In my closet, I’ve got a green and blue striped golf shirt that’s one of my favorites. Diana, my wife, is lobbying hard for me to get rid of it. After all, I bought it right after college and that would be twenty years ago. But I’m fighting hard to keep that shirt. I’ve just gotten it broken in.
Needless to say, I don’t believe in fast fashion. But styles are changing ever more speedily, not only for fashion but also furniture. Most of us don’t live so lavishly that we replace the living room furniture every spring. Still, adding a piece here or there to your home is a great way to stay up-to-date.
Buying quality pre-owned furniture is smart because you can find great bargains on great styles. How can you be sure you’re getting a good deal? Here are five tips to consider when buying used furniture:
- Look for a reputable brand. The top furniture makers adhere to high standards, year after year. As with a BMW or a Mercedes, the styles change but you can always count on quality manufacturing. Look for premium furniture brands such as Baker, Thomasville, Ethan Allen, and Henkel Harris. As an example, all Baker sofa frames are hand-tied eight ways, insuring stability.
- Determine the original purchase price to calculate your savings on a pre-owned piece. Don’t be fooled by catalog prices, which are usually irrelevant because of sales and other promotional deals. The original buyer probably paid far less than what you see in the catalog. Remember, too, that some merchants offer special savings to “members.” Restoration Hardware gives members 25% off every item for a $100 annual fee.
- Has the manufacturer stopped making a certain item you covet? Let’s say you’re looking for some chairs to match your Ethan Allen Newport dining table or a Pennsylvania House sofa table to match your side tables. These mass-produced pieces aren’t true collectors’ items and they have depreciated over the years. But finding very specific used pieces in good condition can be a major challenge. You should worry less about saving a few more bucks and more about some other shopper snatching up your long sought-after piece.
- How well was the piece made? Ask the seller the age of the furniture, its price when new, who made it and where it was purchased. If the seller seems fuzzy on the details, walk away. Cheap no-name furniture is no bargain, especially when used. Also, look closely for signs of high-quality craftsmanship: solid wood construction, dovetail joints, and crisply sewed seams.
- Did the piece have a hard-knock life? Maybe you’re looking for a rustic dining table for your beach home and a few scratches won’t matter to you. But if a table is going to be a focal point in your formal dining room, those scratches could prove costly. Beware of sellers who suggest reupholstering or refinishing; both can be expensive and time-consuming.
Still worried about whether you’re getting a good deal? My best advice is to buy from a store you trust. At FCG, integrity is our watchword. Sure, everyone loves a bargain. What’s more important, though, is knowing with certainty that the furniture you have purchased on consignment is not only high quality but also a good value.