The ultimate foreclosure:
When people can’t pay their mortgages and lose their homes, or are forced to downsize, they entrust their extra belongings to one of the 52,000 cinder-block-and-prefabricated-metal self-storage emporiums that dot the landscape. When they can’t afford to pay for the storage, their belongings get sold to the highest bidder, often at a pittance.
It’s impossible to get a precise statistical grip on the extent of these sales because the industry is fragmented, and the local owners are loath to discuss it, but anecdotal data confirm it is a surging phenomenon. “Every auctioneer I talk to says storage-unit sales are up considerably over just last year,” says Chris Longly, a spokesman for the National Auction Association. “It’s a sign of the times. A Denver auctioneer told me he had 900 in 2007, 1,200 in 2008, and in January 2009 alone, he had 200.”