First Person: How to Sell Used Commercial Building Materials

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One thing that is unique about a commercial building compared to an apartment or private residence is that the interior is remodeled and redecorated to fit the need of every tenant. While ideally a commercial tenants will stay in the same space for many years, some move out at the end of a three or four year lease. This means that the space must be remodeled again even though the old decor may still be in excellent condition.

While holding onto those old "cast off" building materials may seem like a sensible way to save money on future remodels, it's really not worth the cost of storage. Commercial lease space doesn't turn over that often and when they do, the tenants will want the newest color schemes instead of 15 year old hand-me-downs. A better solution is to sell off those gently used tenant improvements instead.

When we remodelled one of our tenant spaces recently, we found ourselves with 2000 square feet of practically new carpet and other items that were much too good to throw away. Instead of hauling them down to the landfill or recycling center, we sold them instead which earned us nearly $1500. Here is what we did.

Craig's List. Craig's List is a free classified advertising website and a popular resource for do-it-yourselfers. To getting rid of items such as unused hardwood planks, boxed tiles, rolls of gently used carpet, and practically new light fixtures, I listed these items on Craig's List where they sold within a couple of weeks. The "still in box" new items sold for about 40-50% of the original cost. The carpet fetched about 10% of the original install value. One advantage of listing these items for sale on Craig's List is that we had buyers pick up the materials directly from the site which minimized handling.

Public auctions. For the collection of odds and ends that weren't good enough to sell on Craig's List, we delivered them to a local public auction house. Auctions are a bit of gamble in that sometimes they are profitable and sometimes they aren't. Our collection of materials sold for $40 which we had to split 50/50 with the auction house. Worth the trouble? Probably not but they did have the advantage of being useful to someone while saving us the cost of transporting them to the landfill.

Freecycle. For the items we couldn't sell, I listed on Freecycle.com, the recycling network where they disappeared in a matter of hours. While no money exchange hands, it did save us disposal fees which would have cost us $50 or more.

While you won't get rich selling off your second hand building materials, you can earn a few thousand dollars with a bit of effort. The extra cash is a nice bonus for small time commercial building owners like us who are anxious to save money when possible.

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