TWIN FALLS • Bob Patterson and Adrienne Petersen never know how much they’ll spend or what they’ll buy.
Such is the mystique of buying abandoned storage units. It’s a means for resellers, like this husband-and-wife team, to acquire low-cost inventory. But it’s also turning into a bit of a sightseeing venture for folks wanting to see if reality TV shows like “Storage Wars” imitate real life.
“I think a lot of people come to see because of the TV shows,” Petersen said. “There’s a lot of people, but only a few bid.”
Although some of the featured bidders on the TV shows buy merchandise for second-hand stores, Petersen said she and her husband sell from their home, either by word of mouth or using eBay. They’ve attended live auctions for 20 years, but storage auctions are fairly new to them.
Last Friday, they attended a small auction at Bach Self Storage in north Twin Falls, where about five dozen people braved the drizzly precursor to the evening’s wind storm.
Six storage units were listed for auction, but only two were sold. Four other renters made good on their debt, said facility manager Michelle Ronco.
For those wondering, a local storage auction is quite similar to what’s shown on television. A facility will contract with an auctioneer — in this case, it was Marvin Hunt, owner of Hunt Bros. Auto and Estate Auctions — to sell a unit that is overdue.
Ronco said a delinquent renter is notified after 30 days that the facility may place a lien on the property being stored. After 60 days, whatever is inside the unit may be sold.
Not every storage business will contract with an auctioneer, and the low frequency of local storage auctions has Patterson and Petersen pursuing others in Boise. Ronco said the last storage auction at Bach was approximately six months ago.
Once the auction begins, there are a few rules, just like on TV: bidders may look inside the unit but may not go inside or handle anything inside; the winning bidder must buy the unit’s entire contents; the buyer must empty the unit within 24 hours or rent the space.
After the potential bidders all had a brief look at the first unit, the bidding began.
Hunt started with a 10- by 12-foot unit that contained a nice-looking bedroom furniture set. He couldn’t get $500 to start, but bidders caught on at $200. After a few minutes of furious back-and-forth among a handful of bidders, the unit sold for nearly $850.
The second unit, which Patterson and Petersen purchased for $125, wasn’t as attractive. Inside were a few boxes of hooks, an exercise bike, three bar stools, an HP all-in-one printer, a fax machine, a cabinet and a futon bed frame.
The haul certainly didn’t match the most interesting thing they’ve found: a 1958 transistor radio that sold to a man in Denmark for $100.
But there were enough quality items in the unit to make it worth the price.
“Conservatively, we hope to double our money,” Petersen said.
Bradley Guire may be reached at 735-3380.