If you are reading this article you have probably watched “Storage Wars” on AMC and you might think it’s easy to make money buying abandoned self-storage units. Think again – you are more likely to find household junk and used bicycles than anything of substantial value. The Honus Wagner baseball card is probably not going to be there.

While it is true that there are lots of folks who make money on a regular basis buying self-storing units and then selling the worthwhile items on eBay or at flea markets, they usually have years of experience and know what they are looking for. The best advice I can give is to learn before you leap. Here are some tips to help you get a head start.

Do a dry run

Before you jump into auction buying, it is good practice to do a dry run. Storage auction are, by law, open to the public and you are welcome to attend. You needn’t bid – you can just observe and ask questions. Just remember that the old pros view newbies as amateurs that just senselessly drive up the price on things they want to buy so some may not be too forthcoming with helpful information.

Affluent areas are best

Common sense tells you that self-storage facilities located in affluent areas provide the best chance of finding something of real value.

Monday auctions can be competitive, but are often the best

Professionals make most of their money selling items on weekends so they are flush with cash and are eager to replenish their stock come Monday. Self-storage operators know this and many schedule their auctions on Mondays to take advantage of this fact. You may find that attending auctions later in the week will allow you to pay less for units.

Dress as if it was moving day!

Put on your work clothes and wear comfortable shoes as cleaning out a storage unit is hard work. You will be required to leave the unit in broom swept condition – that means everything must be removed from the unit and the floor swept clean. This is moving day type work and can be physically demanding.

Arrange for a truck or van

Be sure to arrive with a vehicle suitable to the task. Rules vary with each auction so, while some facilities may allow you up to 48 hours,  you should be prepared to remove everything from the unit(s) you buy by 5:00 PM the day of the auction. (It is always a good idea to call the facility and find out how long they will allow you to empty your unit).

Bring cash

Most auctions accept only cash – and that means ONLY CASH.

Follow the rules

Be sure to know the rules and to follow them. Failure to do so may get you banned from future auctions at that facility or with that auctioneer.

You probably already know that you are not allowed to touch anything in the units to be auctioned and you will only be given a few moments to view the contents from the outside.