Guest Post: Erin Steiner
These days, buying stuff online is commonplace. You can get pretty much anything you want, including used furniture. That doesn’t mean, though, that buying used furniture online is completely risk-free.
Here are some tips to help you make sure that you get a good deal on a good piece and don’t get ripped off.
1. Ask if your seller has the ability to do mobile payments. This protects you in the event that you get the piece of furniture and find that it is in some way defective. These payment services side with the consumer, so you shouldn’t have to worry about getting your money back if, once you get the chair home, it falls apart as soon as you put any weight on it and the seller suddenly disappears.
2. Do your best to see the piece in person, even if it means driving somewhere. Online sellers are used to buyers who are cautious and who need a lot of reassurance. If you live close enough to the seller to meet and see the piece, there is absolutely no reason, if the seller is honest and legitimate, to have that request turned down. If you get turned down, move on to something else.
3. In the event that you aren’t able to see the piece in person before you buy it, ask for the seller to send you lots of pictures of it. You want pictures from every side and every angle (especially underneath). You want them to be both close-up shots and faraway shots to give you an idea of what the item really looks like. A good seller will already have these on hand and be willing to send them to you, if they haven’t posted them somewhere already.
4. Make sure that the seller has a good return policy. If the piece of furniture is heavy or cumbersome, make sure that the seller will pay for the return shipping charges as well as refunding your money. The last thing you need is to have to pay to send back a thing that you don’t want!
5. Respond to every piece that interests you as soon as you see it. This is particularly important when utilizing sites like Craigslist because pieces are often sold to the first emailer to promise the full amount in cash. If there is a phone number listed in the ad, definitely call instead of email. If there isn’t a phone number listed, make sure yours is included with the mail you send so that the seller can choose whichever form of communication is easiest for him if he replies.
6. Do your research. Know what that piece of furniture is actually supposed to cost before you make the commitment to buying it. Seek out similar pieces in similar condition and find out what kind of price they are selling for. If you want to be really thorough, you can ask local furniture dealers what they believe the fairest price for a used item of that sort should be. This way, you won’t get taken for a ride by every seller who says, “No, no, $500 for that chair with no seat really is a fantastic deal!”
7. If the seller claims that the piece was made by a specific designer, ask to see proof. You want proof that is both photographic and written before agreeing to a sale price. If he can’t (or won’t) give you the proof you need, do not trust that seller and move on to something else.
8. If you are utilizing a site like eBay in which sellers can be ranked, definitely check out what other people have had to say about that seller. Pay just as much attention to the positive feedback as you do to the negative feedback. You want to see things like “delivers promptly” and “great service” and even “gave me a refund immediately.”
9. Don’t ever buy mattresses, couches with mesh support, chairs with stapled joints, furniture made from pine, or cribs used online. That’s just asking for problems.
10. If you’re buying something that is upholstered, don’t turn down a good deal simply because you don’t like the color of the fabric. Reupholstering something is easy enough to do on your own and affordable to have done professionally. You could be passing up a really great deal simply because you like green instead of blue!
These are just some of the things to keep in mind when buying used furniture on the web. Basically it all boils down to this: Be practical, be cautious, and always trust your instincts.
Author: Erin Steiner is a freelance writer from Portland, Oregon, who writes on a variety of topics.
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