress. I was overwhelmed by the smell of dog piss and the seller was sleeping on a mattress on the floor in their living room. Her toothless husband showed us the jewelry and we looked over just to make sure that the earrings had pairs and what-not. While we were looking over her costume jewelry, he sat on the mattress and she said, “get off of me, I’m sleeping.” ”Whatever, you f–king wh-re,” he said as if we weren’t even there. ”Do you have a grocery bag?” I asked and handed him the $40. We wondered if that was going to be enough for the pair to get their fix of whatever. Later we looked over the stuff, took our price guide out and found several vintage pieces, worth several hundred dollars. We found some sterling silver. Overall, we’ll probably make 5-6 hundred dollars from our $40 investment. It’s not without some risk but the risk is outweighed by the reward. We bagged and tagged the items and put it with our portable sales stash. When we get to Venice Beach next month, we’ll have quite a sale.
Much success!
Sincerely,
Dirk

Making money from the misfortune of others?

Question from Anne G. in Hawaii:

Dirk,
A friend gave me your book and I gave it a quick read. It sounds like you’re suggesting people to prey upon the misfortune of others to find stuff to sell? (Hateful rant omitted.)

Answer:

Anne, thank you for your question. I get asked this one a lot. It is true that much of the merchandise I have sold came from people who were in financial distress. One way to look at this is you’re either predator or prey. You either eat or get eaten. Now, this is not such a pleasant way to look at things so I choose to look at it as follows:

There many, many reasons that a may become in a weak financial position; loss of a job, excessive debt, gambling, drinking/drugs, divorce, imprisonment and death. I have found evidence of these personal problems in some of the delinquent storage units I have purchased at auction. I didn’t have anything to do with the person failing to pay their rent on their stored goods. In fact, when I show up to an auction and the auctioneer tells us that several of the people paid their delinquent rent, I cheer them. I think people should pay the rent to save their stuff if it has value to them. Why would they have put it in storage otherwise? If everyone would just pay their rent there would never be a storage unit auction. But for whatever reason, some people don’t pay their rent and the auction goes forward. When I buy it, I move it out of the storage facility so the facility can rent the space – furthering commerce. I clean it and sell it, recycling if you will. So you could say that I’m performing a service which furthers economic growth. I think of it as a green business.

Who’ this Dirk? Read about Dirk

Controversy over quitting job to buy storage units

Question from Robert in Washington

“You say that the third step to financial freedom is quitting your job. This seems like financial suicide right now. The last thing you should advise anyone to do in this crappy economy is quit their job. You’re just a third rate hack with bad advice.”

Answer:

Robert, I’m deducting the bonus points I gave you for reading the book for the fact that you did not phrase your email in the form of a question. Still, your comment deserves a response so here it goes. You’ll recall that I gave you permission in the book to do what is best for you, it’s not a hard and fast rule. I hope you’d agree with me that if you had the opportunity to work for yourself, that would be better than making someone else’s financial dreams come true. However, if your life circumstances, ie. you are broke, keep you in your job until you can get out of debt, save some money or whatever you need to do to start living a sane, financial life within your means, then by all means, stay at your job. Robert, I respectfully suggest you re-read the chapter on activating the Observer. If you can do this one thing, you will be the person answering the questions instead of some guy you don’t know from Adam. Hey, thanks for buying my book though and I hope you come back for the next one!
Sincerely,
Dirk

Who’ this Dirk? Read about Dirk

How do I start buying storage units with no money?

Question from Benjamin in Atlanta:

Dirk, I found you from your friend That picked up your book. I like the idea of buying a storage unit auction and I’ve seen that there are several around Atlanta. I lost my job, my house is being foreclosed and I can’t rub two nickels together right now. How can I get started in the storage auction business?
Thanks in advance,
Benjamin T., Atlanta

Answer:

Benjamin, Jared’s a good kid and I’m glad you found his website. Maybe you should ask him how to make some money because he’s making it hand over fist with his internet project. But since you asked me, I’ll give you a straight answer. I don’t know how many times somebody has whined to me that they don’t have any money to buy a storage auction. Holy crap balls dude, how about selling your stuff? Have you had a garage sale lately? In my book, I recommend that someone starting this sell their personal possessions, a) to raise the CASH to buy at auction and b) to begin learning the value of second hand possessions. How do you think you’re going to know what to buy at auction if you don’t know what someone is willing to pay you for the stuff? I’m not trying to be hard on you but you’ve got to use some common sense. You can get paid to be in a medical experiment, you can sell your plasma, you can get cash for donating your sperm. Try cashing in all the coins you find laying around. Drive around your neighborhood on trash day and look for things people are throwing away that you can sell. Put an ad on craigslist that you’ll haul away people’s junk. There’s ten million ways you can make a few hundred dollars in cash that you can parlay into a storage auction. Oh, you will find more ideas in my book From Garage Sale to Financial Freedom in Five Steps and you can pick up some tips on auctions from an article I recently wrote. Thanks for your question. I hope this helped.
Much success,
Dirk

Who’ this Dirk? Read about Dirk

How Can I Improve Sales During the Recession?

Question from Jenn in Las Vegas:

Hi Scott, how’s Mexico? I don’t know if you remember me, I met you about a year ago at the Safeguard storage unit auction in Las Vegas. You gave me some great tips about selling on eBay. We recently had a garage sale and our sales weren’t nearly as good as they have been in the past. In fact, our sales from craigslist and ebay seem to be suffering. Do you have any ideas on how we can improve our sales?

Thanks,
Jenn

Answer:

Hi Jenn, Mexico is great, thanks. Of course I remember you, you bought that $50 mystery unit and I always wondered what you found in that container. It must have been good because I’m assuming from your question that you’re still buying storage auctions in Las Vegas. I called some friends in Las Vegas last night to get a sense of what their sales are like. They all expressed that their sales are more challenging than three months ago. I was also told that there has been some great merchandise recently purchased from storage unit auctions in Las Vegas. It’s still a brisk buying market with tons of opportunities. Here’s my thoughts on improving your sales.

First, set your buying sights higher and go for more quality merchandise. I’m not telling you to forget about the $50 mystery units. You can still pick those up and find some treasures but concentrate your buying on the higher end units. People are still buying but they want more of a bargain because the average consumer is in fear. They still have the urge to buy, they’re just unsure of whether they can afford it. You have to make the price attractive on quality items, list them in multiple venues and be patient. Second, resist the temptation to get every penny out of your junk. If your last garage sale was anything like what mine were like, you had a mixture of quality items and lots of junk. For your next sale, I’d reduce the amount of junk and increase the amount of quality items. When you’re sorting your storage auction purchases, be ruthless and get rid of junk immediately. Make donations, put free ads on craigslist, take junk to the dump. When you’re offering great deals on really good stuff, you’ll get the flock of customers back. You will all appreciate having less junk around. Third, don’t be afraid to buy big units. I often avoided units with lots of furniture because of the work involved and my limitation of storage space. The big units will often have a lot of mid level consumer goods like electronics, appliances, china and the like. You can take the furniture straight to an auction house or consignment store to eliminate the storage problem. Or sell the furniture you’re using right now and upgrade with the stuff you just bought. Finally, eBay is still the best venue for your collectible items. Collectors seem to be less affected by the recession. If they need a ’56 Corvette to complete their die cast car collection, they’re going to find the money from somewhere when you list it on eBay – happy days when you have two or more collectors craving the same item. Do your best to adapt and improvise in your selling and you’ll weather through the storm.
Much success,
Scott Asher

First Question from the bag – What do I do with all this stuff?

The first question comes from Mary F., Chicago, Ill.

Dear Dirk,

I’m quite upset with you.  My husband bought your book and purchased two storage unit auctions, against my better judgment.  Now, we have a house full of stuff and although he’s sold some of it, I can’t stand my house looking like a junk yard.  My husband acts like he has gold fever and is ready to buy more.  What should I do?

Answer:

Mary, I’m glad your husband read my book, did you read it?  I explained several ways to move the merchandise once you bring it home.  I assume you held a garage sale since that’s the best way to move a house full of merchandise.  Here’s a couple of more suggestions to unload large quantities of merchandise if you’re not willing to sell individual pieces.  Look in the phone book for auction houses in Chicago, there should be several.  Go see a couple of these auctions and you’ll see that you can create box lots with many items.  Box lots are a great way to make some money and get rid of the stuff around your house.  Another suggestion would be to load a truck full of items and take to your local swap meet.  If you really just want to get rid of the stuff, load it up and take it to your favorite charity and get the receipt – you can deduct at least $500 from your taxes.  If you don’t want to be bothered loading it up, put an ad on craigslist under the free section and watch people back up their trucks and haul everything away.

I’m sorry you’re upset with your husband but you should consider reading the book and working with him as a team.  Two heads are always better than one when it comes to selling your house full of merchandise.  It takes constant energy to list and sell.  If you don’t want to do it, you should just tell him you don’t like that.  If he doesn’t understand your desires maybe you guys should seek marriage counseling.

Good luck!

Who’ this Dirk? Read about Dirk

What’s up with Las Vegas Storage Unit Auctions?

Question:

Scotty Boy, I was at a storage unit auction in Las Vegas and I couldn’t believe what people were paying for the stuff.  What is going on with this craziness?

James B., Las Vegas

Answer:

James, I was in town for the storage unit auction last week you’re referring to and I agree that there is some craziness going on here.  What I saw were a bunch of laptards, desperate for merchandise, willing to pay anything to give themselves work.  That first storage unit auctioned off for $750 absolutely blew my mind.  There’s no way, in my opinion that unit full of junk could have been a profitable purchase at that amount.  In fact, everything sold at that particular auction was sold too high.  As a professional buyer, I just watch and walk away from such situations.  It appears, at least at the moment that the gig is up in the Las Vegas Storage Unit Auction game.   So it’s time to move to plan B.

Plan B:  There are still many buying opportunities out there that you can be looking at – it just takes more effort on your part to find them.  Try looking over the collectibles for sale on craigslist.  When you see something that strikes your fancy, check the completed listings on ebay.  What you’re looking for is a high percentage of listed items closing and an average amount per sale.  When you find something that looks like a winner on ebay, go back to craigslist and start making low-ball offers on the ads.  If you’re persistent enough with this, you will get merchandise and be able to make a profit on ebay.  Also, get back on a garage sale circuit.  Stay away from the pro garage sale and stick with the people who just want to clear out stuff so that they can go buy more stuff.  There are many fantastic bargains waiting for ebay sellers at garage sales.  In time, the las vegas storage unit auction circuit will thin out.  The laptards that are overpaying will go out of business and you can get sheds full of great stuff cheap perhaps.  But you can’t put all your eggs in one basket so being in an opportunistic business, you have to go where the opportunities are.

Thanks for the great question – I hope this answer helps.

Scott Asher

Old Painting Found in Storage Unit Auction

Hey Scott, I bought my first storage unit at auction last week. There was some decent stuff, furniture, appliances, a sweet tv, some video games and dvd’s. The reason I’m writing is I found an old painting but I can’t find anything about it because it’s not signed. Any ideas on how I can figure out if it’s worth anything?

Thanks,
Ron, Las Vegas

Hi Ron, congrats on getting some good stuff. I have to tell you that my wife and I have found some art that we couldn’t figure out anything about. I have a couple ideas that might help you. I am aware of four auction houses near Las Vegas, Las Vegas Auction, McManus Auction, Clark County Public Auction, and Darwin’s Auction at the Boulder City Antique Mall. They all offer consignment and might have an idea about the value of your painting. You can also take digital pictures and start sending them out to various places on the internet like askart.com and artnet.com. What we usually do is take great pictures and list them on ebay with a starting price of 9.99 but we purchase the Gallery Plus feature. This gets the painting an affordable exposure and we’ve sold the majority of our art this way. One last option is to call some local antique dealers and ask them if they’re interested in looking at the painting. We’ve had several come to the house and we ask them lots of questions. They usually say they have to research the item and you’ll never hear from them again. The process can be frustrating but the last thing you want to happen is sell it at a garage sale for $50 and then see the buyer on the antique roadshow with a $20,000 painting.
Hope that helps,
Scott R Asher

How Many Garage Sales Can I have?

QUESTION:

Hey Dirk,
I was looking at your book on Amazon and love the idea of making some money at garage sales but a neighbor told me that we’re only allowed by law to have two garage sales per year. Even if I had the two best garage sales ever, I don’t see how it’s possible to reach financial freedom from that. I know there are people that break this law, how do they get around it?

Dana, Atlanta

ANSWER:

Dear Dana,
Thanks for your question. First, I wouldn’t take your well meaning neighbor’s word on the legal limit for garage sales in your neighborhood. You need to determine whether you’re governed by the city or county, depending on where you live and actually read the ordinance or code that states the legal limits for garage sales in your jurisdiction. Second, understand that code enforcement is a complaint driven process. If nobody complains about your garage sale then, in theory, you could have it every day. I was personally told this by more than one code enforcement officer when I lived in Las Vegas. Also understand that the definition of garage sale is typically considered “outside sales.” That means that you’re not having a garage sale if you’re selling items inside the house.

When I first started the business I held a garage sale every weekend until a neighbor complained. I told my mentor about code enforcement showing up at my door and he told me my problem was that I hadn’t involved my neighbors. He told me to speak to the neighbors, invite them to hold sales at the same time and give them items they want from your sale for free – in essence, to bribe them. The next opportunity I had to hold a “legal” garage sale, we printed a letter to the neighbors explaining that the law allowed so many days of outside sales and we were going to have the first of our four days on such and such weekend. We invited them to participate, that we would advertise the sale as a multi-family sale and they knew how much traffic we could generate and they could profit and have fun as well. Nobody on the block chose to participate but we never had any further complaints from the neighbors and we extended our sales past the legal limit on several occasions. If you have a good relationship and respect the fact that nobody wants to live next to a permanent garage sale, you can exceed the legal limit of sales days without incident. Just don’t be obnoxious about it. Also, if you read my book, you’ll find that I describe many other outlets to sell your merchandise besides garage sales. Garage sales are just the beginning of learning to sell on a personal level and to determine the intrinsic value of any item. Once you acquire that skill, you’ll see that you can make money anywhere, all the time.

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