by Mark Lusky
Popularity of self-storage auctions is at an all-time high. Jack Ballentine, founder and President of Florida-based Hammer Down Auctions, Inc. notes, "As a self-storage owner or operator, you are well aware your tenant lien process is one of the most volatile parts of your business. Every step of this process must strictly comply with your respective state's lien statutes. If non-payment continues, the end result is a self-storage auction."
Besides legal requirements that dictate when you can conduct a self-storage auction, there are also a variety of laws about how to conduct it. Then, of course, there is the process of holding the event itself.
Pumped up by the TV show "Storage Wars," auctions have attained a certain celebrity status-which makes them more popular and well-attended. That adds up to enhanced marketing exposure and more money for the self-storage operator.
As Ballentine points out, "We currently conduct approximately 250 self-storage auctions each month. Since 'Storage Wars' started airing, attendance has skyrocketed. A decade ago, our average attendance was approximately 12 to 15 regular bidders per auction. Now, more than 200 can show up to claim their 'hidden treasures.' In addition to increasing the auction revenues from unit content sales because of a much more robust and competitive bidding process, there's all the marketing and sales exposure for the facility itself."
Enterprising self-storage operators can leverage auctions to enhance overall marketing. One way is to build community goodwill through the auction process itself.
Ballentine notes, "Through our strategic alliance with many self-storage clients, we have conducted several charity auctions. One such charity auction was held this past December at one of our client facilities in South Florida. We raised $5,200 for the 'Forgotten Soldiers Outreach Organization.'"
"These charity auctions are a win-win for everyone," he adds. "They benefit the charity recipient, heighten self-storage facility exposure, and offer a way for us to give back to the community."
While people are on-site, self-storage operators can encourage additional rentals by showcasing their features and amenities.
Make the auction itself a smooth-running event
Ballentine explains his 25 years of self-storage management experience enables Hammer Down Auctions to differentiate itself from its competitors. "Hammer Down Auctions is a professional and full service self- storage auction company with a self-storage perspective."
Ballentine notes that this expertise enables his company to provide an additional layer of protection to all self-storage clients. He further explains, "It has taken us many years toward getting the process down to a profitable science, and we take pride in conducting auctions that bring maximum return with minimal fuss to the self-storage operator. We're here to maximize the recovery of accrued rent and fees, bringing the self-storage unit one major step closer to re-renting," he points out.
Hammer Down Auction's motto of "Serving Self-Storage with Integrity" is weaved through every fiber of its operations. "The key to our success", Ballentine says, "is summed up by our core principles. We honor our word, keep our promises, and provide the most value and over-the-top customer service to each client."
Clients receive additional exposure as the company lists all candidate units up for auction, on the hammerdownauctionsinc.com website prior to the scheduled sale, along with the auctions.selfstorage.com site. Updates on units for sale are posted on both sites up to auction time. Plus, auctions.selfstorage.com sends email alerts to prospective bidders requesting them. By combining auction promotions on the two sites, exposure, presence and influence are enhanced-helping lead to better auction outcomes.
Hammer Down's auctioneers have a 90% success rate of starting auctions on time. Auctioneers review each auction file ahead of time to ensure full compliance with storage company policies and state lien statutes. Any non-compliant files are removed from that day's auction and are correctly processed for the next scheduled auction.
To help stay on top of the foreclosure process, Hammer Down Auctions offers Lock-Cuts and Unit Inventories. "We advocate cutting the tenant's lock sooner rather than later," explains Ballentine. "Doing so enables the self-storage client to discover empty or trashed units and vacate them, thus reducing their receivables and bad debt. The self-storage operator can then re-rent the unit, hopefully to a tenant who can and will pay on time."
Ballentine adds "Another advantage to the self-storage operator is that it empowers management, by knowing what is in the storage unit, thus providing leverage in negotiating with the tenant regarding payment options."
Hammer Down Auctions confirms the serial number on the seal prior to opening each unit door-to ensure the content's integrity, based on a previous unit inventory. They utilize an open-bidding auction process featuring state licensed and certified auctioneers skilled at making calls that are loud, clear and easy for bidders to understand.
The Hammer Down auctioneer announces all rules to bidders before the first unit goes up for sale, and clarifies where bidders stand throughout the process-continuing to point out the highest bidder until the unit is sold.
The auctioneer receives payment from the purchasing bidder inside the rental office, provides a receipt, and then reconciles and provides full payment to the facility manager for processing and depositing. Finally, the auctioneer provides a comprehensive and completed "Auction Summary" form to the facility manager, listing all relevant payment information for each unit sold at the auction.
Hammer Down Auctions, Inc. is jointly owned and operated by Jack Ballentine and Charlotte Pollock. Jack Ballentine can be contacted at: email@example.com.