10 Things to Avoid When Buying Used Furniture

First of all, sorry that this will be wordy and not many pictures.  This is probably the question I get asked the most from everywhere.  These are from my own personal experience and personal preferences.  But I do hope this helps either buy better or not be afraid to buy used.

In today’s society, there is a lot of moving, downsizing, and redecorating more than ever.  My grandparents still have the same orange floral couch they bought nearly 40-something years ago.  It wasn’t normal for our grandparents and not much with our parents, to buy as much new furniture as we do now.  With the painted furniture business booming and buying used (cheaper alternative) furniture to redecorate as popular as it is, I thought I would write about some very important suggestions to think about while buying.

1.IS IT REAL OR FAKE WOOD

-This question still gets confused with pressboard  and laminate and any other cheap version of wood.  I don’t know how many times I find something online and specifically ask them if it’s real wood just to find out…..IT’S NOT!  How can you tell???  Well, is there laminate over it?  Does it have a shiny look to it?  Is the wood a texture?  Is it insanely heavy and small???  These are usually good signs that it’s not real wood.  Real wood is one big piece of a tree cute to a size, a side of a dresser, a door, a drawer.  And you can see it by the grain.  And be careful not confuse oak laminate as real wood.  It’s still fake underneath.  The truth, the fake stuff just will not last very long.

2. DON’T BUY SOMETHING THEN FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET IT HOME

-I’ve been in enough shops to see other dealers coming in buying a piece and then expect me to load it, deliver, and unload.  No way!  Please be respectful.  We’ve already loaded it, worked on it, moved it, then unloaded again into whatever shop we are selling it at.  We’ve touched it more times than we can count on one hand.  Unless the company/person offers or is ok with delivering, that’s fine.  But please don’t just expect the store to do it.

3. SET YOUR PRICE RANGES IN ADVANCE

-If you plan on reselling the piece, do not overspend!  Not worth it 90% of the time.  Think about what price you’ve seen something similiar either online or somewhere else in your area.  If you’ve seen it cheaper somewhere else, have patience and keep looking (unless it’s pretty unique or old).

-If it’s for yourself to keep and you can afford it, all bets are off!  I’ve been guilty and found things for myself that I would never pay that much normally, but I think it’s well worth it if it’s going in my home and I get to enjoy it.

4. CHECK THE PIECE FOR DANGER

-This is extremely important if you have children in the home.  Touch it, pull all the drawers out and see if it tips over, try wiggling it, look at every single leg and small piece on it.  Broken legs are extremely hard to fix and are never the same after repair.  Does it contain lead paint!?  I hear more people worried about buying old homes due to lead paint, however, I carry a lead test kit and a lot of furniture, barn doors, old cabinets DO contain lead paint!  (I will be doing a feature on lead paint soon!)

5. DON’T ALWAYS BELIEVE THE ONLINE DESCRIPTIONS

-Wow, if I had a penny for everytime I found something that says ‘great condition’, ‘smoke free home’, ‘almost new’, and it wasn’t, my in-laws wouldn’t even have to work anymore.  Online auctions are very popular right now due to convenience.  But I can say, I’m not the only one who has bought things without ever seeing them until I’ve already paid for them and picking them up.  Then on my way home I drive by my local thrift store and drop it off along with my dignity.  I have picked up some unbelievable pieces that I still have a grin on my face.  Others, I won’t tell anyone about.  Just be sure to ask a lot of questions.  Check out the item before purchasing if you can.

6. DOES IT SMELL

-Is it musty smelling?  Can you smell gas or old oil/kerosene smells?  If you plan on painting over it, I’d highly suggest using a primer first.  This can cut back a lot of the stains and smells.  If it’s a dresser and don’t plan on refinishing the inside of the drawers and it smells musty, I can say from experience, this smell is very hard to get out.  And if you plan on putting clothes in it, well, expect the clothes to smell a little funny too.

7. DON’T ALWAYS BUY FROM THE SAME PLACE

-Need I say more, you could be missing out.  Try out new thrift stores, auctions, online auctions, craigslist, restores, antique stores, and so much more!

8. WHEN IN DOUBT…..DON’T BUY

-If the price doesn’t seem right or you don’t know if it’s really worth that price, don’t beat yourself up over it.  Just walk away.  If my gut feeling doesn’t seem right about either the piece or the price and the seller isn’t willing to negotiate, then I skip it.

9. IF YOU’RE NOT A REFINISHER, DON’T BUY IT

-I have bought so many pieces, SO MANY, from people who have said, “I bought it 5 years ago planning on refinishing it and it’s still in my garage/basement/shed etc”.    People who refurbish, really have an addiction problem to it and it’s our life.  However, I myself have had pieces that have sat in my garage for well over a year without being finished.  (I hope my husband doesn’t read this, he may make them disappear tomorrow)  If you know of refinisher who you’ll hire to re-do it for you, then great.  If you know you’ll refinish it someday soon (hahahaha) then go for it.  It’s hard to pass up a good deal sometimes, I’m guilty of it too.

10. DON’T AVOID JUST BASED ON LOOKS

-Again, if you know how to refinish, lucky ugly pieces.  If not, but know a refinisher, very painless for you.  If you see a chair that has beautiful detail and is in good shape but the wood is old and scratched and the maroon and blue flowers isn’t your thing, easy fix!  Paint is an amazing tool that has the world loving the refurbishing business.

 

One of my most memorable pieces I bought through an auction.

One of my most memorable pieces I bought through an auction.

 

I will leave you with this piece.  I saw this on an online auction.  The pictures weren’t very good and had two missing drawers and in very rough shape.  (I thought I had a before picture but can’t seem to find it)  I think only 2 people bid on it other than myself and they didn’t put up a fight.  I won it, not even looking at the dimensions much less the small print that said ‘very heavy’.  Luckily, my husband came with me that day and both of our mouths dropped.  We couldn’t get it in the truck fast enough!  It was huge, real wood, hand carved with huge square head nails!!!  The details were so amazing!  It has been sold to one lucky buyer though.  Boy oh boy, is she a lucky gal!

 

Until next time!

Sondra

Comments

  1. I like the advice to make sure you can actually transport it. So many times I see people as well buy something then spend an hour trying to get it in their cars. I will tell my friends about these tips so they can better buy used furniture. Thank you for the information!

  2. These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to make sure you have a way to get furniture home before buying it. My husband and I just moved into our first house, so there are several rooms we’d like to get furnished in the near future. I’d like to buy used pieces so I can save some money, and I’ll definitely make sure I have a way to transport it home before I purchase it. Thanks for the great post!

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