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Bidding War

eBay may be just the place for that old business that you're not using anymore.

Greg Burke had already contracted with a broker to sell his Estes Park, Colorado, leather shop when he ran across a category called "Businesses for Sale" on eBay while surfing on the Net and decided to put Craftsmen in Leather up for auction, too. "It was mainly just a lark," he says. "I already had the photos of the store. It took me five minutes to put it up."

He's not alone. About 12,000 businesses are posted for sale on eBay each month, up 35 percent from the past year, according to Karl Wiley, eBay's senior category manager for business and industrial.

While there are many iffy ventures posted ("Work from Home and LOVE it!!" with accompanying smiley face), there are also real small businesses across all classifications--from manufacturing to service and retail. A recent search turned up a boat marina in Texas and a carburetor remanufacturer in Arizona. Genghis Grill, a Dallas-based Mongolian barbecue restaurant chain, sold a franchise on eBay as a promotion to kick off its nationwide expansion.

EBay business sellers shouldn't expect instant cash, however. "It's not like selling a camcorder," says Burke. Selling a business takes a lot of paperwork. The Web site introduces buyer to seller, but it steps out of the way while you work out details.

But fees are extremely low: $150 for a 30-day or $300 for a 90-day listing. You pay an additional $2 if no bid meets your minimum price; $3 if you've got an agreement to sell. "It was cheap just to see if somebody was out there," says Max Hall, who posted his Cody, Wyoming, electronics repair shop.

"I've got no idea if it'll work," Burke reports three days before the auction's end. It doesn't. He receives no bids, but a few inquiries. Ever the entrepreneur, however, Burke figures he had to give it a try.

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This article was originally published in the December 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bidding War.

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