Storage Auction Etiquette - Protecting Your Profits and Staying Off the Ban List

How Self Storage Auctions Come About

Storage auctions are becoming more and more popular lately, thanks in part to a spate of new pop culture offerings and reality television shows that feature bargain hunters scoping out, and profiting from, local self storage company auctions. Self storage facilities are set up to allow tenants to rent out secured space according to their needs, and to place their things there under the watchful gaze of the facility manager, video surveillance system and electronic entry gates, in exchange for monthly rent. Should a tenant, however, fall dramatically behind on their monthly rental payments, however, they are at risk of having their belongings placed under lien. A lien is the beginning of the auction process: it occurs when a self storage company enforces their right to withhold the delinquent customer's access to their belongings until the company receives payment for their services rendered. This is similar to the lien process that an auto mechanic can use should they ever perform services or repairs for a non-paying customer. Once the self storage company has sufficiently carried the lien process to finality, while following the letter of the law and making all necessary attempts to notify the delinquent tenant of their situation, they have the right under law to sell the late tenant's belongings to the public via live auction in order to recoup the financial losses they have incurred through unpaid rent.

Self Storage Auction Etiquette - Never Irritate the Powers that Be

However, just as tenants can fall afoul of the self storage company by failing to pay their monthly rental bills in a timely manner, so, too, can auction attendees coming to a storage facility in order to bid on auction units. There are certain explicit rules, as well as an unwritten code of etiquette that all auction visitors should follow in order to ensure they are not asked to leave early or banned from future auctions. When it comes to the law of the land, the company's on-site property manager has the final say, and you are technically stepping onto private property when you attend an auction at a storage company's facility. Therefore, it's important not to anger or disrupt the property manager or give them any good reason to have to ask you to leave. The self storage industry is very tightly knit, and it's not uncommon for frustrated self storage managers to call up their competitors and give the names of unruly bidders so as to keep a communal 'blacklist' circulating.

Understanding the Self Storage Auction Process from the Management's Perspective

Here are a couple of common missteps you can avoid when you are attending your first few storage auctions. First and foremost, remember that, by the time you and other bidders arrive on site, the facility manager has already spent several frustrating months trying to track down, argue with, and extract payment from delinquent tenants. The few tenants that don't pay on time cause the most headaches, take the most time, and require the most paperwork to deal with properly. This means that, by the time auction day has arrived, the facility managers are tired of dealing with the tenants in question and simply want the auction to proceed as smoothly and quickly as possible so that they can have the delinquent units emptied and cleaned and ready to be rented out to better tenants in the future.

Follow the instructions of the facility managers and auctioneers on site that are conducting the auction. When you first arrive, do sign up on the bidder registration sheet, which will either be kept in the office or out in a public place for all visitors to easily find, but do not seek out the manager and start pestering them with questions. The managers have a lot of last minute paperwork to fill out when they are preparing for the start of an auction. Do fill out your individual bidder registration sheets and return them to the manager or assistant, and then stand off to the side with the other bidders and wait for the auction to begin. Now is not the time to start asking questions about how many units of what size are up for auction. Don't ask the facility manager what's in the units, because sometimes they won't know and they're never really supposed to tell you upfront anyway.

Getting Down to It - Keeping Calm During Storage Auctions

When it comes auction time, follow the manager and auctioneer to the first auction unit and walk along with the rest of the crowd. Don't try to jostle your way to the front, because everyone is given a chance to peer inside the unit. Behaving appropriately toward the auction units is the most important thing you need to do when attending a storage auction. State laws vary, but most of the time the units are considered private until the final bid is placed and the unit is paid for by the winning bidder. This means you are trespassing if you cross over the line and begin touching things inside the unit. You also run the risk of damaging the contents because you do not know how things are positioned inside the unit, or what is being obscured behind other objects. Follow the instructions of the self storage facility manager and auctioneer and stay back from the threshold of the unit when you are giving it a brief examination.

The next most important thing to consider is that everyone present wants to see the auction unit just as much as you do. When you get to the front of the line and it's your turn to view the auction unit, do feel free to shine a flashlight inside and peer around the unit, but do not go inside and do not touch anything within the unit. Plenty of would-be bidders have been asked to leave immediately for failing to follow these rules.

Most of Storage Auction Etiquette is Simple Common Sense and Civility

When it comes to the actual bidding, keep in mind that, although competition for a highly desired unit can get heated and spirited, you are always expected and required to display civil behavior toward the other bidders, the auctioneer, and the storage facility staff. Cursing, making threats or generally behaving unpleasantly or aggressively is a great way to be removed immediately and barred from future attendance. If you are upset that you were outbid for a unit, shake it off and move on. Trying to bring up personal disagreements with the facility manager is another great way to get on their radar as a person they don't want to deal with in the future. Always remember to be calm, respectful, and to follow instructions and you'll have absolutely no problem attending self storage auctions in the future and turning a great profit from your winnings.