Full length of young woman with big cardboard boxes in self storage unit.

How to Make Money Flipping Abandoned Storage Units

Is it possible to make money flipping abandoned storage units?

Before we give an absolute answer to this question, it is important to know that you can make money from it, but not all abandoned warehouses are good. Some may contain a lot of junk.

If you are a fan of television series, you may have seen “Storage Wars”.

This reality TV sensation airs on A&E TV and gives an inside look at the people who gather to auction off abandoned storage units without having a clue what is being stored in the units.

It can get a little exhausting because first, you have to bid for the unit either online or at physical auctions and go through people’s belongings, turn them over, and make a profit on the sale.

If that sounds interesting, then stay tuned as we show you how to proceed.

The History of Storage Units

Every day Americans leave their belongings in storage units and, for whatever reason, some never come back to collect them. 

The providers of storage rooms end up auctioning these units for cash, and if you are interested, you can buy such a room and either keep the things stored in it or, even better, sell them. 

The history of buying used goods in America, or what is popularly known as “thrifting,” has been around for over 100 years. Originally, people collected unwanted items to refurbish them for use or sale. The usable pieces could also be sold in junk stores.

According to statistics, there are over 49,000 storage units in the U.S., and up to 10% of households rent out storage units. As a result, storage unit auctions are very popular, bringing in as much as $65,000 in revenue.

Nowadays, it’s no secret that people have less money to spend than they used to. Therefore, many of them are interested in buying used things and saving some dollars.

What You’re Likely to Find in a Storage Unit

Whispers abound that past buyers have found boxes of cash, expensive jewelry, art collections, fine wines, classic toys, wedding clothes, school books, baseballs, furniture, designer attires, or memorabilia of famous people. Others report finding worthless papers, broken furniture, or torn clothing. 

The truth is that you can find anything under the blue sky!

As mentioned earlier, you are also likely to find a trailer full of trash. However, the crowning glory is what you will get at the end of the day. If you are lucky, you can grab some good stuff and make a profit out of it. 

The most important thing is to weigh how much time you will spend selling the items and how much money you can get out of the unit. If you want to make money flipping abandoned storage units you simply have to know the odds and how to keep the value of your time in mind.

How it Works

An important question you are probably asking yourself is how owners of abandoned units legally acquire possessions that are not theirs and sell them for a profit. So here is the answer.

Rent Defaulters

One of the main reasons for an auction is the non-payment of rent. A tenant is unable to meet their rent obligations due to financial difficulties. In this case, the owner of the property may sell the items to recover the lost rental income. 

Sometimes a tenant may die, and rent accumulates in the storage units without anyone claiming the items. Whatever the reason, the items can be auctioned off.

In most cases, the storage unit owner will do due diligence before auctioning the items. For example, it may depend on your state on what needs to be done before the items go under the hammer.

First, the unit owner may try to contact the tenant to reach an agreement on the unpaid bill. There may be documentary evidence in the form of emails, phone calls, or mailers to remind the tenant of the terms of the agreement.

If the tenant doesn’t respond to correspondence, the unit owner may advertise the auction online or in print media. In most cases, this should be done within two weeks to allow the tenant to pay and claim their property.


Finally, if the tenant doesn’t respond within two weeks, the owner of the storage unit has the right to sell the items. 

Bidders are then invited to inspect the contents of the unit from the door without entering. Only after you’ve won the bid do you gain access to the storage unit.

Usually, the ad page includes a preview of the storage unit so you can get an idea of what to expect. 

This is an exciting stage because at this point you’re really anxious about what to expect. It could be anything from boxes of junk, jewelry, or even cash. The most important thing is that you want to get the best price for your belongings.

As with any other auction, the highest bid wins. Depending on the number of bidders, bids can be as low as $1 or as high as $1000.

Generally, you pay the bid price and sales tax. Some storage units require you to pay a cleaning deposit of up to $200, which you get back if you clear things out within a certain period. Most of the time, it can be two days.

It’s important to know that once you’ve paid the deposit, everything in the storage unit becomes your property.

Collecting the Possessions

Now that the things are officially yours, the next step is to clean out the unit and start sorting the possessions. This is the most interesting part because now you can enter the room and see everything. 

During the pickup, the staff of the depot will accompany you and open the door to allow access. Usually, it’s advisable to have a trailer with you, because the stuff won’t fit in a normal trunk. Also, take a friend with you to help with the lifting.

Before you take the items home, make room for them in the garage, basement, or backyard. 

As you go through, you’ll find all sorts of things. Load everything into the track and bring it home to sort.

Will you be lucky to find a treasure or will you end up with chaff? Remember that time is of the essence here, because you don’t want to waste a lot of time and end up finding nothing.

At the end of the day, you’ll have the following options

  • Sell the valuable stuff, it can be an old TV set, computer, furniture, bicycle or even jewelry.
  • Keep the souvenirs such as pieces of artwork.
  • Donate to family and friends.
  • Donate to a charity.
  • Throw away the thrush.

There are a plethora of possibilities, but one thing is for sure: you can only know the value of the possession after winning the bid.

From here, you can count your gains or losses. Only time will tell!

Tips on How to Make Money Flipping Abandoned Storage Units

Planning Ahead

As with any other business or side hustle, you need a strategy to get real value for your money and not lose your hard-earned cash. Remember there are costs involved and you need to break even first.

The first question that should come to your mind is why someone would leave their belongings in a depot and forget about them. At this point, you will know that what you find there may not turn a profit. 

But you will try anyway!

The first thing you should consider is the bid price, which should be within your budget range. If you are a beginner, you should not put too much money into the project. 

Finding a Storage Unit

Now that you are ready to buy an abandoned storage unit, the next step is to find one. You can start with auctions in your area for quick and convenient access. Google is the best place to start since nowadays most people advertise their businesses online.

If nothing comes up in your Google search, you can search for storage facilities in your area to see if there are any auctions. Usually, most facilities hold weekly or monthly auctions. 

If the facility has a website, you can sign up for the newsletter to receive notifications about the next auction date. Also, find out about the bidding requirements. For example, some require that you pay cash and pick up the items within two days.

Have Your Gear Ready

Since you do not know what is in the storage unit, you must have your equipment ready. These are items that you will need when you are rummaging through things, and they include;

  • A flashlight to illuminate dark areas inside the storage unit.
  • A step stool to reach items you can not reach.
  • A pen and notebook to jot down the items inside.
  • A safety padlock to secure your belongings inside the unit.
  • Trash bags and plastic containers to put worthless items.
  • Gloves and face masks to protect your hands and face.

Identifying the Market for the Possessions

Before parting with your money, be sure to explore market opportunities for items in the unit. Some of the best places to sell your stuff are online marketplaces like;

  • Craigslist
  • Facebook marketplace, or 
  • eBay
  • Etsy
  • The RealReal

For this, you need to take photos of your item and provide a brief description. You can even set the price to allow for a quick transaction.

Another possible way to display the items is by booking spaces in;

  • Flea markets
  • Pawnshops
  • Auction houses
  • Consignment shops

You can even have a yard sale or garage sale.

For things like furniture, you can leave them in your front yard, maybe someone will take notice and buy them. Be sure to leave your phone number so they can contact you. 

If you sell the items locally, you escape the shipping and other costs associated with transporting the items to the customer’s location.

You have to know if you are going to be able to sell the items that you can actually see to make money flipping abandoned storage units.

Value the Items

As mentioned earlier, it is not possible to know the value of the items until you win the bid and sort out the items. 

Once you have sorted out the items, you can research their prices and determine the likely price ranges. Usually, auction sites have a wide range of items from past sales that can help you determine prices.

Rent a Trailer or Van

If you don’t have your own trailer or van, you can rent it from service providers or borrow it from a friend. 

It’s important to rent early to avoid wasting time when you get the deal. Also, you’ve got the opportunity to reclaim your deposit if you clear out the goods within the agreed timeline.

Have Cash Ready

Once you win the bid, be sure to have your cash ready so you can pay on the spot and pick up the items. 

At most warehouses, you can pay by cash, check, money order, credit, or debit card.

If you are still unsure of the value of the items, you can ask a professional for an appraisal. For example, you can take jewelry to a local shop or ship it to an online valuer like Cash for Gold company to determine its value.

Understand the Terms of Engagement

Normally, you will be told the terms of the contract that you must abide by. For example, some units may hold sentimental items such as family photos and deeds that must be returned to the unit for safekeeping.

Understand the Risks Involved

As with any other business, there are risks. 

  • First of all, most items in a warehouse are trash, so the loss cannot be ruled out.
  • Second, bidding is a difficult business because you can only see the property from the door. You are not even allowed to touch anything. Therefore, you cannot know what is actually in the abandoned unit until you win the bid. 
  • Third, buyers may haggle, and you may end up with a low price for valuables.
  • Finally, you will have to make room for the items at home, which can be inconvenient for you and your family if it takes a long time for the items to find a buyer.

To Sum It Up

The secret to getting the most out of abandoned storage units is to treat them like any other business opportunity that can make you money if you do it right. It may not be lucrative at first, but with several deals under your belt, you can earn over $1000 per month flipping items daily. What do you think, is knowing how to make money flipping abandoned storage units something that you might want to try?

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Originally posted 2022-03-17 01:43:38.

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