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Government Auctions

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    Government Auctions

    Government Auction Secrets

    You've undoubtedly heard the claims either from unsolicited email or while wandering the Internet that you can become rich with little effort through government auctions. These advertisements will also tell you that your way to the riches is by purchasing their book which will tell you all the secrets you need to know. While government auctions do exist, the only secret that you need to know is that there is no secret about them. All the information you need to know about where they are and how they are run is readily available to you free of charge.

    While there are a wide variety of government auctions that take place at government entities as low as the county and city level, these are usually done on an infrequent "as needed" basis. Your best bet in finding information about these auctions is in your local newspaper where they will be announced. For more regularly scheduled auctions with a large variety of goods, your best bet is keeping tabs on the US Treasury Department's auctions. Advertisements for auctions at the main Treasury Department auction centers are placed in major newspapers. Local newspapers will run advertisements if there is a Treasury Department auction in that local area.

    The Treasury Department auctions off all the goods that are confiscated in relation to illegal activities such as smuggling, drug trafficking, money laundering and credit card fraud -- just to name a few. In addition, they auction off property abandoned at ports of entry or items where duties and taxes were not paid. As you can imagine, this mean almost anything under the sun may be up for auction.

    Property (both residential, commercial and undeveloped), cars, boats and planes make up some of the more expensive items you are likely to find. Cameras, computers, jewelry are a few examples of available less expensive merchandise regularly put up for auction. While you won't be able to get a million dollar yacht for a $100 (the government reserves the right to refuse the highest bid if it doesn't reflect the true value of the item), you can find some good deals at the government auctions if you take the time to research and do your homework. Taking a quick look at the Treasury Department's past auction results will give you a clear idea of the wide variety of good being offered and the prices they sell for.

    If you have never been to a live auction before, the Treasury Department's auctions are a great place to learn. There is no entry fee or a 10% to 15% buyer's premium fee added to your winning bid which are typical at private auction houses. You may not even have to pay tax since it is a government auction although it is recommended you ask the staff at the specific auction site to make sure.

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    Don't expect deals to fall into your lap. Government auctions are well known and there will be plenty of competition. It is necessary for you to know the value of the items you are bidding on or you can easily pay too much for something. It is therefore essential that you take the time to preview the merchandise being offered and set a maximum price you are willing to pay. The time and place of the auction preview days will be announced in advance and will usually give you a few days to inspect personal property and a couple of weeks for bigger ticket items such as houses. You can also find all the merchandise being auctioned off a couple weeks in advance at the websites for the main Treasury Department auctions:

    Los Angeles, CA
    Edison, NJ
    Miami/Fort Lauderdale, FL
    El Paso, TX
    Nogales, AZ

    Cars are also auctioned off once a month at Chula Vista, CA and you can take a look at the Treasury Department's Calendar of Events to find even more auctions.

    It is especially important to inspect the merchandise being auctioned off by the Treasury Department first hand since most items have arrived on the auction block due to illegal activities. Items are virtually always sold "as is." The Treasury Department will list any major flaws in the merchandise, but if you come in without having first inspected the items, you may find the computer you won doesn't have a hard drive or your newly purchased car is missing the gasoline tank. You will want to check out the treasury Departments Buyer Tips for more useful information.

    For purchases under $5,000, you will need to make payment by cash, cashier's check or credit card (personal and business checks are not accepted) the day of the auction. If you are planning to purchase a larger item such as a car or a house, you should pre-qualify for the loan before bidding. Personal property over $5,000 will require a deposit of $5,000 due on the sale day with full payment due as designated by each specific auction. Large ticket items such as housing and property usually require 10 percent of the total to be paid within three days, with the entire purchase closing within 30 days. Specific conditions for each auction are posted with the lots and in the auction handouts.

    You also want to make sure that the Treasury Department auction you are attending is the real thing. Due to the popularity of the Treasury Department's auctions, private companies have tried to copy their success by advertising auctions of seized property. You can be sure that it is a real Treasury Department auction by locating the Treasury Seal which will appear in all advertisements and the name EG&G Technical Services. Purchase receipts will also have the name of the government agency that seized the property.

    You now know all the government auction "secrets" and it didn't cost you a dime. If government auctions look to be interesting to you, take a little time to do some thorough research and preparation. Then you will be ready to dive right into the action, or auction as is the case in this situation.

    Re: Government Auctions

    Received a nice email that once again shows that all the information you need for these auctions is free and readily available:

    <i>My compliments to Jeffery for his April 2004 article on Government auctions: what a well written, thoroughly researched article. Thanks for putting truthful, accurate and useful information about our auction program out there for your readers!

    Britney Sheehan

    Public Relations Supervisor


    Supporting the Seizures and Penalties Division

    Office of Field Operations

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection

    Department of Homeland Security</i>


      Re: Government Auctions

      Does anyone actually know someone who has been to these auctions?

      I've read the amounts that things have sold for but the winning bidders seem to buy large lots or are businesses.