If you watch the television show “Storage Wars,” you may think that it’s not so hard to luck into buying a storage unit containing a small fortune in coins or an ancient samurai sword. While these things may be discovered in abandoned storage units, it’s not the norm. You’re more likely to find baby strollers and bicycles.

What makes me the expert? Well, I had an informative talk with Jeff Gregory, owner of Nor Cal Storage Auctions, Inc., located in Stockton, California. He’s been conducting auctions at self-storage facilities for seven years. And, yes, he absolutely has lots of interesting stories to tell! Jeff also has some advice for those of you who don’t have experience with bidding at storage auctions. I’m happy to share that advice with you now.

You Can Smell A Good Deal

The solid-gold, but not guaranteed, secret to buying a good storage unit is to take a whiff! If you detect mothballs, you might have found a wonderful unit. That’s because people who keep clean houses often also keep tidy storage units (sometimes with mothballs). If it smells bad, walk away! Units that small bad may contain junk, or stuff that no one wants because of the smell.

Don’t Walk Away so Quickly

On the flip side, if it smells bad, you could get it for only one dollar. Auctioneers are very motivated to sell all of their units, freeing the storage facility from the job of removing contents. An auction that starts at 20 dollars could actually end with the buyer paying only a buck. And Jeff has even paid that dollar for a buyer to make the sale! A smelly locker for free? You never know….

Buy Later in the Week

Storage auctions are most crowded on Mondays. That’s when people who make a living by selling auction-bought items have plenty of cash from their weekend sales, and they’re ready to stock up. You’ll pay much less for items if you wait until Friday or Saturday to attend an auction.

Monday Auctions Can Be Worthwhile

Yes, you’ll face more competition during auctions held on a Monday, but storage auctions in affluent areas of high rent are often scheduled on Mondays for the higher recovery rate for the facility. And, it’s the units in affluent areas that sometimes have the greatest finds.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

Put on comfortable walking shoes, eat your Wheaties and get ready to work! Cleaning out a storage unit is a very demanding job. You’ll have to completely empty and sweep out the storage unit you purchase – you can’t leave anything behind.  This can translate into a LOT of physical labor so be prepared for “moving day” type of work if you win an auction.

Get Fit

Hard work is its own reward. Jeff says that he knows several very buff retired people who buy storage units. Why are they in such good shape? It’s from moving all that stuff! Maybe you don’t need that gym membership after all.

Bring a Truck or Van

Be sure to arrive in the correct vehicle. You may have as little as 48 hours to clean out your storage unit, so make the best use of your time by going to the auction in an appropriate vehicle.

Don’t Get Yourself Blacklisted

Follow the rules, and clean out that locker you bought. If not, you may find yourself unable to participate in future storage auctions. Jeff keeps a list of people he no longer allows to bid at his auctions. And, he also shares that list with fellow auctioneers!

I hope you can put these tips to work, and you have a great storage auction experience. In future posts, I’ll share much more from my conversation with Jeff, including stories about some of the more interesting items discovered in storage units that were sold.

Why are you interested in attending storage auctions? If you’ve found a real treasure at a storage auction, what was it?