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4 tips to score big at self-storage auctions

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The hit reality show “Storage Wars” has turned the concept of self-storage auctions into an exciting one. Although many of these abandoned units often feature junk, there are some good gems to be had along the way. The bidding wars, the nasty dialogue and the suspense over whether your favourite character will score that hot item -- are what makes watching “Storage Wars” such a treat.

But a self-storage auction may not necessarily play out that way in real life. Many of us like to check out these events in the hopes that we’ll come across a precious antique or rare furniture item. However, participating in self-storage auctions can become a nuisance if you don’t show up prepared.

Below are some tips for attending these types of auctions to ensure you get the most out of your day there.

Practice Patience

Seasoned veterans say bids are usually higher in the mornings as opposed to later in the day. While it is a good idea to show up early, practice patience as you wait it out. Bidding prices may seem a bit high right off the bat, but that’s because most participants are generally very eager early on. This tends to drive up prices for items that could have been bought cheaper if they were presented later in the day (when bidders are starting to get tired and wary!).

Know What You’re Looking for Beforehand

Don’t fall into the trap of betting on everything that remotely peaks your interest. Come to the event with specific items in mind and bid on those things only. For example, if you’re looking for an antique piece for the family room, only bid on those items that you think will suit that particular space. Or if you’re looking for a coffee table, only engage in bids for coffee tables. This will keep you from buying unnecessary junk items.

Always Stick to Your Budget

Because self-storage auctions can be an adrenaline rush, it’s very easy to get swept away by the bidding frenzy. Once you are vulnerable to this atmosphere hype, you’re more likely to go beyond your budget and leave flat-broke. Don’t overspend on items no matter how much you’ve fallen in love with them. After going to a few of these auctions, you’ll be able to spot good opportunities when they arise and will be prepared to participate when things are within your budget.

Be Prepared for Auction Cancellations

Self-storage auctions happen because a tenant has failed to pay the locker fees or because he/she has disappeared altogether. But by law, a tenant is allowed to pay any outstanding dues right up until the auction starts. This means you may arrive at a self storage facility for a specific event, only to find out it’s been cancelled last minute. Before heading out, have some backup plans ready just in case. Often times, that same storage facility will be holding a series of other auctions on site. Always stay flexible and you won’t be disappointed!

Note: With content contributions from Brenda Carlisle, an interior designer by profession.

​Contact Marv Dumon at



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