Should You Do You Own Research Before An Auction?

A member recently asked the following question:

I am a annual subscriber to your storage auction listing service. I have read your blog and all the helpful information thru your links, including your beginner's guide. What I am wondering about is how to do more research on the units being sold. Do you need to access the public legal notice to get that information? Is it common practice to call the storage facility? Just want some tips on how to research more than likely what will be in the unit beyond what one can see.

This is an excellent question. First of all, thanks for being a member, we really appreciate you. Allow me to begin by explaining how the storage facility manager takes inventory of the contents of a storage unit scheduled for public sale. After a storage facility manager has given a delinquent tenant notice, they are required by Chapter 59 of the Texas Property Code to publish legal notice in a newspaper of general circulation for two consecutive weeks, which includes the name of the tenant, location, date and time of the sale and a description of the contents of the storage unit.

See the following example of an actual legal notice:

Demarques Tucker: furn Darrell Conley: furn, boxes, sprtng gds, applnces, TV/Stereo Equip LaTwanecia Willingham: furn, applnces Traqueva Langrum: hsld gds, furn, boxes, TV/Stereo Equip Adam Jackson: hsld gds, furn, boxes, TV/Stereo Equip Jacqueline Thurman: hsld gds, furn, boxes, tools Maria Rios: furn, dishes, boxes Geary Matthews: hsld gds, furn, boxes, sprtng gds, tools, TV/Stereo Equip Billy Greer: furn TeTierre Hamilton: hsld gds Jaime Mendoza: hsld gds, furn, boxes, sprtng gds, TV/Stereo Equip Maria Rios: hsld gds, furn, boxes Antrum Critterdon: hsld gds, furn, boxes, applnces; Stephanie Cannon: hsld gds, furn Andrea Williams: hsld gds, furn, boxes, sprtng gds, tools, applnces, TV/Stereo Equip Leonetta Green: hsld gds, furn, boxes, applnces,TV/Stereo Equip Tiffany Huitt: furn, boxes, TV/Stereo Equip Kenya Barnes: hsld gds, furn, boxes, account records Muriam Watkins: hsld gds, furn, boxes, tools, applnces, TV/Stereo Equip, accnt rcrds Tywanna Ferguson: hsld gds, furn, boxes.

Pretty monotonous right? Some people actually do read the public notices to get an idea of what is inside the storage units before the auction. But, once you have been doing this for a while, you realize that it is a gigantic waste of your time. I say this for a few different reasons.

1. Over half of the units advertised in the legal notice will not go to auction because the tenants will get current on their payments before the auction begins. Nothing is more frustrating than getting excited about a unit and then finding out that the owner paid the bill just minutes before the auction begins. It happens a lot.

2. The person doing the inventory does not enter the unit, open boxes or move things in order give a better description of the contents. This is why the descriptions are so vague.

3. We do the research for you, that's what were here for. Whenever there is a unique or valuable item in a unit, we list it in bold print. If there is nothing listed, it means that the storage facility did not list the specific contents in each unit or that the unit contains any of the following common items: furniture, appliances, electronics, household goods, clothing, tools, boxes, sporting goods, accounting records, etc. If there is a business unit for sale, and the contents aren't listed, we research the business for you, so you can get a better idea of what may be in the unit.

As far as trying to determine what could be in the unit beyond what one could see, research is most likely not going to help you. You will have to buy a lot of units to develop the skills and experience which will help you identify clues as to what may be inside the unit.

Yes, it is a common procedure to call the storage facility if you plan to attend the auction. Some people call the day before and some call the morning of the auction, but either way, it is strongly recommended that you call to make sure that the auction hasn't been cancelled. Also, this will give you an opportunity to speak with the property manager and you might even be able to get some inside information.

I hope this has been helpful and if you or anyone else has a question, feel free to post a reply or send me an email. Have a great day.

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Thanks – great response on the blog and VERY helpful. You hear of people doing research but you help confirm that you’re doing the work for us.

    Have you quit buying or are you doing both this website and buying/selling?

    And if you did quit was it because you felt you could make a better living doing something else? Do you still feel like there is money to be made with all this frenzy focus on buying storage units due to the TV shows.?
    I grew up with my mother in the antique business so I have bought and sold all my life; but, I have always kept a day job for the benefit purposes. I always wanted to get into buying storage units but had never taken the time to figure out how to get the data…plus I was located in West Texas at the time which does not have a lot of these.

    In the last 6 years I relocated to the city and I can see the benefits in volume and availability to get units to buy.

    Thanks for responding to me and providing such helpful insight/information.

    • I do still attend auctions every now and then, but not as much as I would like to. My primary focus is to provide a quality service to our subscribers. Truth is, I really miss the treasure hunt! When I was a full time storage auction buyer, I was buying seven to nine units per week. Buying and selling on this level consumed most of my time. Now, when I do attend an auction, I look for big ticket items that I can flip for a profit or items that I would be interested in keeping for myself. Since we are currently in the process of expanding our service and because we want to continue delivering the most comprehensive storage auction schedule to our current subscribers, I will have even less time to attend the auctions. Perhaps one of these days I can hire someone to take my place and I can get back to digging in other people’s stuff…LOL

      When I originally started the Houston website, I was still buying storage units while I was developing the business. It just became too much to handle at one time so I stopped buying units for a few months. During this time, I had no income and I had to spend money to get the website functional. I risked almost everything I had in savings on a hunch that the website would be successful. Our first two months in business, our income before expenses was only $600. But, after our third month, people started to see that we were delivering a quality product and our subscriber base has increased ever since. I’m really glad that I didn’t give up in the beginning.

      The storage auction reality shows really did change the storage auction business. It used to be somewhat unknown and you would see the same small group of people at every auction. These regulars were like family and they didn’t play childish games like bidding others up. Units sold at a fair price and everyone made money. Yes, I do still feel like there is money to be made, you just have to be patient and buy smart. The good news is that I think we have seen the worst and now things are starting to get somewhat back to normal. By now, almost everyone who has seen the show and who has wanted to give the storage auction business a try, has done so. Some new buyers have stayed and some have left. I think the buyers that have left were disappointed because the storage auction reality shows brought out record numbers of new people and they didn’t portray the storage auction business in it’s true light. This business requires a lot of work and time and dream units like the ones portrayed on television might only occur once in every 30 or more units purchased. Last but not least, I think the storage auction shows are on their way out the door. People are getting bored watching the same thing week after week. I give them another year at most before their ratings begin to suffer and the networks look for more profitable shows.

      I agree with you, there is nothing like attending auctions in a large city if you want to work full time in the storage auction business. There are storage auctions almost every day of the week which gives you the ability to be constantly buying and selling. It has been my pleasure to answer your questions and I wish you the best of luck in the storage auction business.

      If you have a question or comment about the storage auction business, fell free to post your question or comment below.

  • What would keep a Storage Unit Manager from taking good items from the unit when they are preparing the inventory for the Legal Notice?

    • Garry,

      Well, that’s a good question. I think the reason that most storage facility managers don’t take items from a delinquent tenant’s unit is because most of them are just honest, hardworking people. And perhaps I’m just being naive, but I believe that most people are inherently good. Now, I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, it just doesn’t happen as often as people think. First of all, most of your larger chain facilities have district managers who inventory the contents of the unit. Some auctioneers even inventory the contents of the unit for the storage facility. Some storage facilities choose not to inventory the contents at all, and instead, publish a vague general description like “All units contain household items, electronics, furniture, etc.”

      What would keep a storage facility manager or employee from taking items from the unit? Morals, more security cameras than a Vegas casino, fear of losing their job and being prosecuted, all play an important factor. But, I think the number one reason is, they don’t know if the delinquent tenant will come in right before the auction and get current on their payments. If they had removed some items from the unit, and the tenant notices, they could get in a lot of trouble.

  • Recently went to my first Auction actually just to watch and learn. It was exciting even though I did not do any bids. I did notice an employee of the Storage Facility was bidding. He did not win any Auctions…just bidding. Hmmm…. Also noticed the Locks were being opened by Managers Keys in hand. That means locks had to be replaced by Management so I’m thinking they broke off the Original Lock of Tenant once he fell behind rent and replaced it with their lock, which I guess does make sense.,,but then I would think even if they were to break the lock off or saw it off in front of everyone it still does not mean its the Original Lock. A lot to learn and observe but still I am going for it. Thanks for your great Website…has gotton some great tips.

    • I appreciate the compliment! Our goal is to make this website a valuable tool for buyers of all levels.

      What you experienced with the locks is normal. By law, the storage facility is required to list a brief description of the contents of the unit. The only way for them to comply is to cut the lock, inventory the contents from outside the unit and secure the unit with their own lock. If you’re concerned whether the contents of the unit have been tampered with, you shouldn’t be. For more information on this subject, click here.

  • If you go into the business assuming all the lockers may have been tampered with, your better off 🙂
    (Doesn’t mean they are, but it will save you lotsa money and disappointment)

    Always buy what you can see, don’t be fooled by labeled boxes, and don’t be a gambler.

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