Category Archives: How to make money with storage units

What I look for in a storage unit

Antique Dresser

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.

I won my first auction, now what?

Congratulations on winning your first storage auction!

I have outlined the steps to liquidating the contents of your storage unit.

Step one

  • You need to remove the content in the storage locker, in most cases this needs to be done within 24 hrs. Some people will take their time looking through boxes and sort the items.  I don’t even bother going through the content until I have removed everything.

Step two

  • Remove trash and sort. I like to remove all the personal documents and pictures and shred them. Some storage facility encourages you to return the personal documents as a courtesy, I never do this. I properly dispose of all documents and photos by shredding them, as a courtesy.
  • I look at everything in the unit. To date I have found $1500.00 in a sock, $3000.00 in a Bible, it’s not just cash, but it is almost anything. People hide things in their house, just like you! BUT sometimes they will forget where they have hidden their most treasured item and you can become the benefactor of these items, but remember, you must look through everything in the unit!
  • When sorting you must remember almost everything is worth something, knowing where to sell it can make all the difference. It sounds sick and gross, but I have sold a 5 gallon bucket full of USED sexual devices.

I make three piles. *Moving things once can save you time and money.

1. eBay – I snap all the photos, right on the spot. Within 72 hours I will have the selected items posted on eBay. As for pricing the storage unit items, I have a good idea of what items go for. However, I will do a market value research on items I am not clear on to ensure the best return on the item.

2. Garage sales or flea-markets – I store these items in easy stackable crates. This give me the ease of  loading and unloading the storage units items to be sold at the flea-market on Friday.

3. Craigslist – I have photos of everything. I have prepared a template with a meeting address, contact information and  a short description for buyers, which allows me to cut my time in half  pasting and post on Craigslist.

*Fun fact: Craigslist online free classifieds has not reached full popularity across the US, in many areas, this is not the most popular method of reaching the masses! ***also see: Backpage online classifieds.

Tip: Make money with donations, I took many items I found to the salvation army or local woman’s shelter to get a tax write-off.

Step Three

  • Self appraisal – looking up things on the web and researching cost can make you more money, for most things there is already an established cost. But sometimes it boils down to what someone is willing to pay.
  • Having connections to sell items can help – I knew where to sell my storage items living in Las Vegas, about three hours from the Pasadena swap-meet in California allowed me good access to a large market of buyers/collectors.

Free information – How to find storage auctions in your area

When a storage facility is going to hold an auction for a storage unit in default, they must publish it and the information is free for everyone to review. It is is required by law for the storage facility to be able to auction someone’s unclaimed storage unit.

Does it feel like all this “storage auction” mumbo- jumbo is some sort of closely held secret? Well it’s not! The Storage Facility wants you to show up and buy a unit. The storage unit is going to the highest bidder. If that means selling it for two dollars or twenty thousand dollars, more people always means more money!

The number one question I receive – “Where do you find storage auctions?” It is simple really; the best way to find storage unit auctions is to search online or in the classified section of your local newspaper.

Please note: If you don’t find any storage auction listings, this usually means auctions are not currently scheduled in your area. But keep on the lookout because they may be scheduled soon. Still can’t find a Storage Auction? Then you may want to look to local shopper guides, or smaller local publications. The reason for this is, due higher publishing cost the Storage Unit Facility Owners will use smaller publications to save money. Remember some units will be sold for just  five dollars, and even if they are sold for a few hundred dollars this will only cover a fraction of the lost rental dues, administrative cost so storage unit facility owners don’t want to spend too much money advertising auctions.

Here is an example of the legal notice area of the Las Vegas (online) newspaper as an example:

If you offer free storage auction listing information and would like a free link to your site please contact me here:

Hiring people

After buying a few storage units, your thoughts should start going towards expanding this little slice of heaven. Besides, who doesn’t want more of a good thing? I know I did, it happens to everyone. Most get that look in their eyes and the questions start coming!

But don’t forget this is not light work. After buying a few units, all you are thinking about is how much MORE money you can make and if I could only PURCHASE-MORE units! I talked to many people about larger scale buying in more storage units.  As a matter of fact, after telling a friend of mine, it was less than a week until he started buying storage units on his own. It was interesting to watch, the different things he got out of the storage lockers versus what I got, and a birds eyes-view at what he sold many of his items for. It was really something to watch. Even though I dabbled out of curiosity while my friend was going full blast in front of my eyes, I was burned out. I was burned out on moving more than anything, even to this day I really-really hate moving. I moved most of the stuff by myself, even to this day I feel like I have been scared from the moving experience. But looking at all my friends stuff, it was almost to much to stand to see my friend making money doing something I somehow felt I had personally crafted, to some extent.

Fun fact – My friend sold on eBay and also stopped buying units too. I quit selling on eBay because of increased high fees and poor development direction I felt eBay was going.  Even today as I look around eBay something is missing, the organic sellers that were the back bone of eBay have almost seemed to disappear. But my point was his feed back number is almost the same as mine. I think he sold online a little longer than I did. I stared looking at the overall-cost of dealing with eBay, labor, shipping, Paypal fees and it didn’t look good. I guess more than anything I was amazed how our paths seemed very close, silly thought…

Hiring people can be hard, this is why many team up. For one thing – when you buy one of these storage units you have no idea what is inside, so if you never see an item, how do you know if its missing?

There are many things that can be lifted, gold for example. I would say 90 out of 100 units I found some type of gold, even if it is just scrap or a gold chain, 10 -20 units it adds up fast! And again it is hard work, I guess I bring this up again because it is! You never know what you will be moving or cleaning up and that poses some interesting challenges. What do you pay for that? If you buy a unit for $100.00, after gas and moving, all said and done, if you make… let say $200-$300 bucks, it really doesn’t leave much room for payroll.

Who goes to storage auctions?

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.

Storage Auction Fraud

Unfortunately there is always a dark side to every opportunity. In my experience in buying storage units I have discovered some interesting little scams going on. I personally know people that have been scammed buying auctioned goods, but this type of thing is very hard to prove, and more than anything it is hard to argue for your money back after the fact. Protecting yourself can be your only defense against going home broke and disappointed.

— A Word of Caution — Smart money says -“Bidding on what you can see can saves you money the rest should be considered gambling.”

  • Pre-screen – Pre-screen means someone that has had access to the unit, has removed items out before the auction. Some people can’t help themselves, some storage places will enter the unit to remove valuable items from the storage unit because they are into making a profit as well. In fact I have personally discovered some storage facilities have side businesses in selling the contents of storage units.  Keep in mind only the owner knows what is in the unit, and the new owner has no idea what is missing.
  • A plant – A plant is someone put in the crowd to bid the unit up. This is designed to run up the cost on units. A  dishonest storage facility owner has one motivate when using a plant, and that is having an advantage in making a greater profit from lost profits. I have personally witnessed this one.

What to do: It is best to first bring this to the attention of the person holding the auction so furthers actions to take place to make a fair auction.


  1. When viewing the storage unit, check for open boxes. Boxes with tape pulled off, the appearance  of being rummaged through or what seems to be disheveled.
  2. Look to see if the  original lock has been removed. I personally will bid more if the lock is cut off at the time of the auction, call me silly!
  3. Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut, you will be surprised what you will over-hear.

Return on investment for buying storage units at auction or (ROI)

When considering buying storage units at auction for a profit Buying  low and selling high is the name of the game. A good tip is to bid on what I can see from the door of the unit. What you see on TV is really fun, but having connections to move items can be key for getting top dollar. For example, sellers who have special interest in collector items, such as, Hot Wheels, Antiques, signs and so forth.

Removing the ALL items from the unit in one trip will keep cost low and profits high. Uhaul is great service, but $100.00- $200.00 in extra cost can make all the difference to your bottom line. Profits can be thin, so you need to give your self the best possible chance to make as much money as you can. Even an investment of $2000.00 into a good truck will payoff and save you money in the long run.

I would say spread over 10 units, for every $1.00 invested, I would expect a return of $4.00 – $7.50.

Strange things you will find in almost any storage unit

The War - Caesar Palace 1-500 numbered buckle.

You never know what you are going to find in a storage unit, that is what makes it so much fun. You would be shocked at what you might find in almost every storage unit. This is my list!

  • homemade pornographic pictures
  • guns
  • drug paraphernalia
  • sexual devices
  • money
  • gold
  • personal journals
  • human remains
  • safes
  • Bibles
  • photos
  • Urns
  • stuffed pets
  • birth certificate
  • wedding dresses/rings
  • baby’s teeth

Want to see some of the crazy things I have gotten out of a storage unit? Click CLICK HERE

Storage auction – best result buyer tips

  • 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.

Scott’s tips for storage units to avoid

You will find that you can see many items in plain sight, standing at the door of the unit before you bid. I use this as my personal guide for buying storage units, or in this case, ones I want to stay away from. When these items are present my return on investment or my (ROI) seems to be much lower. Look for clues of what might be inside!

  • Mirrors with pictures on them (like what you might see from the traveling Carnival)
  • The same thing goes for pictures on blankets.
  • Clothes thrown in trash bags. (this means a quick exit)
  • Don’t get hung-up on flat screens and computer parts. These kind of items can be damaged and are hard to sell for a good return.
  • Excessive trash

Tip: Know the cost to dispose trash. There is nothing worse then buying a storage unit full of trash and then having to pay to dispose of it.