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If you've ever wondered how some people manage to buy unusual property, it may be as easy as searching Derelict.com. The federal bureaucracy and local jurisdictions sell thousands of items at auction every year. They may or may not be available at bargain prices, but they do, indeed, come under the hammer regularly.

It's a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Or, more precisely, it's a matter of checking online listings and making an effort to be at the specified site when the auction is held. Seized Property Auctions are held regularly by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for instance, and lots offered for sale range from urban townhomes to 7,000-plus square foot luxury homes, from raw land to commercial buildings, and from warehouses in decrepit condition to operating businesses in the United States and its territories. They have been seized by various government agencies through legal forfeiture.

Much of the property that goes on the auction block has been seized due to smuggling, drug trafficking, money laundering, credit card fraud, food stamp fraud, mail fraud or other illegal activity.

Special Offers

Other types of property owned by government entities -- think missile silos, lighthouses, historic jail, military bases and abandoned post offices complete with numbered brass boxes -- are also occasionally offered for sale at auction. These properties are rare, but the occasional beachfront condo might be to your liking. Raw land can range from a forested mountain top to an abandoned Old West mine to pastoral acreage in a rural community. Some auctions are held online, with bids submitted electronically.

Approximately 300 property auctions are held each year, and not all of them involve land and buildings. The government also disposes of items seized for non-payment of federal taxes, and may include jewelry, automobiles, new or used electronics, clothing and industrial equipment, including boats and aircraft. Local municipalities also hold frequent auctions to sell off seized vehicles or to retire older models from official service.

Bid Procedure

Most government auctions follow a specific procedure. Check on procedural guidelines and determine if a bidder qualification form is required. Be sure to bring with you a deposit check in the necessary form and amount or you will not be allowed to bid. If you are the winning bidder, you must complete the transaction within a stipulated period of time, so it is wise to have your financing in place prior to the auction.

The government is responsible for all payments and expenses prior to the date of closing and you will be given clear title to any property you win at auction.

Happy bidding!