MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — About 20 people gathered in sub-freezing temperatures Tuesday morning in hopes of finding the deal of the century inside unpaid storage units.
Valley Storage hosted its monthly storage unit auction in four locations in West Virginia and Maryland. Every third Tuesday of the month many people gather to bid on storage units that have gone delinquent and are no longer being paid for by their previous owners.
Dustin Mellott of Warfordsburg, Pennsylvania, drove over an hour in hopes to make some money. Mellott has been buying storage units for about four years and he said he does it all for the profit.
“I sell all of it,” Mellott said. “I just try to look at all the stuff and try to price out how much I would be able to sell it for,” he added.
Bidders are not allowed to go into the unit and cannot touch anything once the locks are removed and the doors are open. They must stand outside the unit and look in. Some bidders bring flashlights along to try and get a better look, but most say that’s the exciting part.
“My favorite part is just not knowing what you’re going to get,” Mellott said.
Randy Wright of Falling Waters has been attending storage unit auctions for six years and has even made it his living.
“A lot of people go for totes and boxes and stuff, but if it’s all scattered out and looks like all hell hit it, then I buy it,” Wright said.
“Nine times out of 10 if things are scattered and there’s dust, I know without a doubt all the good stuff is on the bottom,” he added.
Wright said his best payout to date was a storage unit he paid $50 for and made $2,000.
“It’s worth this risk. It really is something fun to do and it’s where I make 90 percent of my money,” Wright said.
Wright travels all over attending these types of auctions, even as far as three to five hours away.
The rules for buying a unit is each buyer has 48 hours to completely clean it out. There is a $100 refundable cleanup deposit fee for the first unit and a $50 fee for every unit there after. The units must be paid in full in cash at the time of the sale.
Valley Storage District Manager Tessa Neil said that auctioning off storage units isn’t ideal but sometimes it’s the only option.
“Obviously storage sales aren’t our favorite side of the business. We try to make every effort we can to make contact with the renter. We’ll text, email, send letters, whatever we can do to try to avoid this from happening. We do what we can to reach and make contact beforehand,” Neil said.
According to West Virginia state laws, Valley Storage must provide the renter with a 60-day notice. By the time the unit is being auction off the unit is over 90 days delinquent.
Patti Heuer, Property Manager for the Valley Storage location off of Williamsport Pike in Martinsburg, said that she has noticed an increase in attendance since the hit show “Storage Wars” came out on television.
“Before the show we would only have a couple people show up, maybe two or three and once the show came out every one went crazy,” Heuer said.
“Storage Wars,” shown on the A&E channel, follows a group of bidders looking to strike it rich by buying repossessed storage units.
“People think they are going to find their riches and be rich forever,” Heuer said.
The Williamsport Pike site consistently sees a steady crowd every month, according to Heuer. Heuer also said the location usually always has at least one or two units to auction off every single month.
Heuer who has worked there since 2009, said she has only seen one month in her career where there wasn’t a unit to send to auction.
On Tuesday, the Williamsport Pike location auctioned off five units and a total of four Valley Storage locations hosted auctions.
-Staff writer Katiann Marshall can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 182, or at Twitter.com/KmarshallJN.