Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Unit 13: Small and Profitable

A week ago Thursday, I took off on a day of spelunking. On tap were 2 auctions in Worcester, 1 in Shrewsbury, wrapping up with an auction in Northboro. These are all about 30 minutes from my house and even closer to my brother, so he could join me for a clean-out if I found a good unit. My challenge was that he was helping BW's girlfriend move the next day, so we needed to move everything out of the unit that day. You typically only have 24 hours to get everything removed. So, I was looking for a unit without much stuff but that still looked profitable.

On this day, we finally got some summer weather. The temps got into the 80s (F), so it was quite warm wandering around the pavement at the storage unit sites, going from unit to unit.

The first auction had 9 units up for sale. Most of them had nothing appealing. In fact, one unit didn't sell at all it was so unappealing to the gathered crew of about 30. One of the last units was interesting. It was small, had a large electronic keyboard and you could see a guitar case peaking out from behind some bins. I was willing to pay up to $175, but it was over $350 when I walked away to scope out the next unit.

At the next location, only two units were available. The first contained some nice looking furniture, but too much for my brother and I to handle that afternoon, so I didn't bother to bid.

In Shrewsbury, it seemed the bidders lost interest in the units. They were going for very little. The fourth of 5 was interesting. It was a funny-shaped unit, taking a turn at the end. You could see a few boxes and a couple of bikes from the door. The auctioneer went in and said there was a bedroom set inside and no mattress (mattresses cost to dispose of, so that was a bonus). I was the only bidder and picked it up for $50!

This is the time of year to sell bikes and I'm still surprised no one else was interested in the unit. I sold the two bikes (one is the girl's bike above - a Bratz Diamond Dazzler) for a total of $190. The other bike was a virtually new mountain bike. I found online that they sell new for about $100, so I listed it on Craigslist for $85. Got a lot of calls and emails on it and had a buyer lined up. He didn't show, so was going to offer it to the next caller. Unbelievably, when I told an interested party that I had other potential buyers in front of her, she counteroffered $150! As you can imagine, she took it home.

The furniture, in a french provincial style, has some wear to it, but it's well-made and solid. I can't find any information online about the manufacturer, Paoletti Period Furniture, unfortunately. I'm putting it up on Craigslist today. Wish me luck for a quick sale!

Now this is the way to make a profit in storage units. I'm happy.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Units 9 - 12: Good Stuff

One Saturday, about 3 weeks ago, my brother, RC, his friend, BW, and I went to a moving company auction in an affluent town nearby. I was very interested in this auction because there were over 30 vaults up for sale, so I figured we'd find some items worth buying.

Unlike a regular storage unit auction where they cut the lock and open the unit a few minutes before the bidding begins so you get only a few moments to review the contents, all the vaults were open and viewable when we arrived for registration. The furniture was pretty much all wrapped up in moving pads, though, so information was still limited. The up close review got a little too up in some cases ... One vault entirely filled with boxes had actually had a few opened by attendees! One contained Christmas stuff, which you find in most lockers, but the other, tantatlizingly, had a baseball card collection inside.

We bought 4 vaults, and we're on our way to making a profit overall on them. The last unit contained only a dining room table and 6 chairs. We brought these to the furniture consignment shop we use and they sold it almost right away. Unfortunately, we disagreed with the price they listed it for, thinking it should be higher. Since they wouldn't raise the price, we were going to pick it up and sell it ourselves on Craigslist, but, until we were able to pick it up, I let them keep it actively listed. So, that resulted in a net loss for that unit. The second vault was jammed with furniture that was wrapped, so we really only a got a good look at the first piece. It was a lovely, antique dresser that suggested the rest of the furniture would be equally lovely. D'oh! All the rest was sort of junky, laminated office furniture and couple of 20-year old office side chairs. We've got the dresser in for an auction and are listing the rest of the items on craigslist. We're trying to stay away from the consignment shop since we're developing other routes for selling furniture that don't involve having half the sale going to the shop.

The third unit was mostly visible before the auction so we went in with eyes wide open. It contained 5 wicker chairs, a nice patio table, a new Toto toilet in boxes and 3 shelving units still in boxes. Additionally, we discovered in the very back, wrapped in protective paper, a 3' x 5' glass table top without a base. This glass is 3/4" thick and has a special edging design. Looking online, similar table tops sell brand new for over $400. We haven't listed it yet, but expect to get decent money for this little bonus. Everything else in the unit sold quickly, except for the patio table, which we decided to keep for ourselves.

The first unit we bought turns out to have the greatest profit potential. From what we could see, we knew it contained a dining room set but weren't sure if there was anything else in there, since there were a ton of wrapped items. It turned out to contain the heaviest furniture RC and BW ever had to schlepp anywhere! It contained all the pieces of another dining room set: table with 3 leaves, 6 chairs, sideboard and china cabinet that sits on top of the sideboard. (Photos at top of post.)

Because the garage was so jammed with stuff, we had to cram in the dining room set and didn't really have a chance to examine it in great detail. First and foremost, we had to repair the seats on the chairs. One seat was missing entirely and some of the others were pretty stained. RC is taking the lead on that, and is almost done with the work. Since we haven't been able to advertise the dining room set yet, combined with the garage cramming, I hadn't yet investigated the set to find the manufacturer. Yesterday, we moved some of the furniture, including the table, sideboard and china cabinet over to a storage unit I've rented and got to examine the furniture more closely. We found in the sideboard a manufacturer's mark. Turns out the set was made by Bassett Furniture, which is a high-quality company. We're still investigating the exact Bassett collection, since it's discontinued, but using prices from a similar collection on the Bassett website, this probably cost about $6,000 new! I'm hoping we can get $1,000 or so for this set.

One interesting feature of these auctions that finally crystallized for me here: boxes are like catnip to buyers. These vaults were relatively small and very few contained a lot of boxes. Most of them contained furniture. The vaults that had the most interest and went for the most money were the ones that were just boxes! The one that had the two open boxes I mentioned went for over $700, more than double what I would have paid for it. Furniture is heavy and not so easy to deal with for most people. Boxes are a big mystery and might contain the elusive high-value items that we all hope to find. I like boxes too, but having gone through many that contained a lot of junk, I'm pretty skeptical about them now.