Welcome to the Southern Storage Wars
It's a common practice for self storage facilities to auction the contents of units when the renters have become sufficiently delinquent on storage fees.
Robby Ash of Hammer Down Auctions says of the auctions that "it's like the television show when people don't pay the people who own the facility sell the units."
It's an auction like and unlike any other. The merchandise goes to the highest bidder but most times the bidder doesn't know what they may be buying.
The rules are fairly simple: The storage facility complies with laws concerning these auctions which includes notifying the defaulted renter, advertising the auction sufficiently and executing a proper auction.
You are buying everything as is. No warranties expressed or implied. Keep in mind there is a 10% buyers premium on everything that you purchase and two days to clean it out.
The unit will be opened up and as soon as every one has seen it, it will be auctioned off and onward to the next one.
Once the door is open all bidders get a chance to look inside the unit. They are not allowed to touch or go into the unit but can use flashlights to see better. Then the bidding starts and the unit is sold to the highest bidder who often times may not know what they have bought.
Shel Steckley of Hammer Down Auctions says "you just don't know. And that's the beauty about this. That's why we get crowds. You just don't know. You can open a drawer, there can be costume jewelry, there can be gold rings in that costume jewelry you just don't knowâ|. It's fascinating. Units can be packed completely full or have just a few items and can contain anything you can think of from furniture to lottery tickets to old cars just waiting for you to buy them. But what do people do with their new found treasures?"
Ash adds that "some people take it home and keep it. They collect it. Some take it home, go through it and turn around and sell it. There are a lot of antique dealers that come to these things a lot of second hand store dealers. There are auction people here who buy it and sell it at auctions."
While it may be more common to find higher value stuff in more affluent areas and larger cities, be aware that extremely valuable finds are much more rare than portrayed on reality television.
Jim Smith of Seconds Plus in Tifton said he "bought seven units last week in Albany and lost my butt. Took a bath on 'em. But you can make money on these just don't get over excited when you go buy these."
Smith hits up these auctions often to stock his store in Tifton and had some helpful advice. "Don't look for grandma's treasures written on a box. There are a lot of storage facilities out there that are straight shooters. There are some that are going to open the doors they're going to take a marker and mark things, go through them then shut the door because they know they are going to make more money. First thing I look for is dust ok, if there is a box on something and that box has been moved, that means it's been touched because you can see the dust line. Dust and dirt makes it better."
One of the unit winners at the auction I visited says that "it's a lot of work, its a lot more work than I thought it would be. It's well worth it â|. Its fun! Just trying it out to see what happens. If you get good stuff the more you get the better it is.
I for one am sold on the idea that these auctions can be a lot of fun and maybe I'll see you at one in the future.