What is a Public Auction?

A public auction is a process wherein the government auctions properties or assets, which could be owned by the government or was authorized by a court of law to be sold. However, the term “Government Auction” may imply that particular auctioneer and sales agents are contracted to manage stocks that need to be liquidated by different government agencies.

Auctioning Government-Owned Property

Property owned by the government and sold at a public auction may include one of the following:

  • Excess and unused government equipment
  • Relinquished or foreclosed property over which the administration has asserted possession
  • An escheated property that was reverted to the state because the deceased owner is without legal heirs
  • Government land and intangible assets that the state has declared authority over, such as broadcast frequencies and rights sold through an auction system that allows the government to sell rights to transmit signals over certain electromagnetic spectrum bands.

Government property can be auctioned by whichever agency is auctioning the property.

Auctioning Privately Owned Property

A private property might be sold in a public auction, which could have been seized using a governmental process in order to fulfill a court judgment. It could also be sold at a public auction for the purpose of liquidating tax lien, tax sale, or mortgage foreclosure.

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As a rule, though, prices acquired at a government-organized auction to fulfill a judgment are much lower than the price it will be freely sold by the seller.

In the Unified States, government properties sold at public auctions to satisfy a court’s decision are generally directed under the authority of the sheriff of the district or city in which the properties to be auctioned was seized in accordance with the judgment. A public auction held for such is called a Sheriff’s sale.

A real property might be auctioned off publicly in order to partition the property between joint occupants who cannot come to an agreement on how the property ought to be divided. On the other hand, an estate sale that is led at the course of a probate court may likewise be directed at a public auction.


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