Used, but not abused

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Used, but not abused
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40_abused_01With the downturn in the economy during the last few years, many shops have changed their machinery buying practices and now seriously consider purchasing used goods. Used machinery auctions are held on a continuous basis, whether they consist of one machine or the contents of an entire business.

Major manufacturers that once only offered new machinery have initiated programs to acquire and refurbish used machinery for resale. As one manufacturer says, "It's a whole new world out there." For buyers, if they do careful research, there are definitely bargains out there. But there are also pitfalls. As the old adage goes, buyer beware.

Auctions abound

There are a number of auction companies that routinely have sales of woodworking machinery and related equipment, including Industrial Recovery Services Auctions (IRS Auctions), International Auction & Appraisal Systems (IAAS), Ex-Factory Auctions, SIS Machinery and many others. Other companies such as Professional Machinery Group simply sell used equipment.

IRS Auctions (no affiliation with the Internal Revenue Service) deals solely with woodworking machinery auctions. The York, Pa., company was founded in 1935 as Carpenters Machinery, a woodworking machinery dealer and, in 1995, the company made the transition to an exclusive woodworking machinery auction company.

"We probably sell 80 percent of every woodworking machine auction in the United States," says Ian Liebgott, vice president of IRS Auctions. "We learn about the auctions in a number of different ways. Either a bank comes to us, a trustee comes to us, sometimes somebody in the industry knows that someone is closing and calls us and we would pay a finder's fee to people that give us a lead on a project. We have a lot of dealers throughout the country and feelers out there who find out that someone is closing and they give us a call to get us involved. Whether you have one machine or a complete Broyhill plant, there is no problem. We can sell either one piece or an entire factory."

41_abused_01IRS Auctions are held online, unless the seller requests a simultaneous on-site auction as well (a rarity). Liebgott says his company will get thousands of bidders for an online-only auction versus just a few hundred that show up at a regular auction. A reserve is set at about 20 percent of the anticipated price for most items.

"We sell everything 'as is, where is, in place, no warrantee.' What you see is what you get," Liebgott says. "We try to disclose anything we know about a piece. If there is a problem and we know about it, we'll tell you. But if we don't, we don't. We try to be as thorough as we can with our specifications and our pictures so people get a great idea of what they are buying.

"It's a huge business and it has grown because of the economy and also people's businesses have grown because they have been able to purchase used equipment at a lesser [price] than buying it at a big store. Since we changed over from a seller to an auction house, I'd say our business has grown a couple thousand percent."

International Auction & Appraisal Systems of Shrewsbury, Pa., is another auction house that deals with woodworking machinery, although not exclusively. The company's last two auctions have been for TBM Hardwoods Inc. and Bassett Furniture.

"I would say there are more woodworking auctions in the last few years because of the economy in general," says Julio Esteban, a sales director at IAAS. "The problem with that is [similar to] the housing market; there are a lot of great deals out there and if you are buying it for yourself it's different than if you are buying it to flip it. A lot of machinery is sold to [be resold] and there a lot of eBay people out there, too."