Updated: Friday, 19 Feb 2010, 2:47 AM EST
Published : Thursday, 18 Feb 2010, 9:43 PM EST
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) -- Mary Segerski is an entrepreneur who collects old utensils and trinkets, such as typewriter keys, and transforms them into jewelry.
She sells her creations at Estate Sales Warehouse, just off 28th Street. To gather odds and ends for her jewelry pieces, Segerski frequents storage units up for auction.
When tenants are delinquent in payments, storage units will auction off everything in that space. But what you bid on is often just a guess, because you won't get past the door of the unit to inspect the items inside.
"You're not allowed to go in and go through any of the boxes," Segerski said. "You stand there and look at (them) from the door, and you base your price on what you can see."
Two auctions were held Thursday -- one at Wyoming Self Storage on 36th Street, and the other at National Storage Center on Ball Avenue -- but neither business would allow 24 Hour News 8 cameras on the property.
Storage units that are up for auction used to be listed in the newspaper, but now, abandoned or delinquent units will be posted for sale online. The law change has raised questions over the issue nationwide.
The Blair Auction & Appraisal Web site will list the names of storage units up for auction, along with the names of the tenants.
The change in law also allows facilities to notify delinquent tenants online.
The switch in notification from the newspaper to the Internet could help vendors such as Segerski, she said, but it also could hurt the people the law affects the most.
"It's more convenient for people like me, because I do a lot of online work," she said. "But it's also kind of sad, because the people that their stuff is being sold, may not have access to the computers."
There are about 90 vendors such as Segerski at Estate Sales Warehouse who rent space from co-owner Robin Thomas. A lot of the items inside are re-used, and were bought at storage unit auctions.
"And also at storage unit auctions, people are losing their items because of foreclosure," Thomas said. "Because they didn't pay on the unit. And that's sad, as well."
Competition is increasing prices at storage unit auctions, as well, vendors told 24 Hour News 8. People used to be able to purchase all the items in a unit for less than $100, and now, these units are selling for several hundred dollars.
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