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Why Self-Storage Operators Should Switch to Online Auctions

From Chaos to Control: Why Self-Storage Operators Should Switch to Online Auctions

There are many benefits to online self-storage auctions, not only the business but for bidders and buyers. Find out why many facility operators are making the switch.

Whether it’s hot and muggy, windy, raining, snowing, or sleeting, the last place anyone wants to be for a self-storage auction is standing outside. But that’s exactly where a facility operator will find himself if he wants to get delinquent tenants off his books and rent those units again.

During my 20 years as a multi-facility owner, I’ve never looked forward to the chaos of auction day. From the unpredictability of the weather to the inconvenience of crowds to jam-packed parking lots to litter on the property, live lien sales just aren’t fun.

When I first learned about online auctions, I’ll admit I had some doubts. However, after my first one, I was no longer a skeptic. I was amazed by the sense of control I felt. There was none of the above unpleasantness to deal with, and my units sold for way more than they ever had at a live event. Here are some of the many reasons self-storage operators are making the switch from onsite to online auctions.

The Benefits

Online auctions really put the facility operator in control of the process and allow for more flexibility with your sales. Here’s an overview of the many advantages:

  • You can hold an auction any time, even if you only have one or two units to sell. This allows you to get those delinquent tenants off your books more quickly. With live auctions, you typically need to sell more units at once to draw and hold the appropriate crowd. You also get better recovery rates when you host auctions more regularly.
  • You have more options for scheduling. For example, you don’t need to work around weather, bidders’ work schedules or other local events.
  • Bidders have more time to carefully view all the auction pictures and investigate the value of items they see. This is the “secret sauce” behind online auctions. Buyers can zoom in, do research and place an informed bid. They love finding “hidden treasures” and are willing to pay more when they’ve had time to consider, especially when they think they might be the only one to discover a special find!
  • Bidders can “follow” specific auctions, watching their progress.
  • Bidders don’t have to waste time driving around to multiple locations. They can also bid on multiple auctions simultaneously.
  • More people will view your auctions. Instead of 10 people standing at your facility, you’ll have hundreds viewing each unit online.
  • Platforms like Facebook and Google allow you to get the word out to a much wider audience, and it’s very easy to do. The Internet allows you to advertise to people who may not get your local newspaper.
  • Some auction websites will market the sale on your behalf, leveraging social media, marketplace websites and other resources. (Note: You’ll still need to place an ad in the local newspaper if your state lien law mandates it.)

As a self-storage owner, it’s important to see what others are doing and consider whether their methods will work for you. Upload your first auction this summer, sit back in the air-conditioning, and watch the sale take place right on your computer screen. You might be surprised at how much easier Web-based auctions are for you and your business.

Lonnie Bickford has developed and owned five Appletree Storage facilities in Greater Baton Rouge, La., and is a board member of the Louisiana Self Storage Association, where he’s worked closely with the national Self Storage Association to make changes to the state’s lien law. He’s also the founder of, a provider of online self-storage auction services. For more information, phone 866.944.8530; e-mail; visit

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