Category - Storage Auctions 101

What Items Resell Well?

Resale Shop

Although it's not an effortless money-making scheme by any means, buying items at storage auctions and reselling them online or through a store front can be one great way to make a home business. As you buy more items, you can expand your business and increase your profits.

The key to profiting from any type of resale business is to choose items that will sell quickly and make a decent profit. Smaller items that will move quickly can have a narrower profit margin because they're not as expensive to store. If you're buying large items that must be stored or won't sell quickly, you'll need something with a larger profit margin.

The items you choose for resale will depend in part on your interests and background. If you're particularly knowledgeable in a certain area, it'll be easier for you to find profitable items within that category. For people without those specializations, here are a few tips for easy-to-sell items to keep an eye out for at storage auctions, estate auctions and other sales:

Antiques. This is something you need some experience in, because not all old antiques are worth much money, but the valuable ones can be a gold mine. Bear in mind that antiques might require storage space and special conditions to prevent damage, so you'll want to be careful and not collect too many at a time. It's a good idea to start with a specific area of interest and expand as you learn more about antiques.

Electronics. Electronic devices like computers and gaming systems sell quickly, and new models can be quite valuable. Older models lose value quickly, but very old systems start to gain worth as antiques. For example, you can often restore and sell first-generation gaming systems to collectors for a fair price.

Jewelry. It's hard to tell if a storage unit has jewelry in it at first glance, but it's always a good profit-maker. If the jewelry itself isn't valuable, it can be be sold for the gold or silver it contains. Other bits of scrap metal are also worth looking out for.

Appliances. Large appliances and furniture are common finds in storage units, and they can sell quite well. You do need enough space to store them, though, and the willingness to haul them. The best thing about appliances is that they don't depreciate as quickly in value as other electronic devices; as long as the item is in good working order, you can sell it for a decent price and make a profit on your investment.

Other types of items can sell for an excellent profit as well depending on where you're selling them and what you can find. By starting with a few key items that you look out for and sell routinely, you can begin building a network of buyers. Over time, you can add more items as you learn more about auctions; this will allow your business to grow organically without costing too much in the beginning.

Getting to Know Your Auctioneer

Getting to know

Whether you're going to a storage auction, estate auction or even a livestock auction, you'll quickly discover that individual auctioneers have very different styles and personalities. The auctioneer guides how the auction goes, and a talented auctioneer is able to manipulate the energy of a crowd to make the bidding go higher. It's a good idea to research your auctioneer before an auction so that you know what to expect, as different styles of auctioning will do better with certain strategies than others.

Many professional auctioneers have webpages where you can learn more about them. You can also research an auctioneer in advance of a sale by finding videos of them at work online or attending several of their auctions without bidding. In a small community, there may only be a few auctioneers to concern yourself with, so this research shouldn't take you too long and will pay off in the long run.

Primarily, auctioneer styles are different methods of working a crowd to get more bids. Some of these are especially prevalent during the opening stage of an auction when bidders may be reluctant and the auctioneer needs to get things rolling. Here are a few styles to be aware of:

  • Speed. Auctioneers with a large amount of stock to sell are likely to speed through an auction without giving much time between bids for people to contemplate their purchase. If you're holding off on bidding to see how high it gets, you might find the auction over before you even place a bid. On the other hand, fast auctioneers sometimes lower their starting bids to entice reluctant bidders, and you can get a good deal if you manage to land on one of these reduced-cost lots. Some auctioneers tend to be less patient with lots all the time, while others only resort to these speedy techniques when there's a lot of stuff to get through at the auction.
  • Starting bid. These auctioneers like to get the ball rolling by tossing out a figure quickly and fishing for higher bids. You'll hear a tell-tale phrase like, “Who'll give me a $10 to get us started” early in the auction with this type of auctioneer. If no one responds to this starting bid, the auctioneer will try lower numbers, but it can be hard to tell that bidding hasn't started yet when he's quickly reeling off figures. This is why it's a good idea to keep an eye on what other bidders are doing so you know for sure if a bid has been placed.
  • Gab. While some auctioneers are all business, others like to loosen up the crowd by telling anecdotes or humorous stories about the object being sold. They might also describe the item in painstaking detail and make encouraging comments when bids are placed, such as “This bidder knows the value of the item.” All of this is designed to loosen up the crowd and convince you to make more bids. It's crucial to learn how to enjoy the gab without buying into it so you don't overbid.

There are other types of strategies that may be employed by various auctioneers. It's most important to remember that the auctioneer's job is to actively sell the items, not just report on bids as they're made. By recognizing the sales strategies used by various auctioneers, you'll be best prepared for the auction and can be sure to get a good deal on the items you buy.

What Is a Sales And Use Tax Permit?

Sales & Use Tax Permit

When businesses sell items professionally in most states, they're required to charge a certain amount of sales tax. This tax is then owed to the local government, and it's paid as an operating cost of doing business. Depending on the job, other taxes might be applied as well, but you should always assume that any business that sells merchandise will need to collect sales tax to fulfill its liability to the government. Because Texas has sales tax, business owners must be prepared to collect and pay these taxes for any business operations completed in the state.

People who sell goods in Texas as part of their business are required to obtain a sales tax permit. This includes people who sell items from an office, warehouse, storage facility, flea market, trade show or other location. Essentially, any time buying and selling items becomes a full or part-time job, you'll need to get a sales tax permit. If you're just selling a handful of items on eBay a few times a year, you probably won't need to worry about sales tax; if you're making frequent sales, though, you should look into obtaining a sales tax permit.

Obtaining the permit itself is quite easy. You simply need to go online and submit the form at If you would prefer, you can also call 1-800-252-5555 for an application. There are no fees associated with the permit itself, but you might need to post a security bond of up to four times the amount of the expected monthly owed tax. The purpose of this bond is to cover delinquent fees if you fail to pay your due share of sales taxes. Not everyone who applies will need to post this bond, so it's something you'll need to discuss with the state and plan around accordingly.

Once you've obtained your permit, you're required to post that permit at your place of business. You must then collect sales tax and keep records of all of your purchases so that you can report and pay your taxes on time. You can be audited at any time, so keeping good records is a vital part of maintaining your business. It's usually a good idea to keep at least four years of tax records available at all times so you can avoid hassles when you get audited.

Between business licenses, sales tax, business or self-employment taxes and other operating costs, running your own business can be expensive. This is why it's a good idea to test the waters with any buying and selling venture before you jump in with both feet. Easing yourself into a new retail business will help keep you from getting overwhelmed.

Using Storage Auctions to Build Inventory for Your Resale Business

Before you make a bid on a storage unit, it's a good idea to have a plan for selling the items you get. Although you can certainly make a living off of auctions, you can only do so if you have a plan for turning your items into cash. If you don't know how or where you're going to sell what you win at auction, you're bound to lose a lot of money and accrue a lot of items that will need to be stored.

Part of the appeal of auction hunting is the thrill of finding something interesting or valuable. People go “treasure hunting” in lots of places, from estate sales to pawn shops, and you can tap into that excitement to generate a profit for yourself and sell off the items you win at an auction. Rather than viewing the items you get as winnings, think of them as merchandise that can build the inventory of a new business.

From flea market veterans to thrift store owners, getting low-cost inventory from an auction is a great way to fill your shelves and attract treasure-seeking shoppers.  When you're using auctions as a way to build inventory for a bigger business plan, there are several things you should keep in mind:

  • Keep an eye out for things that will sell quickly and easily. Instead of holding out for big, rare items, think of things that are always in demand like sturdy furniture, clean toys and clothes. You won't make a huge profit on these types of items, but you will be able to sell them quickly.
  • Consider opening a niche store. This works especially well online. Pick one type of item that you're relatively familiar with, like holiday decorations or oak furniture, and build your business around that. Other items can be sold on the side for extra money. Focusing on a narrow niche like this helps you become an expert at spotting good deals that others might not see, and it will build you a reputation as the “go-to” person for buyers.
  • Start your business on a small scale. You don't want to run out and lease a building just to fill up the shelves with things you've bought at auction. You need to build the business slowly. Start off online, then branch out to yard sales and flea markets. Try to forge connections with private collectors, antique dealers and others who might be interested in buying what you have to sell. That way, you can contact them directly when you do find something good, and you'll have an instant and easy profit.

If you want to buy storage units and sell the contents as a hobby, that's great. If you're looking for a way to make a real full-time job out of it, though, you'll need to approach it like any other job and make a business plan. By doing your planning in advance and knowing how to convert your finds into sales, you can start making real profits.

What Should You Do If You Find A Gun In A Storage Unit?

Gun in Storage Unit

If you find a gun in a storage unit, there are certain procedures you must follow. First and foremost, clear it and make sure there are no unspent rounds in it. I would like reiterate that I'm not an attorney, nor do I have a FFL and that you should consult with a professional before making any decisions regarding firearms or antique weapons.

It is my understanding that if you find a firearm in a storage unit, you must turn it in to the local authorities or a Federally licensed firearm dealer. I recommend the latter because you have a better chance of getting it back.  When you turn it in, make sure you get a receipt for it because if you're a non-felon adult, they will let you have it, after a waiting period and if it has not been reported stolen or used in a crime.

Although state and local laws may vary, any gun with a frame or receiver that was actually made before January 1st, 1899 is legally antique and not considered a firearm under Federal law. This refers to the actual date of manufacture of the receiver/frame, not just the model year or patent date marked. Any gun manufactured before January 1st, 1899, other than a machine gun or other NFA category, is not controlled in any way by Federal law. There is no Federal requirement for sales of these guns to be handled by Federally licensed dealers. Although State and local laws may vary, they may be bought and sold across state lines by private parties, regardless of what cartridge they are chambered in.

Telephone the Federal Firearms Licensing Center of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms at 1-866-662-2750 for specific questions. The FFLC can help ensure your guns are properly registered.



Let's face it, no matter how long you have been buying storage units, you will always come across an item that requires an expert to appraise, repair or sell. A lot of our members have been asking if we have a list of vendors who can help them with specialty items, so we decided to create this page as a resource for people who are looking to make professional contacts. If you are an antique appraiser, antique buyer, specialized or collectible merchandise appraiser, thrift store owner, consignment store owner, auction house owner, upholsterer, electronic or appliance repair person, a buyer of certain types of merchandise, restoration expert or any other type of expert that may be needed by other storage auction buyers, feel free to post an advertisement below.

By using this service in any way, you agree to comply with our terms of use, especially sections 3 & 4.


What Are Your Responsibilities For Disposing Of The Things That You Don’t Want?

Jeff, one of our members, recently asked the following question:

When you purchase a unit, what are your responsibilities for disposing of the things that you don't want?

Before you purchase a unit, it is a good idea to speak with the facility manager or auctioneer to find out how much time you have to remove the contents from the unit. Storage facilities typically allow you 48 hours to completely remove the contents from the unit. Most storage facilities do require a clean up deposit for every unit you purchase. These fees can range from $25 to $100 and are fully refundable once the unit has been cleaned out. Some auctioneers will waive the clean out deposits once you have established a track record with them.

It is your responsibility have the contents removed within the 48 hour time period. It is a good idea to bring a broom, dustpan and some heavy duty trash bags with you, because it is also your responsibility to make sure the unit is clean and the floor is swept.

Regardless, of whether you get stuck with some merchandise you don't want, it is your responsibility to remove it from the unit and dispose of it. Most storage facilities won't allow you to use their dumpster and the ones that do will most likely charge a fee.

In this business, you have to take the good with the bad. You are going to come across units that you wish you would have never bought. For example: I purchased a 10x20 unit that was packed full of stuff. From the door, I saw a pressure washer, some antique Hina dolls, 15 filing cabinets and 2 safes. The unit also had over 40 full trash bags in it. Well, once I started looking through the unit, I realized that the previous owner was a paper hoarder. He hadn't thrown any paper away in years. Documents, notes, letters, bills, phone books, newspapers, food wrappers; it was all there. Every trash bag was full of trash. Every drawer in the desks and filing cabinets was full of trash. When I opened the safes, guess what was inside? Yes, more trash.

If you're in this business long enough, you will eventually come across one of these units. When you do, salvage what you can. Then take the rest to the dump and move on. If you can't sell some of the older merchandise, but it is reusable, consider donating it to a local charity. Not only will you get a tax deduction but you will be helping out the less fortunate in your area. Donation drop boxes are also a very convenient way to dispose of reusable merchandise. These drop boxes are open 24 hours and since they are unattended, they won't refuse any merchandise. The only drawback to using a donation drop box is that you won't get a tax deduction receipt.

If you or anyone else has a question or comment, feel free to post your reply below.

Pros and Cons of Buying Storage Units at Auctions

Storage Auction Pros & Cons

There are several pros and cons in buying storage units at auctions. It really depends on what your goals are. If your goal is to acquire a lot of nice things for yourself for pennies on the dollar, then you should give it a try. If your goal is to make some extra money buying then reselling merchandise, it can be a great business to be in. If your goal is to get rich quick, chances are it is not going to happen.

So, obviously, the pros are you can acquire a lot of great stuff for yourself at a low price and you can resell merchandise and make a profit. Another pro is that you will meet a lot interesting people & possibly make new friends. Last but not least, if you choose to make this a business, you choose the days and hours you want to work; no more punching the time clock!

The Cons: It's a lot of work. I used to spend about 40-50 hours per week attending self storage auctions. You have to inspect a lot of units before one comes across that has the merchandise you want and at the same time sells at price that you can make money on it.

Once you buy a storage unit, you have to excavate it. This can actually be a lot of fun if you bought the right unit, but if you have been digging through boxes for an hour and you still don't see the return on your investment, this could definitely be a con.

Now you have to move everything. Some buyers only buy storage units that they can fit into their car. Others have pickups, trailers & moving trucks, so size isn't really an issue for them.

Make sure that you have someone lined up to help you move the contents of the storage unit. Most storage units contain furniture or appliances that can be difficult to move. Some units aren't packed well or contain lots of trash, this can be time consuming trying to organize the contents of this type of unit.

You have to deal with people. This can be a pro or con, depending on your personality. You will have to deal with people in person when you are selling your merchandise. You will receive lots of phone calls, lots of tire kickers and people who don't show up for their appointment, but, I guess that is the same in every business.

Ever since the new storage auction shows premiered, there has been a migration of new buyers attending storage auctions in Texas and throughout the United States. Because of this, prices for storage units have risen at some storage auctions. That's why is is so important to get off the beaten path and attend the auctions that typically have fewer people in attendance. There are still days; however, that there are multiple storage auctions taking place at the same time. These are good days to go out because the crowds are thinned and you have a better chance of getting a good deal.

In my opinion, the greatest reward from being a storage auction buyer is that you can acquire some incredible things for yourself for free, after you sell the other items in the storage unit. All in all, if you are willing to work at it, and pay your dues learning this business, it can be quite rewarding.


Why Do People Store Their Property At Self Storage Facilities?

Some people just need extra space around their home, although you have to consider that a lot of people who store their property at self storage facilities are in transition. Some people run small businesses out of their storage unit, this is a lot cheaper than renting a commercial warehouse or store front. Others, just have things that they cannot or do not want to store at their homes or businesses.


What Is The State Requirement For Sales Tax?

Sales & Use Tax Permit

Emily recently asked the following question:

What is the state requirement for sales tax, is it required or not? I have heard different stories.

Emily, as far as the sales tax is concerned, you have a few different options. Let me start out by saying that I'm not an accountant or an attorney and you should consult with a professional if you have specific question regarding this issue. 

If you don’t already have one, you can apply for a sales tax use permit on the Comptroller’s website. With a sales tax use permit, you don't pay sales tax when you purchase a storage unit, but you are responsible for collecting sales tax on everything you sell. If you don't have a sales tax use permit, you will need to obtain one or pay sales tax on any storage units that you buy. Even if you pay sales tax up front, you must still collect or pay sales tax on everything you sell.

If you are asking whether you have to pay sales tax or not, the answer is yes. Sure, this is an all cash business, and some people do try to cheat, but why take that chance? Records are being kept by the storage facilities and the auctioneers of every storage unit purchased. This information could be used against you if you ever got audited by the state.

I hope this answered your question.