A good story about storage auctions from CNN money, gives some good facts about storage auctions.
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
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.
Who’ this Dirk? Read about Dirk
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?
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.
Hi Scott, I’ve been buying at Las Vegas storage unit auctions for awhile now. I’m selling on eBay, craigslist and kind of tapped out garage sales in my neighborhood. I’d like to start selling at Broadacres Swap Meet but don’t know how to get started. Got any tips?
Kevin, Las Vegas
Thanks for the question Kevin. Selling at Broadacres Swap Meet is fairly simple. Actually making money week after week is a different story. Here’s how I’d go about it if I were you.
Take a couple field trips to Broadacres Swap Meet before you start selling. Notice the demographic. From your field trip, you’d assume that the majority of your customers will be Mexicans. What you won’t see from your field trips is that the majority of your customers will likely be vendors. See the vendors out there tend to specialize in certain types of product, ie. cell phones, clothing, toys, tools, etc. As a storage auction buyer, you’ll have all kinds of stuff that you can sell in bulk to vendors. But to maxamize your sales, you need to have merchandise that will appeal to the masses as well. So go walk through the place and notice what seems to be selling, where people congregate and money changes hands. Also familiarize yourself with the different sections of the place and where the office is.
2. On a Friday morning, load your truck full of stuff to sell at Broadacres and get in line behind the line of trucks waiting to pull into the annex – it’s located on the first entrance off of N. Las Vegas Blvd. Have $30 in cash to pay for your spot and you get to pick an open spot in the parking lot inside. Set your stuff out and see what happens. You can set it out on a tarp on the ground or bring a couple of folding tables whatever you have. It doesn’t really matter – you’re hoping to meet the early buyers. These are the folks that come to the swap meet early to see if you have what they’re looking for. They are intense collectors, re-sellers in different venues, ebayers, store owners or other vendors at the swap meet. For instance, I always bring a box of cords with me to Broadacres and there’s a guy who will give me $20 for the box. He displays them at his cord booth and profits by selling them individually. There’s plenty of tool vendors who will buy everything you have as well.
3. Go to the office by noon and reserve the space you’re sitting in for the next two days. Keep doing what you’re doing with your stuff. You’re learning what might sell and for how much.
4. On Sunday, have somebody watch your space while you walk around and look at the other areas of the meet and see if you’d rather have a different space for next week. I personally prefer selling in the back by the McDonalds but this is just a personal preference. Go to the office and see what’s available to reserve for the next week and buy the space you prefer – about $70 to reserve for the next week.
5. Repeat this process and refine what you’re selling until you can consistently sell $1500 to $2000 a week. We did this by finding merchandise we could sell cheaply that was appealing to many customers. We found that dragging our junk from storage auctions out every week resulted in $300 to $600 per week in sales and was very depressing to handle.
6. If you really like selling at Broadacres Swap Meet, you can permanently rent a space with a shed. You’ll have to get a business license, a sales tax id, and keep some records but you can become a permanent vendor if that is your thing. Personally, I don’t like accounting that much but hey, it’s a free country.
Kevin, best of luck and thanks for the question. I hope this helps.
Dirk McFergus was spotted today at State Line Storage in Post Falls, ID. It was a brisk 19 degrees with a light dusting of snow. He had on a hoodie under his Columbia titanium jacket (picked up at a storage auction in Las Vegas) and snow boots (freebies from a friend). A guy with a 2 billion candlepower flashlight fell and most likely fractured his hip. Dirk was silent, apparently just observing the 12 bidders scooping up some junk for cheap. Knowing his style, there weren’t many collectibles but with storage auctions you never know. He was with Sugar and she looked stylish in all black. The couple left early as they apparently weren’t in any mood to be buying junk.
Who’ this Dirk? Read about Dirk
The dreaded “setup” or staging of a unit.
The “setup” is when a storage company or auction house will more-or-less stuff a bunch of shit, from stuff laying around, or combine some smaller units and auction it off. In a few cases over the years, I got paid $100.00 bucks to haul off units.
Yes this sucks for the people at the auction! How does a setup go-down? Maybe the storage company has some left over units with some junk they are unable to get-rid-of, so they will just slap the junk they have laying around in a open storage unit and just auction it off!
Fun Story: I had a large truck and when units went unsold or they just had a few things left behind. I would tell the manger at the storage facility, that I will remove all his unwanted items or units for a fee and haul it all to the dump. One time I was at the storage auction an about 3 units went unsold. I over-heard the manger telling the auctioneer that he had to get rid of a bunch of stuff, because garbage was really piling-up. So I offered my services, and he said ok. I removed about 5 units of junk, we kind-of hit it-off and we where talking about how he had been removing stuff from the units and getting a real stockpile of goodies. To be honest, after buying a few storage units myself, it was disturbing to even hear this come out of him mouth. Trust me, you never want to be bidding on a unit that, the “good stuff” has been removed.
Actor Nicolas Cage said it was “divine providence” that his stolen vintage comic book was found 11 years later in a storage unit in Southern California. This wasn’t just any comic book. It is the first Superman comic, titled “Action Comics No. 1,” worth about $1 million. read full story
My “little niche” for buying storage units was the furniture. I was always looking for storage units with good solid real wood furniture. The real wood would allow me to easily fix anything broken, paint or re-stain if needed, and at the very least provide me better return on my money.
My theory to support this is, Las Vegas, where I purchased most of my storage units. Las Vegas is a real transient place. Everyday people are always moving in and out of Las Vegas, therefore made used furniture a safe bet.
When I first heard about storage auctions was in the early 90’s. It wasn’t until the late 90’s when I decided to buy storage units and selling the items I won for profit. During my storage auction buying experience I would come a cross this subculture group of people who are small store owners, enthusiastic local garage yard sellers, flea market sellers, eBay sellers or just a casual buyer for personal gain. I have learned over the years that the competitors comes from all walks of life and sometimes will work in teams. For the most part, they are usually experience storage hunters looking for the best storages to sell for a high profit. Now that storage auctions has risen in an all time high of popularity due to being televised. It will be interesting to see the explosion of competition one will experience in buying storage units for a profit.
Everyone is in it for the money. For the first time buyer or the causal buyer be sure to study your crowd, get familiar with who’s around you to give you the optimal bidding experience.
- Buy units with nice boxes. People who purchase nice boxes usually means they wanted to keep their items in good condition. This is a good rule of thumb to remember when considering bidding on unit.
- Nicely stacked units means care was taking to prevent damages to content.
- Try to see if there is any labeling on boxes to give a tip of what is within.
- Make sure to bring 2-3 padlocks with you. (You never know, a friend of mine got 9 storage units for 300.00 bucks one day! So you never really know.)
- Be standing by with a truck that can remove the contents of the unit, in 1 or 2 trips. Paying to remove the content of the unit, will increase the cost of your overhead, and make it difficult to make money.
- Never return personal items, trust me on this. This never works out well. I know this feels strange, but contacting the old owner is a mistake. *Don’t forget – in some cases you have just purchased the entire contents of someones life. If you want to do them a favor, properly dispose of their papers by shredding. Sounds harsh, but is the truth. In some cases, some storage companies will encourage you to return personal items, this is up to you.
- I have always found household goods to be a safe bet. I like to see real wood desks, chairs, this also tells you that there is a chance of better quality items.