Category - Storage Auctions 101

Scrap Metal Recycling for Storage Auction Hunters

Scrap Metal Recycling

Most people use storage auctions as a way to gather stock for a resale business. Unfortunately, when doing this you're bound to come across items that can't be resold. Whether you're looking at broken electronics or outdated appliances, some things will be difficult to sell as-is. Luckily, you may still be able to get some money from them by tearing them down for scrap metal.

Electronics like TVs, computers and even cell phones have small amounts of copper, aluminum and steel. They also include precious metals like gold, silver and palladium. In small amounts, none of these will earn you high profits, but you can collect them over time and sell them in bulk to scrap yards or even on eBay.

Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes you'll come across a unit that was originally rented by a plumber, electrician, contractor or other person who works with a heavy volume of metal. If you know what to look for, these units can yield a high quantity of metal that can be sold at a profit. Because other bidders might not realize the scrap value of these items, you may be able to secure the lot for a low price.

Here are a few of the metals you should keep an eye out for:

  • Brass
  • Copper
  • Aluminum
  • Gold
  • Silver

It may not be immediately obvious what type of metal you're dealing with, especially since you won't be able to closely examine items before an auction. If you familiarize yourself with what types of metals tend to be used in certain items, though, you can get a decent idea of how much something may be worth to scrap. For example, anything with an electronic component will have copper coils or wiring.

Steel and iron can also be scrapped, but they're not worth as much as heavy and precious metals and alloys. At high volumes, though, everything does start to add up. Of course, you'll need to worry about storing the scrap long enough to be able to make a profit, but scrap metal from electronics and appliances takes up much less space than the whole item would otherwise.

Once you've secured enough scrap to make it worth selling, you have a few choices. Handing it over at a scrap yard is certainly the fastest option, but you will get more money selling it on eBay or other similar sites. Even better, you can see if you can work out a deal with someone local who's in the scrap metal business. Having a regular contact who's interested in buying your unwanted scrap for a reasonable price is the fastest way to churn a profit on otherwise useless metal items.

Should I Have a Partner in the Storage Auction Business?

There's a reason why most of the bidders on auction shows work in teams, and it's not just to boost ratings with witty banter. Having a partner can make the business much easier. There are several reasons why you might want to consider bringing a partner with you during your auction hunting:

  • You'll have someone to help you load and unload merchandise. This increases your efficiency and reduces the amount of hard labor you'll need to do. It's also helpful to have someone help you clean out the unit and haul trash, especially if you're working on a tight deadline.
  • Splitting the cost with someone can help you mitigate some of the risk of bidding. You don't have to worry about losing as much money if you're making a smaller investment, which enables you to take more chances.
  • An extra set of eyes can help spot valuables. Your partner may also have expertise that can prove invaluable in terms of deciding whether something is worth bidding on.

On the other hand, there are a few drawbacks to working with a partner in the storage auction business. Before bringing someone into your business, you'll want to consider a few of the cons:

  • You'll have to split profits. In a business with narrow profit margins, splitting those profits even further can make it hard to break even. You'll have to decide whether it's worth it to share your income with a partner.
  • The other party might set limits on what you can buy or how you can spend your money. While having a second opinion for purchases can be a good thing, it can also be stifling, and it can lead to a lot of stress and arguments.
  • If you're running a business, you need to consider the other person's role. If auction-hunting is more of a hobby, it won't matter, but you might consider drafting up some paperwork for a business partnership if things get heavy.

Ultimately, the most important thing is to choose a partner who you can trust and will make the job easier. Picking the right partner makes a big difference when it comes to a successful business, and it's not something that should be entered into lightly. Whether you choose to operate as a husband-wife team, team up with your son or recruit your best friend for help, considering the pros and cons of a partnership before entering into one can help save you a lot of hassles in the long run.

Don’t Underestimate The Smalls

Of course, everyone wants to be the person to win the next rare antique at auction, but high-dollar items aren't the only way to be successful in the resale business. In fact, small every-day household items can easily make up the bread and butter of your business. It's much easier to make a comfortable profit if you take the time to learn how to sell common small items. These items include clothing, housewares, decorations, knick-knacs, toys, books and much more.

When you're assessing a storage unit and deciding whether to bid, of course you'll look at the major items like furniture, electronics and appliances. Just because a unit doesn't have any big-ticket items, though, doesn't mean you can't profit from it. In fact, many of these units can be an excellent value because others will be unwilling to bid on them, so you can get the whole unit for a very low price.

Once you have the items, the easiest way to sell them is to take them to a flea market or hold a yard sale with them. Even at just $.50 to $1 a piece, these small items add up quickly. A general rule of thumb is to run the items through two yard sales or flea markets to see if they will sell. You can also see if things include scrap metal that could be worth more than the item itself. Whatever is left after that point, you can donate to a thrift store for a tax write-off.

Selling these small, inexpensive items is a good way to add some padding to your business, and it helps keep things moving when auctions hit a dry spell. You might not always be able to find a rare antique or expensive piece of electronics, but you can always find small household items that can be sold for a few dollars a piece. And, if you buy enough common units, it is just a matter of time before you uncover a real treasure that you were never expecting to be there.

The Waiting Game at Storage Unit Auctions

Storage Unit Buyers

There's usually a lot of waiting to do before an auction. You'll need to show up early enough to get good parking, and the auctioneer could be delayed coming from the last auction of the day. You don't have to consider all of this waiting to be lost time, though. There are several things you can do during this down time that can help your business in the long run:

  • Stay in touch. If you have a smart phone with Internet capabilities, you can use it to check your email to see if a potential customer has contacted you about something you're selling. You can contact your regular buyers to see if anybody is looking for something specific so you can keep your eyes out at the auction. You can also check in on your eBay auctions or other listings, allowing you to continue running your business.
  • Network with other buyers. Different people will have different specializations and interests, and you might be able to use that to your advantage. You might find someone who looks for a specific type of item who would be willing to buy those items from you in the future. You could also find out about other sales and get industry-specific information from fellow buyers.
  • Chat with the facility owner. Being on friendly terms with the storage facility's owner is a good way to get insider information and keep your business running smoothly. You might get some tips about the contents of the storage units, and being a “regular” could earn you some extra benefits, like waived cleaning deposits, if the owner builds up trust with you.
  • Plan your route. Many auctions often happen on the same day, and you might be headed to another auction right after this one. By taking some time to plan your route, you can save yourself a few hassles. Most smart phones come with navigational apps or Google Maps so it's easy to figure out the fastest way to get somewhere.

By taking advantage of the free time you have between auctions, you can help keep yourself organized and plan your move for the next event. Between planning your auctions and networking with others in the business, you can maximize the benefits of your auction-hunting.

Storage Auction Fees


Before you start bidding on a storage unit, it's important to realize that the amount you bid may not be the final amount that you pay. You need to account for extra fees, otherwise you could end up in trouble. You don't want to bid your last dollar and then be left unable to cover the cost of the auction. Here are a few fees and extra costs you should be prepared to pay:

  • Some auctioneers charge their buyers a premium. Depending on the way the auctioneer handles his or her fees, this could be charged on top of the winning bid, or it could be subtracted from the winning bid. Make sure you know which it is before bidding. The auctioneer's fee is usually about 10% of the total, so it's a good idea to keep that much buffer room when bidding just to be safe.
  • Unless you have a Sales & Use tax permit, you'll need to pay sales tax on anything you buy at auction. Of course, if you're in the resale business, you will probably want to obtain one of these permits anyway. If you're just starting out and aren't sure whether you'll stick with it, though, set aside enough money to cover sales tax.
  • The storage facility will probably charge you a cleaning deposit. This should be refundable if you manage to clean out the unit within the 24 to 48 hours required by the facility. Check in advance to figure out how much the deposit will be and how much time you have to get the unit emptied out. This is also a good time to verify where and how to dispose of unwanted items.
  • Some auctioneers have begun charging cover charges for auctions as a way to reduce the number of buyers who arrive. This is not a widespread practice by any means, but it does come up from time to time. You can call in advance or check the auctioneer's website to see if this is something you'll need to deal with.

By knowing what costs will come up during the auction, you can budget accordingly. This will help you maintain enough money to buy the units you want. It will also help you calculate the final cost of the auction so that you can keep your profit margins high enough to support your business.

Using Your Android or iPhone for Storage Auction Hunting

Phone Auctions

It wasn't so long ago that cell phones were big, bulky things that were only good for making calls. Thanks to improvements in technology over the past few years, though, smart phones have become one of the most valuable and useful items that most people own.

From playing games to surfing the web, Androids and iPhones perform a lot of functions in our day-to-day lives, and they can even help you gain an edge when bidding at a storage auction. Here are five ways that you can use your smart phone to help with auction hunting:

  • Use it to map out your schedule. If you visit a lot of auctions throughout the month, you'll want to keep track of what events are happening when. Using your smart phone as a day planner, you can mark the date and times of auctions as you learn about them. You can also store important information like phone numbers and addresses. If you wish, you can set your phone to send you reminders before certain events so that you're sure to make it on time.
  • Use the navigation function to help you find the storage facility or other auction location. If you don't know where a facility is or are unfamiliar with the neighborhood, you may have a hard time making it to auctions. By using your smart phone to navigate, it will be easier to find your way without getting lost or wasting time. This can also make you more bold as you head out into parts of town you don't normally explore, which will give you more auction opportunities to attend.
  • Check prices of items at an auction. You don't have much time to examine the unit before bidding starts, but you might be able to catch a glimpse of a few interesting-looking items. Then you can use the Internet function of your phone to check eBay, Craigslist or other sites to determine how much the item could resell for. This won't always work, but it's a good tool to have in your arsenal to help you make pricing decisions when considering a unit. If the item happens to be in its original package, you can scan its bar code with your phone for the most accurate price estimate. No matter what, try to be the first person in line to look at the unit as it's opened; this will buy you a few minutes that you can use on research.
  • Use the camera. Cell phones often come with very nice camera and video capabilities. You can snap a few photos of items and post them for sale almost immediately after buying them. You can also email or text message the photo to potential interested buyers to pique their interests once you've obtained the item. You can also send a photo of an item you obtain to a knowledgeable friend. You may not be able to get a response in time to decide whether to bid, but you can certainly get a second opinion on whether it's worth trying to sell or if you should scrap it or send it to the dump. This sort of feedback can be extremely helpful when cleaning out a unit.
  • Stay in touch with your business. Many resellers like to use the Internet to communicate with clients, whether through email or a dedicated website. By using your smart phone, you can access your email, eBay shop, Etsy shop, personal website and more to check for comments, respond to questions and make sure everything is running smoothly. Since you'll be in touch with your business wherever you go, you don't need to worry about your auction-hunting taking way from the sales side of the business; you can manage both at the same time.

These are just a few of the ways that smart phones can increase your efficiency and profit at a storage auction. You can use all of these same techniques on other types of sales as well, from flea markets to garage sales, to research your purchases and communicate with buyers. By utilizing this technology, you can make the most of every auction you visit.

Top Ten Books About Storage Auctions

A few years ago, storage auctions were a relatively quiet and unknown way of making a living. Now, they've become a popular phenomenon thanks to shows like Storage Wars and auction Hunters. Many authors are eager to jump on this trend and appeal to fans by producing “get rich quick” guides about storage auctions and other types of resale businesses. While some of these books contain useful information, many paint an inaccurate picture of the trade.

There's also little need to buy most of the books on the market as the information is readily available online through this website and others. Nevertheless, if you do feel like picking up some additional reading material, here are 10 books you might consider:

  1. Making Money With Storage Unit Auctions: Is This the Business for You? By Bryce Cranston. This slim paperback covers the basics of storage auctions without making too many exaggerated claims. A crash course for beginners, this book details advice on how to find auctions and sell items successfully. It's rated well on Amazon, with a pure five-star rating, but it may be too basic of a guide for most of our more savvy blog readers.
  2. Picker's Bible: How To Pick Antiques Like the Pros by Joe Willard. While not about storage auctions specifically, this guide is an invaluable resource for people who need to learn more about the ins and outs of antiques. Antiques are some of the most profitable but riskiest items to look out for at sales, and this primer can help you find the best items for sale. Joe Willard himself is an established picker, and his book provides an excellent overview for anyone looking to approach that field.
  3. The Garage Sale Millionaire: Make Money with Hidden Finds from Garage Sales to Storage Unit Auctions and Everything in Between by Aaron LaPedis. The title's a bit of a mouthful, but the book has some positive reviews on Amazon and got positive attention on Yahoo after its release. The book delivers on the promise of its title, although many of the tips may be a bit self-evident for people who aren't total newcomers to the field. Nevertheless, much of the advise is solid, and there are real, practical tips for which items will churn the best profit, which may make this worth picking up if you're eager for a few more ideas.
  4. Making Money A-Z with Self Storage Unit Auctions 2011: The Silver Edition by Glendon Cameron. This book is pricey, so it's definitely a bit of an investment. If you're willing to put down this much money for a book, though, this is an entertaining read about storage auctions. This 246-page tome details exactly how to find, participate in and profit from storage auctions, all as related by a veteran in the field. Called “the textbook of storage auctions” by some reviewers, this book is said to be one of the most comprehensive of its kind.
  5. Storage Auctions 101 The Beginners Guide To Storage Auction Profits by Glendon Cameron. If you're not willing to make the investment for Cameron's lengthier guide, you might want to consider picking up this smaller beginner's guide. This book comes with lots of practical tips and down-to-earth advice. As an added bonus, you can download a digital version to your Kindle, iPhone or other device, so you don't have to worry about carrying it around.
  6. Winning Storage Auction Strategies by Dirk and Susan McFergus. Cutting through the hype from reality TV, this husband-and-wife team of Las Vegas auction-hunters detail real, useful strategies for winning auctions and making a profit on your findings. Many of these tips are aimed at amateurs, but much of the advice is equally valid for veterans as well. The book does focus more on the buying aspect than selling, however, so it can't precisely be considered a comprehensive guide.
  7. Making Money in Storage Auctions: How to Profit from the Storage Wars and become a Storage Auction Warrior by Boston Reynolds. This book is obviously firmly rooted in the reality television trend, and it does occasionally wander more into hype than the reality of the industry. It is still a fairly comprehensive guide, though, and it touches on many relevant topics without getting too bogged down in detail.
  8. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting and Running a Thrift Store by Ravel Buckley. If you're comfortable with the basics of auction hunting and want to bring your knowledge up to the next level, this book will get you started with everything you need to know about opening up a thrift store business. Part of the well-known “Idiots Guide” books, this is an authoritative source and a good jumping-off point for anyone looking to run a full-scale resale business.
  9. How to Invest in Self-Storage by Scott Duffy and RK Kliebenstein. This book tackles the other side of the storage industry: The people who actually own and manage storage units. Although this information may not seem immediately relevant, it can be supremely helpful to understand the industry from the other side. This will help you understand how and why certain things happen and give you a greater appreciation for the facility owners you work with on any given day.
  10. The Porn Is Always In The DVD Player: My Life As A Storage Auction Addict by Glendon Cameron. Looking at this list, it's easy to see that Glendon Cameron is one of the biggest writers in the storage auction field. This book is quite different from his others, though, in that it's more of a memoir than a how-to guide. If you're looking for something fun and insightful to read without necessarily providing step-by-step instructions or ideas, this book might be worth buying. If nothing else, it will certainly tell a few familiar stories to storage veterans.

These are just a few of the books available on the subject, but there are many more available online or from your local library. If you've read one of these books or have another that you found particularly helpful, post your suggestions or reviews in the comments section below!

Storage Auction Parking

As storage auctions become more popular, you have to be prepared to deal with crowds. Most storage facilities are not very well-equipped to deal with the large turnout that often arrives at auctions. Needless to say, this can be a logistical nightmare for the storage facility's staff and make parking especially difficult for the buyers. Fortunately, there are a few tips that can help make navigating the crowd easier:

  • Find a space near the exit so you can leave easily. At the end of the auction, everyone will crowd the exit and it can be difficult to get out. Be sure to leave enough space around you to prevent your car from being blocked, and make sure that there's a clear path between your car and the gate. Try to park facing the right direction as turning around might not be easy. Arriving at the facility early will help you secure a good spot.
  • Since most storage facilities only have a few parking spaces near the office, most people will end up parking near the storage units themselves. If you do park in front of a unit, be sure that the unit doesn't have a red lock or tag. This is used to designate a unit that will go up for auction, and you'll need to move your car if it's parked in front of one of these units. Save yourself the trouble and park in a more out-of-the-way spot instead.
  • Whenever possible, consider parking further away and walking to the auction. When you win a unit and start cleaning, you can always retrieve your vehicle to start loading up merchandise. If you do park on the street or a neighboring parking lot, be sure to obey any traffic laws or parking lot rules. If you have a friend interested in auctions, you can car-pool and save on gas and parking space.
  • Make sure you're not blocking anyone from entering or exiting the storage unit or their cars. Be careful about leaving too much room, though, as that might invite people to squeeze in next to you and make it impossible to get out later.

Some auctions will be more crowded than others, and you may not be able to employ every strategy. Nevertheless, following these tips will help prevent some of the major hassles that come up while parking at a storage facility. As you get more experience with a particular facility, it will become easier to identify the best spots.

Traders Village – Selling Merchandise at the Flea Market

Traders Village

Although you can make a living from selling items on Craigslist, eBay or through your own yard sales, venturing to a flea market can help you sell your wares to a wider group of buyers. Becoming a vendor at a flea market is a good first step to building your own store front. You can connect with a lot of collectors and other interested buyers, and your overhead is lower than if you had to lease a storefront.

In Texas, one of the best-known flea markets is Traders Village. The first location opened in Grand prairie in 1973. Since then, locations have opened in Houston and San Antonio as well. There are literally thousands of vendors who set up shop at each location, and Traders Village is a popular destination for shopping and even cultural events as they come through town.

To become a vendor, you just need to pay for a space. You can rent a space by the day or weekend, or you can make a long-term arrangement for a month or even a lifetime membership. This gives vendors plenty of flexibility and makes the lease cheaper than owning a shop premises would be. You'll also need a sales tax permit in order to sell items through the flea market.

A few items are restricted from sale at Traders Village:

Food and drink, as the market has its own food vendors
Anything with copyright infringement
Anything religious or political
Items that are not family-friendly, like adult-related materials
Fireworks or firearms

Aside from these items, you can sell anything you'd like from handmade crafts to electronics or antiques. This makes the flea market a great destination for auction hunters since your merchandise will vary so much from one week to the next. As you meet buyers, you can figure out different people's unique tastes and make lasting connections with your top buyers so you can contact them in the future for a quick sale of certain types of items.

Although Traders Village only exists in three Texas cities, there are hundreds of flea markets throughout the state. For example, Austin has several large flea markets, including the Country Flea Market on U.S. 290 and the swap meet at Bergstrom Airport.

You can find a flea market, swap meet or vendors fair in your city by searching online or asking around from other vendors. Check to see if there are any limitations on what type of items can be sold, since some locations will have different requirements than others. Before you decide on one, try visiting to get an idea of what types of wares are sold and who shops there. This will help you figure out which location will be best for you.

Tips for a Successful Yard Sale

Yard Sale

Many people hold garage sales as a way to empty their homes of unwanted items, but there's no reason you can't sell things more professionally through a garage sale. In fact, some people like to hold large, regularly scheduled sales that draw large crowds. It's easier to hold a single yard sale than to attempt multiple small sales to different people through Craigslist or eBay, and a garage sale gives you an opportunity to connect with your community and meet buyers who might be interested in your future wares.

Whether you're looking at a garage sale as a way to clear your home of unwanted items or as a platform for selling things you buy at auction, here are a few tips for a successful sale:

Advertise the sale well in advance. Put up an ad on Craigslist and the local paper, or find a yard sale listing website for your area. Early on the day of your sale, put up signs to alert people to the sale and direct them to your home. Be sure that you're not breaking any laws by placing the signs in undesignated areas, though, and remember to retrieve then when your sale has finished.

Make sure that your sales area is clean and professional-looking. Keep all large dogs and other pets out of the area, and make sure that there's ample parking in your area. If your own garage isn't a good choice for the sale, see if you can find another place to hold it.

Organize your sale space. Use tables to put things at different heights, and arrange your items in a way that will catch people's attention. Make sure everything you sell is clean and properly displayed. The more neatly you display things, the more valuable they'll appear to buyers.

Carefully consider your prices. You'll want to price things low enough that they'll attract buyer attention, but high enough to make room for haggling. You don't have to put an obvious price on every item you sell, but having prices visible helps attract and keep the attention of shoppers who might be too shy to ask about every item.

Consider combining your sale with another person or several people to have an even larger sale. This will attract more buyers and give you more staff to run the sale with. Just be sure to keep good records of sales so you can divide profits accordingly.

Bear in mind that people may not come to a garage sale with enough money to buy a big-ticket item, but they may still be interested. Take down the number of interested persons and follow up with them if the item still hasn't sold at the end of the day.

It's usually better to have a few large sales per year than multiple smaller ones.

Every garage sale will be different, and you won't always make great profits. Everything from the weather to the whims of your shoppers will affect the quality of your sales. Following these tips will help make your endeavors more successful.