Buying my first house was a mixed blessing. It was great because it was ours – no more rent, no more landlords. We were the masters of our own domain! But the new house was considerably smaller than the house we were renting, by about 1,000 square feet. As a result, we had a ton of stuff we had to either sell or donate – and fast. I was totally overwhelmed by the possibility of selling furniture online, so I wound up donating nearly all of it. While donating your furniture is certainly noble, there are times when the piece is too important to just get rid of. And then there are also times when you find a piece of furniture you can restore and sell online.
It’s been a long time since I donated all that stuff. These days, I’d handle the situation a lot differently. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot and picked up a lot of tips and tricks for buying and selling used furniture online.
- Shop local: It goes without saying that buying local is better if you can swing it. You’ll receive it much faster, you’ll pay less – if anything – in shipping and you may even be able to negotiate a lower price if you’re close enough to pick it up yourself.
- Check the size: You may have found something that looks great and fits your budget, but if you can’t get it in the house, then you’re out of luck. I actually bought the couch of my dreams but had to return it when it wouldn’t fit through the door of my house. This also goes for the space you’re hoping to fill. If you can get it in the house but can’t walk around it or open the doors, it’s useless.
- Set a schedule: If you’re looking for a specific type of used furniture, check your favorite sites often. Sometimes great deals come and go so quickly that you may miss something if you only check the site every so often. A daily routine – say checking once in the morning and once in the evening – can go a long way to finding the piece you need.
- Use different keywords: If you’re looking for a couch, try searching for more than just one term. For example, don’t just search “couch” – try “sofa” or “loveseat,” too. By changing up your keywords, you’ll broaden your results, increasing your chances of finding that perfect item.
- Look at the pictures: Make sure the seller has posted enough pictures to give you a real idea of what you’re about to purchase. If they’ve only posted one or two photos, don’t be afraid to ask for more.
- Ask questions: Do you feel satisfied with the amount of information that’s in the listing? Do you wish you knew more? Then ask! Does it come from a pet-free home? Are there any chips or scratches that you can’t see in the photo? Is the current owner willing to negotiate on price? Knowing exactly what you’re considering buying in advance can really help you make a decision.
- Know your prices: Don’t price your furniture based on what you spent when you bought it. Rather, look at comparable pieces on multiple listing sites to see what they sell for and choose a listing price for your piece based on what will motivate buyers. However, don’t short change yourself, either. If you had to put work into refinishing the wood, then be sure to factor your work into the price.
- Make it easy to find: Include as many details about the product as you can when writing your listing. Details like manufacturer, year built, etc., are important to include to attract buyers, who search for many different terms.
- Be detailed: List all of the qualities that buyers can’t see or may not be searching for – if it’s from a non-smoking home, if you have pets, if there are tears, if there are broken or missing parts, etc. Being upfront is better for the buyer. The fewer questions a potential buyer has, the more likely they are to buy it right away.
- Take photos: If you think you have enough pictures, post one more, just in case. Buyers like to see what they’re buying, and having several detailed photos means you’re likely to sell much faster.
- Be clear about your contact info: Be very specific about how you want to be contacted – by phone, email or text. If you can eliminate all the back-and-forth by answering any questions that a buyer has upfront, the buyer is more likely to feel comfortable and want to do business with you.
- Clean, clean, clean: Don’t sell a dirty product. If it’s an antique or a rare piece that you’re not sure how to clean without damaging the product, then consider getting it professionally restored. If you can’t do this yourself, be clear about the condition of your product in the description. People rarely want to buy something that looks like it’s been sitting in your shed for years.
- Pay attention to fees: Some listing sites charge you for listing your items on their site. And if you’re shipping an item, make sure you factor that into your asking price, too. You’d be surprised how often people forget to think about these two basic facts when listing an item. You don’t have to make a ton of money by selling your used furniture, but you certainly don’t want to lose money!
Whether you’re buying or selling, the most important thing to remember is to use caution and be mindful of your surroundings. When handing an item over to a buyer or picking one up from a seller, be sure to meet in a public place with a lot of activity and visibility. If you’re buying and absolutely have to go to a seller’s home, don’t go alone or feel pressured to go inside. If you’re selling and your piece of furniture is large, see if you can get someone to help you move it out to the garage or porch before the buyer comes to pick it up.
Many police stations have set up safe-zone areas for people to meet on neutral ground. Use your best judgement, and if you ever feel uneasy about a situation, it’s not worth it – move on.
If you’re not in the market to buy or sell anything online but your budget is small and your need is great, we’ve got plenty of tips for you to find affordable decor for your home. You don’t have to buy online to find a beautiful piece of furniture that fits your needs.
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