AMS Blog

The Gold Rush, Personal Storage Unit edition

Storage unit auctions are often perceived as an opportunity to “strike it rich.”

The gold rush, the next big tech company success; dreams of obtaining wealth in a short amount of time. Everyone dreams of a big payoff on a small investment, but few make it.  The television show “Storage Wars” romanticizes the concept of hitting it big with the blind purchase of the contents of a storage unit. How much should you bid? Could that 10×15 unit be hiding junk, small treasures, or your retirement?  Should you outbid that person over there or wait for the next unit?

Remembering that a television show on any topic is going to take dramatic license and gloss over some of the more mundane aspects of the topic, here is a reality check when it comes to sales of unit contents.

The storage company wants … rent

All aspects of the self-storage business are governed by laws and statutes in the State of Colorado. Reputable owners and managers are careful to comply with those laws: their business reputation rides on good business practices and treating their customers with respect. The last thing they want to do is take temporary ownership of the contents of a unit.

The law governs all aspects of a storage unit auction.

As a matter of fact, no owner, manager, or employee is allowed to bid on the contents of the storage unit. None of these parties can profit from the sale of the contents of a unit at all. Their only goal in an auction is to recoup the money owed to them from rent, late fees, and the cost of holding the auction.  Holding an auction is time consuming, takes valuable time away from doing other tasks and very rarely garnishes the money needed to offset the money owed. Not to mention all the paperwork that such a sale involves. They would much prefer their clients paid the rent.

The excitement builds …

Some storage facilities hire a professional auctioneer to facilitate the sales. Before the actual auction proceeds, the potential buyers are allowed 5 minutes to inspect the contents, only from the outside. Why? Yes, it is dramatic watching people try to evaluate potential treasures with a mirror on the end of a pole and a flashlight, but the real reason no one is allowed inside the unit is simple: the Colorado lien statute forbids it (perhaps written that way to keep the process uniform and to prevent theft).

… then reality sets in.

The real work begins after a person wins an auction. Usually, they have to clear out the contents of the personal storage unit within 24 hours (it varies depending on individual facilities and their policies). That means they need a vehicle suitable for hauling away the contents quickly.  A pick-up or other type of truck is a necessity.

Physical fitness is a plus, people need to hustle to get the unit cleared out in time.

The real work starts

There are a few people (very few) who buy and sell the contents of storage units for a living. They may do okay, but it takes a lot of hard work to be a full-time “storage wars” warrior. Management refers to these dedicated diehards as “Regulars.” Many of them have full-time booths at various flea markets to sell the ordinary items like clothing, household goods, and so on.

Spending time selling the goods from a storage unit at a flea market.

For the potential high-ticket items, they need contacts.  People who can evaluate the value of an item, and—this is the most important part— taking the time (or spending the fees) to sell the potential high-valued item. Yes, an original computer or manual from the 1980’s is rare, but so is the market willing to buy such an item. The storage Regulars have to evaluate the cost of their time against the potential profit in order to make money selling the items from an auction.

In short, it takes a lot of hard work to earn money at buying the contents of storage units.

And what of the original owner?

If the auction did not bring in enough funds to pay for the delinquency, many companies will sell the debt to a collector. However, what happens if it brings in more money than owed?  Put another way, if the rent and late fees of a unit owed to the company is, for instance, $338, and the contents of the unit goes for $538 at auction, the $200 overage legally belongs to the owner of the contents, not the storage unit company. In such a case, a check for the overage is cut out by the owner and mailed to the tenant’s last known address by certified mail. If it returns and goes unclaimed for over a year, then the check can be destroyed and the owner’s obligation to the tenant is satisfied.

The end

The owner and manager of storage units are restricted—by law—to collecting only the rents and associated fees owed to them. Since an auction is a time-consuming process and one laden with paperwork, they much prefer the client stay current on their rent.

For a person hoping to “hit the jackpot” at a personal storage unit auction, it is possible to do okay but the chances of “hitting it big” are actually quite slim and the chances of losing money are more likely.  The average person will do better to spend their time just watching an episode of “Storage Wars” on television.

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To store or not to store … (self-reflection on self-storage)

It has been my experience that many of us Americans seem to treasure our possessions until there is a real true awakening of conscious and collective thought of finally having the will to let go.

Perhaps some of the reasons we find it so hard to part ways with our stuff is because money doesn’t grow on trees, the Tooth Fairy stopped leaving money under our pillow a long time ago and stubborn old Santa Clause refuses to hand out cash to adults.  For most of us, a dollar is hard earned and hard to come by these days.  It’s not easy to throw away that ten-year-old couch which cost $1,400 brand new and still looks great, but now would only fetch $50 at a yard sale.

Other reasons may be sentimental ones:  little Johnny’s kindergarten stick-figured painting complete with flaming red hair of his dear old mommy and Mary Sue’s first pair of eye glasses (which went missing from Fido’s Kibbles and Bits bowl but were miraculously recovered days later in the back yard) would qualify as illustrations.

inventory storage or household storage in Denver and AuroraAnd then there is every other reason in the book.  for example, all those nice designer clothes that were purchased at the finest stores and are now occupying 80% of our closet space even though we haven’t worn any of them since about 100 pounds ago and yet we hold onto them because we just know that someday, somehow, we’ll be back to that smaller size in the very near future- just as soon as we finish this double pounder with fries and a large diet coke.  So when does it all make sense?

Self-storage is, and always has been, a personal decision for most Americans faced with the choice.  It makes sense for returning college students to store their goods in a storage unit space over the summer, or for a family that is in the process of purchasing a home and having to wait a few months for closing, or for the small business owner in need of a little more room to keep an overflow of inventory.

It also makes sense for a family that absolutely needs more storage space to rent it, rather than turn their garage into one while parking their car out on the driveway just waiting to be pounded by the next hail storm.

Where it starts to get a bit blurry is whether to let go of Billy’s guitar lessons or Peggy’s dance class in order to rent space for reasons you find necessary.  If the sacrifice is eating less at Burger King and more at home, then renting a household storage space is probably still worth it.  But if mom keeps running into walls because she needs the cataracts surgically removed from her eyeballs, or dad’s face becomes dark purple and swollen like a cantaloupe because he has postponed indefinitely a trip to the dentist to have 2 root canals taken care of and a wisdom tooth pulled, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate how important it really is to have that extra space.

You see, maybe the question shouldn’t be whether you “need” more space or not, but rather if you can afford to rent the extra storage space you know you need.

There are only a small handful of customers who are looking for storage but not really in need of it- more of a choice of convenience rather than necessity.  But for most, when customers come into our office interested in household storage units, the reasons they give for needing one are solid and logical.  Countless reasons exist for people seeking personal storage space and mine is not to question why.  But here is what I hope customers do question:  Can they afford it?  You see, as a manager of Alameda Mini Storage, it doesn’t matter to me whether or not someone should be storing their stuff as opposed to selling it in a garage sale.  That decision is a personal one.  However, as a manager, I do concern myself as to whether or not a customer can afford the storage they want.  Why?  Because as much as we dislike the process, a storage unit that is filled with a tenant’s goods but is delinquent in payments for more than 30 days, is subject to being placed in lien and ultimately , the contents of the unit sold at a public auction.  And that, my friend, is no good for us or our tenants.

Alameda Mini Storage has storage units of all sizes. We serve those looking for self-storage units in Aurora, Denver, and many surrounding areas. See our Contact Us page for a listing of zip codes within a 5-mile radius. We will be glad to help you select a store inventory storage unit, a household storage unit, or even a vehicle storage unit that meets your needs.

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Storage Units – not always about money

First of all, if you have your goods in storage, or are thinking about it, then I’m going to make an assumption that you care about the stuff you are storing.  If you didn’t, then why not just sell all of it at a yard sale?  So now that caring for your stored goods has been established, there are 4 big, BIG items that should concern you when you’re shopping for space.  If money is your only concern – who is offering rent for the cheapest – then I question how important the stuff is that you want to store.

Our storage units in denver and aurora have security cameras that are important in securing your goods.First, how secure is the facility?  Are there alarms on the storage doors?  Are there cameras throughout the yard (not just at the gate site)?  Is the premise well lit?  Is there a perimeter fence and a well built entry gate?  How does a tenant gain access to their storage space?  Does there seem to be a management “presence” at the site ( a control of the site to make you feel secure)?  These are just a few security measures that should concern everyone who is paying money to store their goods.

Alameda Mini Storage offers easy payment options.Services offered should be another item of concern for tenants who store.  Are there several ways to make the rent payment?  Does the storage facility accept a variety of credit cards?  Does the business sell moving supplies?  Are the gate hours acceptable?  Does the office offer senior or student rates?  Is the business consistent in its operations (evenness and fairness applied across the board)?  For us at AMS, It’s not just about how many services we have to offer, but how those services are being rendered.

Alameda Mini Storage offers easy access to storage units.I would also include the layout of the facility as being an important matter of concern.  Are the lanes wide enough to drive to your space in a moving truck?  Do you have to walk far to unload or load your items?  Do you have to stage your stuff in one spot then move it to the right location afterward?  Do you have to use cumbersome elevators to reach your space?  Also, is the facility “semi tractor-trailer” accessible (most facilities are not)?  And finally, is the facility clean and well maintained?

Our onsite managers are professional and friendly.Lastly, and probably the most important:  Are the managers sincere and friendly?  We have seen quite a few customers who have come to us for storage simply as a result of managers being uncaring or rude.  For us here at AMS, it’s all about the experience.  We have learned that a tenant who has had a good experience with us during their stay will refer us to others or repeat as customers.  On the other hand, tenants who have had a lousy experience will make it a point to tell everyone.  Unfortunately, there are many people including managers , who work with the public and lack many of the skills it takes to make their customers feel special.

If you’re fortunate enough to locate a facility with all of these attributes, it won’t be the cheapest.  Why?  Because that facility is adding value for its tenants.  Being competitive is not just about the money- who is offering the biggest discounts and the lowest rates.  If it was, then nothing else would matter.

Alameda Mini Storage has storage units of all sizes. We serve those looking for self-storage units in Aurora, Denver, and many surrounding areas. See our Contact Us page for a listing of zip codes within a 5-mile radius.

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Coupons and Discounts

Alameda Mini Storage ONGOING COUPON: At move-in, be sure to say  “I’m coo coo for AMS” to receive $15.00 off one month’s rent!

LUCKY NUMBERS –  1970:  For supply purchases that total $20 or over, receive a 10% discount if you repeat this lucky number to the office clerk.

We welcome all our customers to come by and visit our facility!  Just to be sure someone is in the office, give us a call at (303) 363-0939.  We would love to show you around!

 

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