Business Building Bargains can be Discovered at Government Auctions

These are tough economic times not only for small business; but governments too.  Many state and local governments are in the red and need money, fueling more government auctions.  Federal, state and local governments need the cash, and some small firms are finding business building bargains in these government “garage sales”.

Government auctions aren’t new, but in a recession, they are more popular.  Almost everything’s on the block according to Ian Aronovich from  Aronovich has sold everything from office furniture to Lear jets in government auctions and discussed the treasures small business owners may find with

To find information about specific upcoming sales, check the classified or business sections of national or business websites.  Some sales programs may even advertise on local radio and television. Notices may also be also posted at post offices, town halls, and other local and Federal Government buildings. Current information on sales programs is sometimes published in trade journals and periodicals, or online at the Federal Business Opportunities’ (FedBizOpps) website,

Sales information may also be listed in the Federal Register, a daily publication listing Federal Government activities.The Federal Register is available at most libraries or through a yearly paid subscription from the Government Printing Office(GPO). To order a subscription, call toll-free 1(866)512-1800. In addition, the Federal Register can be accessed online at

Here are some online links to sales programs at several Federal agencies:

Do your homework before going to a Federal Government sale or auction.

Before attending, research the sale by contacting the sponsoring agency. Find out how and when the sale or auction will be held, what bidding procedure will be used, and what special restrictions or unusual conditions apply. It’s important to ask what forms of payment are accepted. Most sales require a guaranteed method of payment such as money order, certified check, or cash. Credit cards are sometimes accepted. Also, look for information prior to the sale on the buyer’s responsibility for property removal, inspection times prior to t he sale, and zoning rules if purchasing land in an urban area. In most cases, the “Invitation For Bid” will answer these types of questions. It is an informational piece released by the sponsoring Federal agency that contains a description of the property being offered for sale with the sale terms and conditions. It’s wise for potential buyers to attend several sales to get a feel for the auction process. With just a little research, you can get the information that you need to make a successful purchase.

Most of the Federal agencies maintain websites that include detailed information about their particular sales program. Whenever possible, the websites for these agencies are provided.

Inspect the property carefully before buying.

Chances are you will not find new or unused items at government sales. And because the sales items are used, the condition of the goods will vary. For example, some forfeited vehicles may be in excellent condition, others may have high mileage or a stripped interior. Although information about the condition will be given, it is still necessary to inspect before you purchase. It is the buyer’s responsibility to verify that the description of the item fits its actual condition. Find out if the goods are sold “as is” or can be returned. Most sales are final.

Don’t expect to buy a $1 yacht.

Goods in Federal Government sales programs are usually sold at fair market value.The “bargains” that you hear about are frequently mythical. The $1 yacht most likely has serious problems. For example, it may not have an interior or an engine. Remember, if it sounds too good to be t rue, it usually is. At many sales, the items are appraised prior to the sale and will not be sold if the bid price is below what is reasonable. For example, GSA’s Federal Supply Service has a policy to sell property at fair market value, and often will not sell items if the bid price is below what is reasonable.

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