Storage unit companies regularly seize abandoned goods and auction them off in an effort to reclaim some of their lost profits. Many online retailers are cashing in, using these auctions as a product source for their e-businesses. Enthusiast Blaine Herbest, founder of, “You can pick up an entire storage unit filled with things for a couple hundred bucks.” Finding these auctions can be as easy as looking in the yellow pages under “storage units” and calling to see when they conduct their sales. Or check out or for information on local auction times. What Questions Should I Ask? Before you sign up for an auction, make sure you’re aware of any costs, such as fees for attendance or cleaning deposits. Ask if there are buyer’s premiums—usually about 5-10% of total price, that goes to the auctioneer—so you can calculate that into your bid amount. Find out if their policy includes a Pending Owner’s Approval clause. This clause allows the facility owner to look at the winning bids and decide if he wants to sell at those prices—after the auctions over. You don’t want to waste your time with someone who’s not serious about selling. How Do I Know What It’s Worth? With most storage unit auctions, everything in the unit is sold off for one price. The door to the facility is opened and bidders can look in from outside but can’t touch anything. Advises Herbest, “There are some strategies you can use to try and gauge the contents.” • Look at the area the auction’s in. People don’t usually store things too far from their homes—if the facility’s located in a high-end area, there’s a good chance that the items being stored are high-end too. • Look for moving company boxes, rather than boxes from various grocery stores. Moving companies are expensive, so that can be a clue that the previous owners may have had nice things. • If there’s furniture, look to see the quality and the shape it’s in. Bring a cordless spotlight to help you see into the back of the unit. What Will I Need? When you come to a storage unit auction, come prepared: • Bring cash because that’s the only type of payment they’ll accept. • Bring a truck, or a trailer and a vehicle with a hitch—you’ll have to have everything cleared out that day. • Bring a lock to secure the unit in case you need to leave for lunch, or have to make more than one trip. • Bring a dolly, tarps, bungee cords, and blankets to wrap your purchases. • Bring gloves and a breathing mask. Sorting through everything can be a dusty task. • Bring your tax ID, if you have one; otherwise, you’ll pay taxes on your purchase.

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