Can You Actually Profit From Storage Unit Auctions?

Since it premiered in 2010, the television show Storage Wars has been a ratings smash and filled viewers’ minds with dreams of finding riches buried within the self storage facilities near their homes. While the auctions featured on the show do happen, they aren’t the cash cows the show makes them out to be. If the show has piqued your interest in bidding on an abandoned storage unit, you should go in with some knowledge to set your expectations realistically.

Why Are These Units Being Auctioned?

Storage units are auctioned after their owners fail to pay rent for a certain amount of time. The actual laws relating to storage auctions for non-paying tenants vary by state.

What Can I Expect to Find?

While television propagates the idea that these units are full of valuable antiques and other collectibles, those items are relatively rare overall. Most storage units are full of the normal family possessions and furniture, and buyers are not able to examine a unit’s contents before placing their bids. If you attend an auction, you will need to evaluate a storage unit’s contents from outside the door and make a decision on how much you think the contents are worth.

In general, items may not be worth much, and even if you end up with a lot of objects, it may be difficult to sell them on your own. There’s also a good chance you will find photos and other personal items. It’s generally best to return these to the storage facility in case the original owner returns. Once you’ve purchased a storage unit, you generally have 24 hours to remove all the items before they are thrown out. In some cases, however, the self-storage facility will let you rent the unit for a month and keep your items there during that time.

How Will I Sell These Items?

If you don’t own a retail outlet to unload items after you purchase a storage unit, actually profiting from your new possessions can be difficult. It’s common for serious storage unit bidders to frequent flea markets, but it’s difficult to know if your merchandise will sell at one of these events. You may have better success selling on Craigslist or eBay, but finding buyers on these services will require you to spend time constructing compelling ads.