Blog 18: A Modern-Day Treasure Hunt: Storage Auctions

Adventure books and films have ruined us. We're unsatisfied with the mundane. We want the thrill of finding that priceless artifact or map that leads us to Atlantis or a treasure trove filled with gold and rubies. While most of us won’t become Indiana Jones any time soon, you can get a taste of treasure hunts throughout Edmonton with the help of storage auctions.

If you’ve ever seen Storage Wars or Auction Hunters, you know storage auctions are exciting activities that can pay huge dividends. However, those shows don’t give you much advice about how to strategize your bids, how to spot a quality unit, or what the auction process entails. Read this blog post to get a leg up on the rest of the bidders so you can find the treasure you’ve been looking for.

Before You Begin

One of the most important things you can do is research. Research local storage auction facilities, how you should transport any materials you purchase, how much that transportation will cost, and your budget.

Decide on a Budget
The best advice we can give you is do not decide how much to spend while you bid. Plan ahead, and decide how much money you are willing to part with. Once you do this, don't go over that amount. This is not an organic process. Take time to limit prices beforehand to ensure you stay within your budget and avoid buyer’s remorse.

Watch an Auction

Since you have not participated in an auction before, you may worry you don’t know what a realistic budget should entail. One way to determine your ideal amount is to observe a storage auction.

You may have seen television shows about auctions, but remember that those are television shows. Many bids are staged for dramatic effect and don’t always reflect reality. Take an afternoon to watch a real auction to see how it differs from those on TV. How high do bids normally go? What can you expect to see in the average unit? Are there regular attendees, and can you glean any advice from them?

Do not bid (unless you see something you can’t live without) during this auction. For most people, this is a research-based trip to help you understand the process.

Selection Strategies
Once you finish your background research and determine your budget, it’s time to go on the treasure hunt. As you will note during your observations, each auction tends to function the same way:

  1. The host walks with you to the unit and opens the door
  2. You stand outside the storage area and spy whatever sits inside
  3. No one enters the unit to open boxes or touch the materials
  4. The host starts the bidding, and the person with the highest bid wins the unit’s entire contents
  5. You must pay for the contents the same day, likely with cash
  6. Your party removes all storage materials from the premises within a set period of time (most will require removal within 24 hours)

The two significant steps that you need to strategize are 2 and 4. We will discuss bidding strategies in the following section, but let’s go into more detail on how to determine a unit's value – even if you can't see what's inside.

Make Inferences from Visible Objects
While most units have covered or boxed materials, many will include visible objects as well. You can extrapolate significant information from those objects. Do those items seem well-maintained or broken? Pristine or stained? If you see cheap materials littered throughout the unit, you tend to find cheap materials packed inside its boxes.

Another clue is the boxes themselves. Are the boxes broken, dented, or torn? If the owners were careless as they packed and stored their items, those items may not be worth much. Instead, look for labelled, clean boxes that look as if the owner wanted to preserve the contents they hold.

Look for Professional Wrapping
This is a similar principle to the last strategy. If the previous owner cared enough to place boxes carefully within the storage unit, it means they cared about the objects inside. If they paid someone to wrap furniture, paintings, and other assets, it signals an even greater chance those objects are valuable.

As You Bid
When you find a unit that shows promise, let the bidding begin. As you bid, remember that you are not in a contest against other bidders. Yes, they want the same thing you do, but this is not the time for a win/lose situation. If you have that outlook, you are more likely to take the process personally and overbid for the sake of a win.

You’ve already established your monetary limit, so stick with it. If someone goes over that amount, simply move on to the next unit.

Research, Research, Research
In his book The Garage Sale Millionaire, Aaron LaPedis claims that some of the most unexpected items can have the most monetary value. While you can feel safe as you throw away obvious garbage like packing materials, research the items you find within your purchased unit. Online searches and professional appraisers will give you helpful information so you don’t unwittingly throw away a valuable prize.

When you stick to these tips, you’ll help ensure your storage purchase is a success.

Want More Tips?
For more storage auction tips and expert advice, check back on our blog for regular updates from Yellowhead Storage in Edmonton.