Author - T.C. Lane

Online Storage Auctions: The Future of an Industry

For years, the storage auction business went on with few changes. Auctions were small, and the idea of forming a resale business from the contents of abandoned storage units was something unheard of to all but a small group of sellers who found their niche doing exactly that.

“Today’s storage operators and resellers must understand the shifting landscape of technology and learn to apply these changes positively to their businesses or they will fall behind the curve of technological progress.”
Opportunities spread by word of mouth and notices in the local paper, and resellers hawked their wares at flea markets or opened thrift stores to sell what they had found.

All of this has only recently begun to change, and the changes are rapid enough to make today’s storage auction business almost unrecognizable to the professionals who have been doing it for a decade or more.

Today’s storage operators and resellers must understand the shifting landscape of technology and learn to apply these changes positively to their businesses or they will fall behind the curve of technological progress.

storage warsThe changes started with the storage auction TV shows like Storage Wars and Auction Hunters.

When they first came out, these programs showcased an exotic job that few people had heard of or thought to attempt.

The initial draw was curiosity, and it worked: Soon they took off with huge popularity, and numerous spin-offs and similar programs were ordered to meet the sudden demand from viewers.

But the novelty wasn’t what gave A&E’s Storage Wars its staying power; it was the seductive possibility of striking it rich by selling someone’s forgotten junk.

So, like modern-day treasure hunters, scores of people who had never thought about storage auctions before were suddenly seeking out their local auctions, and the business was changed forever.

Changing Laws for a Changing World

While it’s certainly possible that the laws governing storage auctions might have changed to keep up with the times regardless, the waxing popularity of auction-hunting likely played a role in pushing these laws into compliance with modern-day lifestyles.

For years, storage auction rules had lagged behind existing technology. Storage facilities were required to contact customers by certified letters, not email, to try and get delinquent payments. They had to post auction notices in newspapers, not websites. And the auctions themselves had to be held in a public location, not a virtual space.

These laws had a crippling effect on the business as they severely limited the storage business’s ability to keep up with modern technology. The limits on online storage auctions in particular inconvenienced both storage facilities and auction bidders.

Fortunately, recent changes in legislature have begun to turn this around. Although not all states have updated their lien laws relating to the way storage facilities must handle auctions, many states have changed the wording of these laws to make the use of technology more accessible: emails and online lien notices can be used, and many states have now relaxed the “public place” law to allow auctions to be held in virtual spaces. All of this is good news for storage facilities and great news for bidders.

Online Storage Auction Online Auctions as the Future of Self-Storage

An online lien sale follows the format of successful auction sites like eBay and translates it to storage auctions.

Sellers post photographs and a description of the unit’s contents, and buyers can bid on it from the comfort of their home.

Depending on the site, they may have to pay a buyer’s premium if they win a unit; other sites, like, are free to use, take no financial information and allow buyers to make payment arrangements with the storage facility afterward.

The virtual auction model has several benefits:

  • Bidders can spend time thoroughly examining the contents of a unit, allowing them to research the items inside and make informed decisions about whether a purchase is worthwhile.
  • Bidders can bid from the comfort of their homes or while on the road by using a mobile app. This allows them to participate in multiple auctions without losing time from their other activities, like manning a resale business.
  • Online storage auctions tend to achieve higher profits than live auctions. One reason for this is that a long bidding time allows the bid to go higher than at a shorter live auction. Another reason is that bidding wars can get even more fierce over the internet.
  • Auctions can be posted by anyone, not just facility owners. This means that renters can auction their own storage units as a solution to an impending lien sale. Auctioneers can also get in on the action by having their auctions online or even running virtual auctions alongside their live auctions.

Online storage unit auctions have been gaining traction over the last few years, but recent changes in legislature are making them increasingly popular.

As online auctions go from a dubious legal gray area to a popular option for buyers and sellers, they’re likely to take over an even larger share of the market. Ultimately, the buyers who adopt this technological change will be in a place to succeed as the incidence of live auctions shrinks or even disappears into obscurity.

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Avoid Foreclosure: Sell Your Storage Unit Fast

Sell Storage Unit

In a troubled economy, it can be hard to keep up with your bills. If you’re experiencing financial hardship, finding a way to cut down your monthly expenses becomes vitally important.

One cost that may quickly get away from you is the expense of monthly storage unit rentals, and foreclosure on a storage unit can be very stressful.

When you fall behind on your payments, the storage facility has the right to auction off your items to satisfy the lien. If your unit sells for more than the amount you owe, you should be entitled to the overage, but this doesn’t always happen.

Going into foreclosure can leave a bad mark on your credit, and you run the risk of losing items that were meaningful to you.

Rather than facing these risks, it might be a good idea to sell the contents of your storage unit on your own. This allows you to sort through your items and remove anything sensitive or valuable that you can’t bear parting with. It also gives you a chance to sell off the items for a profit.

Our service is completely free, and anyone can put their storage unit up for auction through our system. Just provide us with a description of the items inside and a photograph. We’ll do the rest by posting it online alongside other storage unit auction listings.

Eager buyers from throughout the area will bid on your items. They may be looking to re-sell them themselves, stock a thrift store with them or simply keep them for their own homes.

Items that may be of little use to you could be worth a substantial amount to someone else, and selling your storage unit before you go into default is the best way to avoid foreclosure.

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Is Storage Hunters UK Real or Fake?

Storage Hunters UK Fake

By this point, even the most diehard storage auction reality show fans are starting to face the facts: None of these shows are 100% authentic. Reality TV doesn’t so much show real life as a glossy, action-packed melodramatic version of real life. After all, it takes a bit of “TV magic” to turn our regular, boring everyday lives into the kind of gripping drama that gets people to tune in week after week.

So there’s always some element of dramatization going on in these shows, whether it’s the participants hamming it up a little for the camera to create memorable characters or tons of less-than-thrilling material landing on the cutting room floor.

Of course, Dave Hester’s lawsuit against Storage Wars blew the whole topic wide open. His allegation was that the show was almost entirely faked, frequently showing “salted” units that had interesting items planted in them by the production company. And, as storage shows go, Storage Wars has always been the most believable.

Which brings us back to Storage Hunters: UK, the newest kid on the block.

Sean KellyStorage Hunters: UK follows American auctioneer Sean Kelly (star of the American Storage Hunters on TruTV) as he travels through the United Kingdom to host storage auctions for an array of colorful characters. The original Storage Hunters was a surprising smash hit over the pond, with episodes being aired on the Dave network (a British channel that runs local programs like Red Dwarf alongside other imports like Man vs Food), so a homegrown spin-off seems like the natural next step for the series.

Storage Hunters has always been one of the most outlandish and overly dramatic members of the storage auction reality TV family. While other shows threaten your willing suspension of disbelief by showing unbelievably rare or valuable items popping up in a lot of units, Storage Hunters likes to push your credulity a little bit further with truly bizarre discoveries and a generous sprinkling of Jerry Springer-like fights.

Storage Hunters: UK is cut from the same cloth. After all, why mess with the formula that made the show so successful in the first place? The program premiered with an impressive 1.1 million viewers, making it pretty clear that UK audiences were eager for more storage hunters behaving badly.

But how much of it is real?

Daniel Hill Storage Hunters UKIt’s safe to say that, for the most part, the characters on the show are pretty much real people. This isn’t like an Auction Hunters situation where small-time actors are looking to make it big on reality TV. All of the bidders on the show are genuine resellers, from antiques dealers to online storefront runners. Only one cast member, Daniel Hill, has an IMDB credit for anything other than himself – and that, curiously, is as an uncredited body double for Sacha Baron Cohen in Les Miserables. There’s probably quite a story behind that, but otherwise “Dapper Dan” seems pretty committed to his day job as a furniture dealer.

So the people they’ve hired are real buyers, as near as we can tell, but their on-camera hijinks are probably hyped up for the camera. Because, let’s face it: If the frequent (sometimes several-times-in-one-episode) arguments and out-and-out fist-fights on the show weren’t scripted, you can bet these guys would find themselves thrown out of the auction sooner or later for being a huge nuisance.

But what really stretches the limits of believability with Storage Hunters: UK are the units themselves.

When you’re watching the show, you can’t help but notice that the units seem to be rather conveniently staged. Nearly all of them are perfectly themed. Here’s a unit full of nothing but circus equipment. Here’s one with a ton of bicycles. Here’s one totally full of exercise gear. You never seem to find a unit full of mixed, normal items – a box of clothes here, an exercise bike there, an old couch here. You know, like a real person might actually keep in their storage unit. Who owned these units before they got on the show?

But then you reach heights of absolute absurdity, like the pilot episode where they opened up a unit to discover a raw heart in a basket.


Considering how hot it gets in a storage unit, and how long a unit has to be in default before it can go up for auction, the odds of you finding a perfectly fresh-looking, not-putrid heart just lying in a basket are basically nil.

Of course, this is from the same production company that brought you exotic finds like “Naked man in a cage” and “Conveniently rigged controlled explosion” on the American show, so nobody should be surprised.

As the series progresses, we’re likely to see things get even more outlandish because the laws governing reality TV and storage auctions are different in the UK than they are in the US. For example, until the storage auction craze really hit the world, auctions of that type weren’t really popular in Britain. While US facilities usually sell a person’s belongings in their entirety, it’s completely normal in the UK to divide up a person’s abandoned items and sell them piece-by-piece. So with that in mind, it should come as no surprise that these units are probably staged well in advance for dramatic effect.

Here’s the bottom line: Nobody’s really watching Storage Hunters: UK for an informative look at the auction business. They’re tuning in because it’s the very best of trash TV, with enough mystery, weirdness and drama to keep you engaged. If that’s your bag, just sit back and enjoy – but don’t expect to get by with starting a brawl at the next auction you attend.

What’s your opinion on Storage Hunters UK? Do you think it’s real of fake? Leave your interesting and creative responses in the comments section below.

Storage Auction Q & A with Travis Lane

TravisLane_small.jpg_thumbAllow me to introduce myself. My name is Travis Lane and I’m the head geek here at Online Storage Auctions. I’m also a professional storage unit buyer, author and advocate for the industry. I’ve been referred to as the “Man Behind the Curtain,” but I assure you, I’m not quite that mysterious. I’m more like the man behind the “shower curtain” singing into a back scrubber!

I recently received a request for an interview from one of the world’s leading news sites. I was really excited because it would have been some of the best publicity our site has had to date. They sent over a list of questions and I spent several hours over the weekend carefully crafting my answers. The next day, while my editor was proof reading the interview, I received an email notifying me that they had pulled the plug on the article. Just my luck!

So, rather than all of this effort being in vain, I decided to publish the interview here. I hope you all enjoy it and if you have any questions or comments about storage unit auctions, you’ll have the opportunity to respond at the end of this article. I will do my best to reply as quickly as possible. Without further ado.

How are actual storage auctions different than what’s portrayed on TV shows like “Storage Wars”?

Storage auction reality shows are entertaining, but they don’t portray storage unit auctions accurately. The storage auction business, like most businesses, requires a lot of time and hard work to be successful. The reality shows make it seem like it’s as simple as buying a unit, finding a valuable item, having it appraised, then selling it quickly for an enormous profit. I assure you, it isn’t that easy.

What you won’t see on storage auction reality TV is the countless hours that storage unit buyers spend finding and attending auctions, moving and sorting through merchandise, researching values, posting items on Craigslist & eBay and selling merchandise at garage sales, flea markets and resale shops.

Lastly, drama, fights and arguments are almost nonexistent.

What is usually found in a storage auction? Are valuable items common, or not really?

Most storage units contain common household items, furniture, appliances, electronics, clothing, business equipment, etc. Not very exciting, but you can make money reselling this merchandise, especially in today’s economy. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that almost everything has value to someone. You would be amazed at what some people will buy. Now, I won’t tell you that you can’t find valuable items in storage units, it’s just not as common as seen on TV.

So what’s been the coolest/most amazing thing found in a storage locker for an auction?

There have been several amazing finds over the past few years. Three of the most notable would have to be Paris Hilton’s storage locker, which was purchased for $2,775 and reportedly resold for $10 Million, a locker purchased for $1,100 which contained $500,000 in Spanish coins and bullion and the locker rented by a retired Florida medical examiner which contained more than 100 human organs crudely preserved in soda cups and plastic food containers.

I’ll never forget my best find. My wife was irritated, to say the least, by me spending $425 on a unit which didn’t appear to contain anything of value. After hours of work, we hadn’t found anything of considerable value. We were getting discouraged until, in the very back of the unit, we found an old safe. We took it to a locksmith and when he opened it, the safe was full. I opened a box and immediately got tunnel vision. Gold! The safe actually contained several boxes of gold & diamond jewelry, silver, a coin collection, a stamp collection and an antique revolver. I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since!

When looking in a locker, have you ever found anything unusual?

After you’ve been doing this a while, the lines between the usual and unusual become blurred. Some of the strangest lockers I’ve come across were owned by hoarders. I purchased a huge 10’x30′ locker for a few hundred dollars and it didn’t take long to realize that everything in it was either broken or had a part missing. Worse, there were multiples of everything. The owner of this locker literally never got rid of anything. I mean, who saves twenty broken broom handles?

The unit I dubbed “The Trash Unit” was probably the worst. It contained dozens of filing cabinets, boxes, bags, desks and a couple of safes. I paid $600 for this unit because, understandably, I’m a sucker for safes. After a while, I noticed a theme to this unit. I opened a box and it was full of trash. I opened a bag, it was full of trash. Filing cabinets, desk drawers, trash. Opened the safes, and guess what was inside? Yep, more trash. Every crevice of this unit contained used paper products, food wrappers, pizza boxes and other types of trash that normal people would have discarded. Disgusting. I just barely made my money back by selling the filing cabinets, but it left a bad taste in my mouth for these types of units. If I see anything inside a unit which even resembles a hoarder unit, I avoid it like the plague.

Have you ever seen lockers that people thought would be valuable really gone to bust? How about a seemingly not-valuable locker turn out to be a treasure trove?

Sure, that’s the beauty of this business. You never really know what you’re going to get. I’ve purchased units for next to nothing and sold the contents for thousands. I’ve also paid top dollar for units and barely broke even.

One particular unit that comes to mind had two large moving boxes labeled clothes. Auctioneer opened bidding at $5, so I decided to take a chance. Nobody else was interested. Turned out, the boxes did contain clothing; however, it was all designer clothing and shoes with the tags still on them. Probably 40 outfits in all. Lots of Gucci. I thought it was major score until my wife realized everything was her size. Oh well, easy come, easy go. At least I didn’t have to buy her clothes for a while.

Another time, I paid over a grand for some high end furniture. I was certain that I could triple my money, only to find out that almost every piece was damaged. Luckily, I dodged that bullet. It took some time, but I eventually found a buyer who repaired furniture and he paid me what I had invested in the unit.

Are you even allowed to enter/touch things before the auction?

No, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it. It’s difficult for the auctioneer to see what people are doing when the crowd surrounds the unit. The auctioneer or facility staff will cut the lock, raise the door and allow everyone a few minutes to look. If you’re seen touching anything or entering the unit, you could get your bidding privileges revoked, or in extreme cases, banned permanently.

Have there been any positive/negative effects of the sudden upswing of popularity of storage unit auctions?

It all depends on who you ask. Storage facility owners, who in the past rarely recovered what the delinquent tenant owed in rent and fees, were loving it. Professional storage unit buyers, on the other hand, people who depend on these auctions to keep food on the table, were suddenly unable to make living due to the influx of new buyers and the high prices units were selling for. Luckily for us, the interest in storage unit auctions has been on the decline for some time now. This business will never be the same as it was, although, things are getting somewhat back to normal.

Even though storage operators saw higher recovery rates, the massive turnouts at storage auctions have caused all sorts of problems for them. This led to innovations like online storage auctions which allow people to bid on storage units from home, work or on their mobile device. So far, the benefits of this new technology have been overwhelming for buyers and storage operators alike.

Are there any dangers/things people can be unprepared for? One episode of a storage bidding TV show had wild animals run out of the unit, freaking people out. Was that just TV or does that actually happen?

Well, I’ve never seen an animal, besides a rat, run out of a storage unit. Not to say that it couldn’t happen. Television shows have to be entertaining, otherwise they’ll be replaced with ones that are. Exploding meth labs, bidders arriving in tanks, fist fights, it’s all theatrics. There are dangers like extreme heat/cold, falling objects, heavy lifting, spiders, rats/feces and broken glass, but that’s just part of the job.

What is the hardest item to resell in an auction? Are things like vehicles hard to resell or even get out of a storage unit?

Storage unit buyers typically avoid units which contain a lot trash, clothing, old mattresses, dated or low quality furniture or heavy items with little value.

Most vehicles sell, regardless of age or condition, because there is value in their parts or as scrap. Vehicles can be difficult to remove if they aren’t running and/or if they were maneuvered into tight spaces.

What surprised you the most when you first attended these auctions? How much has it changed since then?

I fell into this business by chance. I was helping a friend of mine clean out his storage unit when the facility manager drove up on her golf cart and invited us to the auction. I decided to give it a chance and when I arrived, there were only two bidders including myself. There were two storage units for sale and I bought both of them for next to nothing. The other person didn’t even bid. I remember asking myself, could it really be this easy? Turned out, situations like that were extremely uncommon, but it didn’t really matter at that point because I was hooked.

I was one of the lucky ones who had a chance to experience storage unit auctions before they were thrust into the limelight by the storage auction reality shows. The difference between the business now and then is like night and day. Before the shows, storage unit auctions were relatively unheard of. You would see the same faces day after day. Prices were reasonable and people were making money.

Post storage auction reality shows, 10 times more people and units were selling for double, even triple what they would normally sell for. This forced a lot of professional storage unit buyers to look for other ways to make a living. It was like a modern day gold rush, minus the gold. People came, realized that there isn’t treasure in every locker and gave up. Very few newcomers stuck with it.

Gradually, things have gotten better. Attendance is down, prices have leveled out and people are making money again.

I hope you enjoyed the Q & A. If you have any questions or comments about storage units auctions, feel free to leave your response in the comments section below.

Storage Treasures Auctions Earn 25% Less

Storage TreasuresIf you haven’t been paying attention to recent developments in the storage auction business, you might be losing money.

Online storage auctions are a big trend, and they’re an attractive option for both buyers and sellers. While the benefits of convenience are obvious for auction-hunters, virtual auctions are also more valuable for storage facilities. Auctions held online earn more on average than live auctions.

Even if you’re already taking advantage of the benefits of virtual auctions, you could still be losing money by using the wrong service. People who use Storage Treasures and similar paid listing sites could net about 25% less than those who sell their units through the free service at

When you use Online Storage Auctions, you don’t have to pay for a middle man. There are no fees for either the buyer or the seller, and payments are made directly to you by the buyer rather than being handled by the site. This means no credit card information is gathered and the winning bid is the same as what you’ll receive in your pocket.

Storage Treasures and others of its kind, however, charge a premium either for listing an item or for winning it — or both. Since buyers know they’ll have to pay a premium on top of their winning bid, they’ll scale down their bidding. This essentially passes the cost of buyer’s fees back to the seller, who’s already paying fees for the privilege of having the item listed. Added together, this results in as much as 25% in lost revenue — and that’s assuming no additional costs like cancellation fees!

If you’re looking to sell the contents of a storage unit, wouldn’t you rather go with the option that cost you nothing? is free for everyone from bidders to auctioneers to private sellers. Since there’s nothing to lose, why not give our service a try with your next sale?

Why Pay Storage Battles 25% When You Don’t Have To?

Storage Battles Virtual Storage AuctionIf you’ve done any research into online storage auctions, you may know that storage units sold online tend to sell for more than their in-person counterparts.

What you may not realize is that auctions held on earn up to 25% more than auctions listed on competitor websites like If you’re looking for a place to list your storage units for sale, wouldn’t you rather choose a site that will let you put more money in your pocket?

Unlike Storage Battles and other similar listing sites, doesn’t charge any fees. Our listing service is completely free. That means that there are no buyer’s premiums and no seller’s fees eating into your profits: Whatever is bid is the amount you receive.

Storage Battles charges a 15% premium to the winning bidder. Since buyers take this fee into consideration, they scale down their bidding by 15% to make up for the cost. The seller is unknowingly paying the buyer’s fees. Worse, the seller has to pay an additional 10% in seller’s fees. Combined, this makes for 25% in lost revenue on every auction posted on If that weren’t enough, Storage Battles charges a $20 cancellation fee per unit. No wonder some people are reluctant to sign up for online auctions!

We do things differently at Our site is completely free, with no premiums charged to bidders, auctioneers, private sellers or storage facilities. So if you’ve been uneasy about trying an online auction service, consider giving us a try.

You have nothing to lose.

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