It gets a little trickier when it comes to furniture, as many sellers do not have the means for transporting it, and are depending on the buyer to come get it.
Here are some important rules to keep in mind when buying furniture.
1. Never Send Money In Advance
If the seller wants you to pay for the item before you can pick it up, or make some sort of “good faith” deposit, say no thanks. Even if you are paying delivery costs to a third party, never send that money to the owner of the item. Too many folks have been scammed with the “This is a great bargain, you just have to send me a MoneyGram for shipping” con.
2. Don’t Totally Trust the Photo
That photo of an upholstered sofa might have been taken in 1994, and the couch may not look quite the same now after being stomped on by three kids and urinated on by a pet. Be sure the seller has more than one photo showing different angles of the piece, as the back of the item may be damaged or missing. It’s not worth your time to go see an item if the photo seems antiquated or as if the seller appears to be hiding something. Is it a digital photo or just a photo of an old photo with odd lights bouncing off of it? Is there anyone in the photo posing with the item that gives you a creepy vibe? Serious sellers will only post a photo of the furniture piece, period
3. Don’t Go Alone
Yes, some of those urban legends are true, and you should never just set out to a stranger’s home to view an item without a trusted friend along. Be sure you alert someone as to the exact address as well as when you are leaving, and when you should arrive home. As large furniture items often cannot be brought to a public area for inspection, you are likely to have to go to someone’s home to examine it. If the person wants you to sit down and avoids getting down to business, thank them for their time and make a quick exit. They don’t want to sell their item, they are just a weirdo who wants company.
4. Avoid the Antique Hard Sell
If something really is an antique, they won’t mind you having it appraised by a professional third party. Anyone can scratch “1776” on the bottom of a chair and call it an heirloom. If the seller seems to desperate for you to just take their word for it, you don’t want to do business with them. Also, if they present a strange “Certificates of Authenticity” or say that their item was featured on “Antiques Road Show”, verify this before giving over your money, unless you love the piece and don’t care about its market value.
5. Measure Your Area
That king sized four poster bed posted online is just what you’ve always wanted, but if you live in a studio apartment, it may not fit. Measure the area where you wish to place the piece and ask the seller to provide dimensions over the phone before you set out to view it if they neglected to put the exact size of the piece in the ad.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Negotiate
The asking price may not be the final price for a motivated seller. It’s not polite to insult someone with a lowball offer, but most sellers will allow a little wiggle room on the final price.
7. Ask for a receipt
Even a homemade receipt signed by both parties will do, especially if cash is changing hands. Don’t expect the seller to take a personal check. Many sellers have suffered from bounced checks and may put in the ad “cash only”. Yet, you do need a record of the transfer of ownership. Arrange a definite date and time to pick up the furniture, if you aren’t leaving with it in tow. Only pay when you actually get the item or you may find an abandoned house when you go to pick it up.
8. Distance is Time is Money
If you are buying furniture from a seller out of town, think about the travel time and gas money you will spend to view and purchase the item. If it is not an exceptional piece, could you find the same type of item at your local thrift shop?
9. Is it Really “Never Used”?
Some ads specify that an item was never used. Be that so, still check for chips, scratches, drawers that slide easily and other possible imperfections. If you buy a mattress that is still sealed in the wrapper, ask where was it stored? For how long?
10. Comparison Shop
You might find a better deal from a seller right in your neighborhood. Spend a few days scrolling through the listings and getting comfortable with using your local online marketplace before contacting sellers.