Self-storage auctions can be a great way to get a deal on a unit or even resell your stuff at a profit. If you’re considering attending a storage auction, this guide will help you understand the process and what to expect. Self-storage facilities will occasionally put units up for auction to attract new tenants, raise cash, or clean out unoccupied space. The rules and procedures for these auctions may vary by property, but they are generally the same everywhere: prospective bidders inspect the units beforehand, then place sealed bids in lockers accessible only by the auctioneer. The entire process takes one to two hours, and it can feel like hurry-up-and-wait during those few minutes when you’re not actively participating in the bidding.

What you’ll need

Cash. Different facilities have different rules about payment, but you’ll definitely need cash at the auction. A printed copy of the auction rules. Every auction has its own rules, and the auctioneer may only read the most important parts of them aloud. A written copy will allow you to follow the entire process, and it may help you avoid a mistake that causes you to lose your bid.

Register to bid

In most cases, you’ll need to register in advance of the auction. The rules will specify how long in advance, so don’t procrastinate. You’ll need to provide information such as your name, address, and phone number. You may also need to provide a valid ID. Some self-storage facilities will accept credit card payments for registration and/or bidding. Other facilities may insist on cash. Check the rules.

Inspect the units

Before the bidding starts, you’ll be allowed inside the facility to inspect the auctioned units. You’ll need to use a flashlight, as the few overhead lights may be dim and/or off. Some auctions may be scheduled for daytime, but proximity to a major city or airport may result in a noise curfew. If you’re not allowed inside the units, you can still get a general sense of their condition by looking through the doors’ windows. You’ll want to note any obvious damage on the unit or door, such as broken locks, broken windows, or rusted hinges. You may also want to pay attention to the unit’s size and location. A unit near the building’s exterior wall may be vulnerable to flooding if it rains. A unit on the first floor may be more likely to flood if there is a storm surge or flood-related tidal surge.

Place your bids

As the auction gets underway, you’ll be able to place bids on the units. In most cases, you’ll have a chance to review the auctioneer’s conditions of sale (which may be printed on a poster or displayed on a TV monitor) and then sign a paper copy of the conditions. While you’re doing this, other bidders may be finding the previous units uninteresting and bidding on your current unit. You may want to keep a tally of other bidders to anticipate when you’ll need to raise your maximum bid to stay competitive. The auctioneer will announce the rules and conditions of the auction and indicate which unit is currently up for bid. You’ll indicate your bid amount by opening the unit’s door, placing your hand on top of the door, and closing your hand into a fist while holding your bid amount in the other hand. You may want to practice this in advance so you can do it without looking awkward.

Final words: Don’t rely only on this guide

This guide will give you a basic understanding of what to expect at a storage unit auction. However, every auction is different, and you may encounter unforeseen circumstances. Be prepared for any situation you can think of, and don’t let your emotions get the best of you.

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