Tuesday, December 3, 2013

People often ask us about the self storage auctions. You know, the ones glamorized on television. These are the auctions where they find rare watches, gold coins, and priceless art. The buyers take their newly acquired possessions to an “expert” and find out it’s all worth $20,000.  Not bad for one day at the auction, right?  Well, not so fast.

Let’s start with how a unit goes to auction in the first place.

The clock starts ticking the day the customer fails to make their rent payment.  The reasons range from not being able to pay to simply not wanting to pay and everything in between.

The self storage law in California allows storage operators to charge a specific regulated late fee 10 days after the rent is due for a particular month.   These fees were passed by the California Legislature years ago, and are based on the total monthly rent amount.

Once 14 days of nonpayment has elapsed the storage facility will send out a Preliminary Lien Notice.  This notice informs the customer that if they fail to pay the balance owed within a specific time period, a lien will be placed on their stored property.

Once the time specified in the Preliminary Lien Notice expires, the facility sends out a Notice of Lien Sale.  This notice lets customers know that their stored property is subject to a lien, and they need to pay the entire amount before the date specified in the letter. If the customer fails to pay the amount specified their stored property will be sold to satisfy the lien.

After the Notice of Lien Sale is sent the storage unit must be inventoried.  Our facility uses a third party inventory service.  The manager and inventory representative cut the lock and open the door. They take an inventory of the items in the storage unit and record their findings on an inventory sheet. The door is then closed, locked, and tagged with a tamper proof tag.  The door is not opened again until the customer pays or the start of the Lien Sale.

Since the inventory of the unit is now complete, an ad is run in a newspaper of general circulation. This ad specifies the date, time, and location of the auction. For self storage located in Santa Maria that would be the Santa Maria Times.  Self storage facilities located in Arroyo Grande or Nipomo would find the ad in the Times Press Recorder or the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
All of this preparation takes about two months, but the auction can now take place.

On the day of the auction, all bidders report to the self storage facility office to sign in.  The tamper proof tag is then cut, the lock is removed, and the auctioneer begins the auction.  Bidders bid on the entire contents of the storage unit. The winning bidder (the buyer) must remove all of the contents from the facility or rent the storage unit.

Now, back to that expensive stuff they always find on those television shows.  Yes, I have seen on rare occasions nice items get auctioned off.  I’ve been told by some buyers that they have found expensive watches or rare coins.  That is a wonderful bonus for that particular buyer, but the majority of buyers just find regular household items.  Money can be made on purchased items at local swap meets or on internet sites like Craigslist.org.  In fact, many of our regular buyers do this for a living or on the side to supplement their regular income.

You are invited to attend our next auction.  You can bid or simply just watch others bid.  If you supply our manager with your E-mail address we will contact you with the next auction date.