LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Have you heard of the show "Storage Wars"? In the show, a group of buyers gather to bid on items in storage units. But did you know, this process is happening right here southwest Florida?
We followed a couple who owns the business Junkies Hauling, and went to one of the auctions in Fort Myers. The start of the show "Storage Wars" got a lot of people at the auction interested in bidding. But everyone there says "real life" is a lot different than the show!
This is the real-life version, happening at Southern Self Storage, in Fort Myers.
The show is why Paul Nunziato and Dianne Carter are here. But it wasn't bidding on units that got them started in turning other people's trash into treasure. Paul founded Junkies Hauling two years ago. "We started out in an old truck, in an old trailer, going through neighborhoods picking up scrap pieces of metal," he said.
His business grew. He's now asked to take away items left behind from foreclosures, garage clean-outs and rentals. He does it at no cost to whoever hires him. Instead, making a profit from selling the items.
As newcomers to the storage bidding, though, Paul and Dianne both learned you can lose money very quickly if you don't know how to play the game."We didn't really know what we were doing. so we were just bidding. On what we saw, what we thought would be great. we realized it wasn't the sellable stuffthat we thought it was," said Dianne.
We won't give away all their secrets, But the rules of the bidding are simple: you can look inside, but you cant touch.
Brandon Henry is with Hammer Down Auctions, Inc.The company is based out of West Palm Beach and specializes in self-storage auctions. "We have a little over 300 facilities we do each month," Henry said.
The interest he calls "astronomical" since the start of "Storage Wars."
"They've created such a sensation, it went from before, 10 years ago, five or 6 people to over 200! can show up to each auction," said Henry.
Because of this, Henry says, the competition has increased the price of the units. "The crowd is a lot more aggressive," he said.
Bob Drury has been bidding on units for a year and a half, and admits he's new to the game. "There's been people doing this for 20 years," he said. But he, too, has learned quickly. He says he's even been to some units at other storage facilities that he calls staged.
"They'll put boxes that don't have computers in them, they put boxes in with keyboards that don't have keyboards in them, it helps drive up the sale and if you're not familiar with those type of things, it can happen you," he said.
Paul and Dianne work as a team: analyzing the unit as best they can, but never bidding more than what they agree on, because they want to make a profit in the end."Another way to make legal dollars in today's economy," Paul said.
If they buy a unit. then comes, the dirty work. It's something else Dianne says, you don't often see on the show. "They don't see the boxes, and, sometimes the nastiness that you have to go through. you know, rummaging through boxes that people have had packed away for years."
Whatever they get, they sell or give away to charity. And what about that big hit? A lot of people bid on units in hopes of finding that one rare treasure that brings them a fortune.
"Realistically? That probably happens about once in about 50-units. We've bought probably about 30 to 40 units in our career doing this, and three of them maybe had some really cool stuff or a lot of jewelry and we made a lot of money," he said.
The items sold in the units go through a long foreclosure process, which is governed by the state. The tenants are notified the auction is happening and have the opportunity to pay for their things right up until the minute of theauction. The auction is meant to be the last resort.
For more information about Junkies Hauling, call (941) 623-3290