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Interview with Storage Unit Auction author Dirk McFergus

Interview with Storage Unit Auction author Dirk McFergus

Scott:  It’s my pleasure today to speak with my friend, Dirk McFergus, author of “From Garage Sale to Financial Freedom in Five Steps.”  I don’t think many people know this but I have the first copy of his book and had the opportunity to watch him and his wife thrive in the Las Vegas storage auction business.

Dirk, you wrote about storage auctions back in 2008, do you think anything has changed since it’s become the subject of reality TV shows?

Dirk:  Well, my book wasn’t just about storage auctions, it is about overcoming the disease of consumerism and learning to profit from it but clearly, purchasing mass quantities of deeply discounted second hand goods at storage unit auction was an integral part of the system I was proposing.   The funny thing about what’s happening in the storage auction world today isn’t really that different than it was in 2008 there’s still tons of newbies and tons of old dogs running up the bids on those unaware of a storage unit’s potential value.  TV has had an increase in the amount of people who are looking for alternative ways to make money by selling second hand goods.

Scott:  When was the last auction you went to?

Dirk:  Susan and I went to several auctions in Albuquerque last month.  We recently moved to the area and were hoping to furnish our home.  What we saw was quite interesting.  While I doubt there will ever be a reality tv program about buying storage unit auctions in Albuquerque everyone there seems to think that there is a camera just around the corner.  What people are paying for units there is outrageous.  We ended up buying what we needed on craigslist.  We’ll go back to auction again because we love the thrill but we refuse to overpay for anything, you know?

Scott:  You know I have some theories about how to value the contents of a storage unit, how do you determine a unit’s value at auction?

Dirk:  I read the articles on your website and agree with you about valuation.  First, there’s what you can see.  If I can see a refrigerator, I figure it’s worth at least a hundred bucks on the used market.  If I see a couch, same deal.  I mentally tabulate what I think I can sell the contents that I can see.  Then there’s the boxes – if they were purchased, I figure the owner at least cared enough to buy storage boxes.  If they’re in plastic bins, I figure the bins are worth $5 bucks each regardless of the contents.  Then there’s the overall feel of the unit – did the people seem to care about their stuff or is it just thrown in as if they couldn’t wait to get rid of it.  Some of this comes from experience; after you’ve seen the lid open on hundreds of units you develop an instinct and have an idea whether you should gamble or not.

Scott:  I noticed that people seemed to gravitate towards certain types of units after a while.  What types of units did you like to buy?

Dirk:   I just loved to get into a true collector’s storage unit.  One unit I bought had over 300 die cast car models selling between $30-$100 each on ebay and I loved everything about it.  Those types of units were few and far between but that’s what I looked for.  On the other hand, if I saw a unit with a visible tool box I wouldn’t bid on it because I thought there were just too many people looking for tools and paying too much for the units.

Scott:  One of the things I noticed was that there was almost something weird or freaky in every unit.  What’s the freakiest thing you found in a storage unit?

Dirk:  That’s a tough question because we found some really freaky stuff, some freaky good, some not so good.  On the bad side, it’s a toss up between the bag of dildos and the drug kits.  On the good side was the freaky fully customized .38 handgun with laser scope or the solid gold penis piercing rod which brought us $900 from cashforgold.com.

Scott:  Why did you get out of the storage unit business?

Dirk:  I think I asked you the same thing when you were telling us about your experience and you said you got tired of moving other people’s things around and that’s sort of what happened to Susan and I.  You saw the freak show that we lived in and how much merchandise we had in our home.  You get to a point where you just have to have a retail outlet or you can never have a normal home.  And the job is extremely physical.  Towards the end, I would pass on units simply because I didn’t want to move the goods.

Scott:  I really loved what you had to say in your book.  I don’t think it has quite caught on like it should have.  Has the book been successful for you?

Dirk:  The funny thing is that I really wrote the book to clarify what I was thinking for my own benefit.  The storage auction business really exposed me to many ideas that were just so far outside the conventional world that I had previously occupied.  So writing successfully clarified a bunch of ideas that were burning in my mind at the time.  The other thing is that I have done absolutely no promotion for the book whatsoever so the couple hundred copies it’s sold to complete strangers is truly remarkable to me.

Scott:  What are you up to these days, your author bio says you live in Mexico.

Dirk:  I don’t live in Mexico, that was something we were trying to do that didn’t really work out.  We live in New Mexico and do a variety of things to earn money.

Scott:  That sounds interesting and weird, you’re not willing to share any more than that?

Dirk:  You know, there’s a hundred thousand different ways to earn money and the truth is that if you pick one and perform the tasks over and over again that the money will follow.  I’ve picked on of the hundred thousand ways and perform the tasks repeatedly and it’s kind of boring.  In my spare time, I co-authored a book with my super intelligent wife Susan McFergus about storage unit auctions which is currently with the editor.

Scott:  Well, hopefully I’m able to introduce you to some new readers and I’d love to have a copy of your new book.

Dirk:  I’ll give you a copy, in fact, I was looking at covers and none of the designs I was present with seem to express what I had in mind and maybe you’d like to add another book cover to your impressive design portfolio.  Thanks for taking the time to call me.  Best of success to you and your readers.

To buy Dirk’s book:

Email question about investing in storage units at auction

An email question I received, about buying storage units in Las Vegas.

First, I wanted to thank you for your awesome website!! The hubby and I were thinking of maybe buying a storage unit or two. We have been doing other sales on craigslist, but wanted to see if we can step it up a notch. I read your scammers beware part and we were thinking the same thing so were a little scared to get out there with our hard earned mu-la. I wanted to see if you happen to know if any companies that you have dealt with that you think we should stay away from? I know there is times when we have learned a lesson the hard way and I always share with friends when I do. We have five kids so we have plenty of crap of our own to sell all the time but with buying a storage unit here and there we are hoping to buy a house in this down market. Any help much appreciated. We will be heading out to the first auction this Saturday that I found in the announcements. Thanks for the link and tutorial.  –Sarah, Las Vegas

First off I would like to Thank you for your question.

Buying storage’s units is overall very safe venture, most of the time its only a few hundred dollars at risk. Storage units can go for almost anything, but bidding on what you can see is a money saving statement. The best way to look at it, is like this… At the time of bidding, if you where 100% ready to pay for what you could physically see inside the storage unit, “most of the time” there is not going to be a problem. It is when I here of someone overpaying when they see a big screen TV, or something they believe to be a “goldmine” is when you run into a problem. Gamble at your own risk.

I have been burned buy storage units, but the bottom-line is, it has only amounted to a few hundred dollars loss. I know the market for buying storage units is very competitive with it coming to TV.

My best advise is to: sit back and wait, your unit is coming up!

Fun Facts: Here is a list of items that are only worth about half of what you think they are worth.

  • TVs
  • Computers
  • Laptops
  • DVDs

Her Reply:

Sounds good! We do Dave Ramsey financial peace so Im very very patient 🙂 I have an eye for stuff my husband at first thought I was nutty but when he went a couple weeks with me not selling and saw how much I was bringing in selling on craigslist he jumped on board. We will be heading to our first storage auction tomorrow it should be interesting. We will probably just watch to see how it all works. I have to say I love the selling boxes idea I laughed today when I saw some in the dumpster behind Walgreen’s. I’m pissed about the storage wars thing and coupon thing on tlc I do both of those grrr.