Tips for Buying Furniture at Auctions

By Karl

You can often find furniture for refinishing at auctions.  Check your local newspaper’s classified section for listings. There are several types of auctions, and some are more profitable than others. If you enjoy the rush of bidding, however, visit each type to get a feel for the process!

Storage Facilities/Lien Sales

Storage facilities often offer auctions to free up space and recover costs when a renter has failed to pay their rental fee. Some sources estimate that over 9,000 of these auctions take place each year! That’s a lot of opportunities to find furniture to refinish!

At this type of auction, you’ll typically need to purchase everything in the unit as one lot. You also don’t usually get to go inside the unit before bidding; you’ll need to make your decision based on what you can see from the door.

In addition, you’ll need to clean out the unit within a specified time frame. Review the company’s rule sheet before bidding; in general, you’ll need to haul out any trash yourself- they don’t allow you to use their dumpsters. You’ll also be required to sweep the unit clean.

Bids can start as low as one dollar, and may end up in the thousands of dollars range. Be careful not to get carried away unless you know for sure what you’re buying! Nationwide, the average cost for the contents of a storage container is around $300.

Call around to a couple different storage facilities in your area and ask if they have any auctions planned. Alternatively, check your local paper’s classified section; businesses are required to place a legal notice before auctioning off property.

Seized Property

Police and government auctions are a good place to find all types of merchandise, including furniture. Aside from materials seized during drug raids, these auctions may contain goods confiscated to recover outstanding taxes or other large debts to the government. The proceeds of these auctions go to benefit the War on Drugs and other government programs.

Additionally, many government agencies auction off surplus items; you can often find very nice office furniture at these events.

Check with your local and state police departments to see when they hold their auctions. You can also do a search online; many sites maintain detailed  listings for police and government auctions.

Estate Auctions

Estate liquidation auctions are common during bankruptcy or after a death. Like more informal estate sales, auctions frequently contain an entire household worth of items. If your tastes are in line with the estate owner’s, you might be able to decorate your whole home from one sale!

It’s the auctioneer’s job to get as much money as possible for each item, but auctions where someone is trying to liquidate their possessions in order to pay back their debts will have the highest starting bids.

Contact local auction companies for dates; you may also find auction information online, in your newspaper, or on community bulletin boards.

Online Auctions

You can also find auction furniture online. Ebay is by far the most well-known auction site on the web, but you can also search for specialty sites. Some even specialize in auctioning high-end antiques!

Online furniture auctions are best for small projects like jewelry boxes and corner shelves; on heavier pieces, the shipping can be astronomical. In some cases, the seller will let you pick items up locally. See if there are any listings within driving distance.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that it’s easy to loose your sense of perspective during a heated bid war. Remember to set a budget and stick to it, or you may do something you’ll regret later!

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