By Leonard Pecker
A successful online self-storage auction requires some planning and organization. While this takes a bit of time, the results are worthwhile. It all begins with creating a great listing. Following are some guidelines to keep in mind.
Online auctions attract a great number of regular buyers who will log on to the auction site, sometimes several times a day, to view new and upcoming sales. Because of this, it’s wise to list your auction as soon as you know the legal sale date, even if it’s several weeks away.
Not only will this entice more bidders, it’ll draw traffic and awareness to your storage facility. When the auction officially starts, there should be an acceleration in the bidding process, as bidders have had an advance view of the unit contents. At the same time, the listing serves as legal notification that an auction of a delinquent locker will take place, which might encourage your tenant to pay the arrears.
While some self-storage operators believe in a long auction duration—one to two weeks—a three- to five-day window is sufficient to attract a large number of bidders and empty the units quickly. Obviously, the quicker a unit is sold, the faster the bidder pays, which is good for the storage business. Long auctions tend to attract bids in the last few days, as many bidders won’t return to view the listing until the auction is near its close. On the other hand, a duration of less than three days can result in some bidders missing the auction entirely, which defeats the purpose.
Choose an Open/Close Time
An online auction should start on a weekday, not a weekend or legal holiday. It should also start at 10 a.m. and close at noon or 1 p.m., which allows both parties time to communicate during business hours about payment and pickup. Written notifications of winning bids are sent automatically to the buyers and sellers.
In the case of posting multiple units, you can stagger the closing times by five minutes. Many bidders are bidding on many units simultaneously. A five-minute delay between each auction end time will avoid anyone being shut out and allow people to continue bidding. Of course, it’s to your advantage to attract as many bids as possible.
Multiple, quality photos depicting each unit’s contents are the most important selling tool for generating maximum revenue. Clear, sharp, well-lit, well-focused pictures are essential to attract buyers and the highest bids.
Take pictures from outside the unit from the left angle, right angle and head on. If possible, take close-ups of the high-value contents such as TVs, computers, tools, appliances and furniture as well as any sealed boxes with contents listed on the side. Most sellers post five pictures. Too many photos become repetitive, while using too few fails to sufficiently project the potential value to prospective bidders.
Write a Good Description
A well-written but short description can highlight the value of the merchandise within the unit. A generic teaser may also create more bidder interest. The description should include the unit size and whether it’s climate-controlled, plus a list of miscellaneous items, household goods or furniture, if applicable. When specific high-value items are visible, such as appliances, electronics or tools, note them. In the case of a unit with boxes and bags, you can add the quantity or just note it has “several.”
Set a Starting Price
This is a key element to achieving a successful result. While there’s temptation to start high, this might deter some bidders, as the final price could be too costly for them. Unless high-priced merchandise in visibly excellent condition can be seen in the pictures, the number of bidders will be low if the unit is priced too high.
Starting the bid in the $25 to $50 range will often attract final bids of $500 to $800. In cases where the merchandise isn’t clear—for example, the unit is full of boxes or bags—a starting price of less than $25 is advisable.
Include Terms and Conditions
Always include your standard terms and conditions, for example, deadline and method for payment, facility business hours, contact information, and forfeiture of merchandise if the transaction isn’t completed. Also include any additional stipulations that are legally required or part of your company’s policies. This might mean phrases such as, “no warranties on condition of merchandise,” “sold as is,” “right to remove listing if tenant pays arrears before auction closes,” etc.
The online-auction listing is a self-storage operator’s silent salesperson. The more you put in to it, the better the results. By formulating a great listing, you can reduce your bad debt and increase your profit.
Leonard Pecker is the director of customer service for iBid4Storage.com, an online storage-auction marketplace where sellers and buyers in North America can benefit and prosper. For more information, call 855.402.4243; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.ibid4storage.com.