Surplus Property Sales Move from Auction House to Cyberspace

November 20, 2008

November 21, 2008 — After decades of live auctions, the University of Virginia is now selling much of its surplus property online.

The University makes available unneeded property in cyberspace through an Internet sales site, www.govdeals.com. To find U.Va.'s listings, use the "advanced search" feature.

U.Va. will also dispose of some surplus through Charles W. Hurt LLC, a private contractor that collects all surplus furniture and building materials and some appliances. This will save departments some money because it eliminates a portion of their costs to transport surplus items to storage. Hurt gives the University a percentage of his receipts when he resells the items.

These two steps are designed to simplify the surplus process and save the University money.

"Govdeals.com does business all over the world," said Dolores J. Hildebrand, assistant director of business operations and purchasing card administration. "We are no longer limited to the people who can get to an auction."

The wider customer base is pushing prices up.
 
"These things are bringing in quite a bit more than we used to get at an auction," said Bobby Carefoot, U.Va.'s surplus property manager.

While bringing in more money, the online auction costs the University less. The University pays a 7.5 percent fee for selling an item online; the cost of a live auction was between 12 and 18 percent of the purchase price.

New items are now posted almost daily, while a live auction was held about every five weeks, Carefoot said.

When the University was selling surplus computers, Carefoot said there would be several hundred people at an auction. Once U.Va. began recycling computers, attendance leveled off at around 100 people, many of them regular buyers.

Once an item posted online, Carefoot said, it is available for bidding for five days. Then the purchaser has five days to pay for the item with cash, certified checks or money order and collect it.

"This gives more of an opportunity for people to buy," Hildebrand said.

If the item does not sell, it is taken off the market and Carefoot's office considers other options, such as submitting a new written description or a better photograph. The item could also be bundled with several others for a quicker sale.

Departments receive the proceeds from sales more than $50. The return on sales in amounts of less than $50 is banked to pay for the costs of computer recycling.

Under the new rules, departments must submit a "request to surplus property" form, noting the item's location. The person making the request then will be notified via e-mail what items Charles W. Hurt LLC will pick up and what items need to be delivered to the surplus property depot on Millmont Street.

Hurt picks up weekly, so surplus approved by Thursday should be collected on the following Tuesday.

Visit the surplus property Web site for the complete procedure. 

— By Matt Kelly