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Hosting Live Auctions at Your Self-Storage Facility: Marketing, Preparation and More

Self-storage operators who host live auctions have a number of responsibilities, including marketing the sale, crowd control, security and more. Here’s look at some of these facets and how you can better prepare for your live event.

September 24, 2015

5 Min Read
Hosting Live Auctions at Your Self-Storage Facility: Marketing, Preparation and More

By Cheli Rosa

Self-storage operators spend a great deal of time preparing for a lien sale. There are strict laws that have to be followed, late notices and phone calls to make, plus you need to ensure all your legal announcements are free of errors. Yes, there are a lot of steps involved, but your job isn’t done once these are completed. You still have to oversee the actual sale.

Operators have several options for conducting these events. While some are making the transition to online auctions, many still prefer to hold live sales. If you’re one of the latter, there are a few things you should consider, such as event marketing, crowd control, safety and security, liability, rules and procedures, and whether you should hire a professional auctioneer. Let’s take a closer look at how you can better prepare for a live auction and guarantee its success.

Marketing

When it comes to lien sales, most operators fall into two camps. There are those who don’t care about the money recovered from their auctions; they just want the units cleaned out. Then there are others who want to recover as much of what’s owed to them as possible. Regardless of which group you fall into, you can’t have a sale without buyers.

Ten years ago, buyers found the location of an upcoming sale from legal ads in the newspaper. Those days are long gone. Now, there are websites galore alerting buyers to where they can find storage auctions.

What’s your plan to get the word out about your live auction? One great marketing approach is to contact one of the many websites listing storage auctions, specifically one people visit regularly. This may require you to do some research to find the most popular sites. Another is to advertise to your own e-mail lists, and on your facility website and social media pages. You can also place a listing on Craigslist or hire an auctioneer who’ll do the advertising for you.

Policies

Once you’ve marketed your lien sale, you need to develop some strategies for the onsite event. Here are some things to consider about the safety and security of your facility, tenants, staff and bidders:

  • Where will bidders park?

  • Will they be allowed to use your restroom?

  • What’s your responsibility if someone gets hurt or injured at the auction?

  • What will you do if the crowd gets out of hand? How will you control the situation? Auctions can be highly competitive, and fights do sometimes break out.

  • How are you going to keep your facility safe when you have so many people on the property who aren’t tenants?

  • Will you allow people under 18 years old to attend?

While it’s impossible to prepare for every situation, these are things you should be thinking about before you have an auction. Have rules in place. You also need to decide if you’ll require a cleaning deposit from bidders, whether the auction will be a cash-only sale or if you’ll accept other forms of payment, and if all sales are final.

To protect your business from liability, it’s a good idea to have a list of the rules for each buyer to review and sign. You could also have guidelines for the actual auction to help with crowd control. For example, you could ask buyers to line up next to the unit and wait for their turn to look inside. Let them know they’re not permitted inside the unit or to touch anything. All of these things will help you keep control of your auction.

Auctioneer

In most states, you don’t need to use an auctioneer. Many operators chose not to use one because auctioneers usually charge a fee for conducting the sale. However, there are many things you get in return. First, the auctioneer will advertise the sale for you and bring his established buyer base. He’ll also be accustomed to dealing with buyers and large crowds. He’ll have his own rules to keep everything under control.

Hopefully, your auctioneer will already have registration forms for buyers to review and sign. He’ll most likely leave you with a copy for your records. You might be able to find an auctioneer who specializes in self-storage in your state, has experience navigating the lien laws, and one who can assist you in parts of the foreclosure process.

Many storage operators view hiring an auctioneer as a way to avoid the hassle associated with sales. If you decide to hire a pro and your state requires each auctioneer to be licensed, make sure he is. In many states, an auctioneer’s license isn’t required for self-storage lien sales. However, in some cases, it’s illegal for a person to act as an auctioneer without a license, and you don’t want to do business with someone who doesn’t follow the law.

Selling people’s property is an unfortunate part of the self-storage business. Luckily, you’re provided with a way to do so that doesn’t require a costly court intervention. All operators have tenants who don’t pay. There’s really no way to get around having auctions, but it doesn’t have to be scary. If you prepare and put systems in place that work for you, it will become a part of normal business operation.

Cheli Rosa is director of marketing for StorageStuff.Bid, which provides online storage-auction services. She’s a former high school teacher turned storage professional turned auctioneer. She’s worked in all areas of self-storage. Her constant desire for additional knowledge led her to immerse herself in the lien-foreclosure process. For more information, call 877.758.4243; visit www.storagestuff.bid.

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