Friday, August 5, 2011

Units 15 and 16: Delayed Gratification

Warning: long story!

Since our last unit purchase in late June, we've only spent two days auction-going. In late July, during the middle of a hellacious heatwave, we went to a few indoor auctions. I specifically avoided any outdoor auctions as those are very hot on the hot tarmac when it's only 80, let alone the 98+ degrees we had during the heatwave. The first auction had 15 units up for sale. We bid on some but were always outbid by others. The best unit of the day, with lovely, furniture proteccted by shrink-wrap and a lot of nice-looking boxes, I didn't even bid on because I couldn't imagine us trying to haul all that stuff in that heat.

Today, we went to an auction in Worcester that I was very much looking forward to. In the auction schedule, they noted there were 40 units up for sale and it was at a moving company. From the two other moving company auctions we've gone to, it's clear they are different from those at regular storage unit sites. The goods are either set up in piles arranged around the room or they are in small, 5' x 8' wooden vaults that are open for some inspection even before the auction. So, you can get more data before you bid. They also tend to have more furniture than boxes and, after the last unit's ~80 boxes, I was ready for the simplicity of furniture.

Well, this place was, perhaps, the mother of all moving company auctions. The auctioneer told us that the company had never had an auction in the 40 years they'd been in business. And, they wouldn't have had this one except the building was foreclosed on and they needed it cleaned out. We were told before even going into the building that we could leave behind all the mattresses in any units purchased and pieces in really bad shape could be left in their dumpsters. This is great because mattresses are 1) a big pain to move and 2) cost money to drop off at the dump. We also found out there were 61 units up for auction!

So, the 60-70 of us there to buy went into the building a few minutes after 10am. We trooped up the stairs to the 5th floor to start the fun. What greeted us was absolutely unbelievable. Stuff, stuff and more stuff was piled high and deep. I'd estimate the average unit was about 10-15 feet wide and 30 feet deep. With about 20 units on the 5th floor, that was a mind-boggling amount of stuff. With so many of us trying to move around in the small corridor, it was very difficult to get a look at much stuff. Fortunately, the "scene" seemed to drive a lot of bidders away, so the crowd really thinned after this first floor.

Since my brother and I decided not to bid on anything in the top floor, we headed down to the 4th floor so we could get a good look at those units while others were bidding upstairs. A lot more of the same on this floor, except we were able to identify 3 units we wanted to bid on. We noticed almost every unit we looked at closely had a piano. Fortunately, when I checked with the staffer there, she let us know we didn't have to take pianos if we didn't want them. Score!

It was very hard to see far into the units, making them a huge mystery after the first few feet. We noticed some folks were climbing up into the units and getting a look deeper in. My brother's friend BW, who is young to us (in his 40s) and quite limber, was able to get deep into a unit I was interested in and determine that the contents looked to be of some value.

The first unit we bought was in a funny space on the 4th floor. Its contents were largely obscured behind flimsy walls, making a space about 10' x 10' but we could see in enough to spot a nice piece of furniture, most likely a sideboard, and a good number of boxes and tubs. I was the only bidder and picked it up for $50. The next unit we bid on was had a ton of new, clean boxes and went for a lot of money even though it was relatively small (another 10' x 10'). We were also outbid on the next one we were interested in, mostly boxes with a vintage Kirby vacuum cleaner at the front. It went for about double what we were willing to pay.

On the third floor, I thought we were down to the last 20 units and realized we needed to take some action to pick up another unit. With so many units going for relatively small money filled with so many goods, it seemed hard to believe we couldn't make a good profit from any decent-looking unit. I finally picked one out that had a good looking couch, 2 old sewing machine cabinets, a piano and bunch of boxes in view. BW was able to thread his way down a path to get far into the unit without sighting any remarkable (good or bad) finds. When the bidding began, about 4 of us were involved, but soon, it was just another woman and me. I finally wore her down and took the unit for $350.

After we finished this floor, we found out there were 3 more units on the ground floor, near the company's office. Unfortunately, one of these units was the true gem of the auction. There was some beautiful furniture in it, and it wasn't quite as massive as most of the other units. I bid on it, but didn't pursue it with gusto because I already knew we had more than enough stuff in the units we'd already bought.

One downside of moving company auctions is the logistics of removing the goods. This place had only one loading dock and one freight elevator, so only one buyer at a time could have access. When we paid up for our 2 units, we determined the best time to clean them out wouldn't be until Monday 8/15 (partly due to the dates already taken by other buyers and party due to our schedules). Bummer! Now I have to wait 10 days until I dig into those babies and find out what we really bought. I am not a patient person. This is going to be a hard wait.

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