Today I’m going to talk about searching and finding furniture for your own home, or, more specifically as it relates to me, pieces to paint/refinish and sell. This post will relate more towards those who run or hope to one day run a business painting, refinishing and selling furniture, but I don’t exclude anyone 🙂 For years I have always been asked by people who follow my blog, “liked” my facebook page, follow on Instagram, or those actually buying piece, “where do you get your pieces?” Well, here’s a good list of places to look as well as tips for each site to help you in your search for some great treasures!
First I want to point out that this is a list of all places around the Seattle area and Western Washington that I frequently search. I have a set price I am willing to pay for certain pieces. Larger items like buffets, mid century modern dressers and credenzas I am willing to pay more for than something smaller, like a desk or nightstand. It all ultimately depends on the quality, style, and size of the piece, as well as what it will most likely sell for. If you are looking to paint or refinish a piece and start a business selling pieces, those are the characteristics you want to look for. I’ll go into details of those things in another post, but for now let’s focus on where to hunt!
Craigslist is one of my top places for finding pieces. Searching takes just a few minutes everyday or a few times a week (I used to be a constantly-checking craigslist searcher) to see what’s recently posted. Get used to Craigslist, it’s a great tool for finding furniture and a bunch of other items for heavily discounted prices!
**** Tips for Searching:
1. Use broad keywords that will also narrow down your results. Try searching things like “dresser” or “buffet” or “solid wood” or “antique” or “credenza” or “sideboard” or “chest of drawers” or “desk” or “mid century” or “modern”. This applies for all different types and pieces of furniture like secretaries, vanities, nightstands, bed frames and so on. Make sure to put in one keyword or one keyword phrase at a time. Searching “dresser” will yield you more results than searching “solid wood mid century dresser”. Don’t expect sellers (especially those selling in a lower price range) to have properly listed all of the details about a piece like the wood type, style and maker. They don’t get that specific. Sometimes that is better for you, the buyer, because you find a quality piece for a great price.
2. Limit your Craigslist search by also choosing the location/area of the item, price range and most recent. I also choose the “gallery” viewing option so I see a photo of the item before having to click through to the listing. If a posting has more than one photo you can even hover over the image and click the next/side arrow to see all photos before clicking on the listing. I keep the location close to me but sometimes broaden it if I’m looking for a certain style of piece or really want more inventory.
3. Search the categories that apply. I use “furniture” and “antiques” when looking for furniture. I deselect the other categories that don’t apply. I also choose “by owner” and do not include listings “by dealer” since those items tend to be out of my price range.
4. Sort the results by newest. This is how I search, but other great options are ascending price or relevant. If you search frequently sort by “newest” that way you can look at the first few results, up until the last time you checked craigslist, then be on your way. This makes searching really fast.
5. Search and check often! When there is a good deal, it will go fast and have a lot of interest. You have to be ready to pick it up that day, even in a few hours sometimes. I’ve also found that the end of the month is a great time to check Craigslist often. People are moving and trying to sell things, and it’s often for a great price if they don’t want or can’t take it with them. Weekends are also a great time to look (especially Saturdays) since people are cleaning out extra things or taking the time to list pieces if they don’t have time to do so during the week.
6. Once you find a piece you want, contact the seller. Email, text or call, depending on the contact information they left and their preference. Make sure you read the post so you have as much information as the seller included. If you have any further questions, politely express your interest and ask your question(s). I also say to always leave a phone number as an option for the seller to contact you. It’s shows you are serious about the purchase and might result in a more timely response.
Dimensions are important to ask for if they are not listed to make sure the piece will fit in your vehicle. Also check that a piece is smoke free. I wouldn’t recommend asking more than 2 questions in an email or text, it can be annoying to see someone who asks a lists of questions. Decide on a pick up time and be sure you are flexible with this. Also, don’t flake out! If you can’t make the time you decided on, are running late or decide you no longer want the piece, let the seller know. Either reschedule of let them move on to another buyer.
7. Download the Craigslist App. If you are board or have a spare minute while you are away from the computer, use your phone. I purchased the Craigslist Pro App for $0.99 a few years back. There are also many free versions you can use as well. The Pro App had some features I wanted, like being able to set up alerts for when certain posts come up with keywords you are looking for.
8. Lastly, BRING CASH! I think this is obvious for any purchases from online sites, but this is just a reminder 🙂
*** I’m throwing this one in as well, but search Craigslists “Garage and moving sale” section. People list sales weekly and there are often nearby sales that are not listed on other larger sale sites. Garages sales, Moving sales and Estate sales are seasonal around here (oh, the rain!), so I don’t search in the winter months, but late spring/summer and sometimes even fall I check to see if there are any great sales going on. Sales listed on Craigslist show a small portion of what will be available. Don’t email the person and try to show up early or have them hold an item. That’s not how this works. ***
Last year I was turned on to the site Offer Up. I have the App on my iphone that I use most of the time, but they do also have a website. Unlike Craigslist where you can just search without having an account, you need on with Offer Up in order to contact the seller. It’s not the largest or most well know platform for buying and selling used items, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find treasures! I found this Broyhill Brasilia credenza for a steal!
**** Tips for using Offer Up:
1. Once you set up your account (Name, email, password) you can search. Just like Craigslist use individual keywords or short keyword phrases to search. (See above for more tips on this).
2. Make sure you pick your location. The site shows results closest to you, then they get farther away the more results you scroll through.
Honesty Time: There are a bunch of things I don’t like about the site, and more that are frustrating about the app. First, you can’t sort by price, you just have to go through it all. Second, on the phone app the price is not displayed until you click through to the listing. Third, each item listing only allows for 1 photo, and most people take crappy photos (what’s with that?). Fourth, it’s not the most well known site and app so there are not as many users, which means not as many items listed, at least when it comes to searching for furniture in the furniture and antiques categories.
3. Once you have used a keyword and searched, go through the listing and find something you want. Click on the listing and read the information, then you can click “Buy” or “Ask”. If you have questions, want more photos, or want more information about the item then click “Ask”. This allows you to message the seller. Your response and theirs should also be sent to your email. If you want to purchase the item then click, “Buy”. If the seller selected that they were firm on the price when listing the item, then you will only have the option to click “Buy”, and this will automatically send the seller a message telling them you want to buy [Item] for the asking price.
If the seller did not specify that the price was firm when the item was listed, when you click “Buy” you will have the option to enter an offer.
Personally, even if I want to offer a lower price before seeing the piece, I do not use the “Buy” function. I prefer to message the seller with the “Ask” function expressing my interest with the piece, asking or offering a time I am available to see it and pick it up, then asking if they are negotiable. Sometimes I negotiate in person, and if a piece is listed at a great, fair price, I don’t negotiate at all. Whichever you choose, just make sure you are kind and respectful when doing so.
So I don’t use Offer Up often, I only search it when I can’t find anything good on Craigslist, but I have purchased a few pieces off of the site and have seen some great pieces (for amazing prices) when I didn’t need more projects or didn’t have room for more inventory. It’s at least worth a shot to see if you find some something.
Estate sales are one of the best places to buy furniture. Garage sales are hit or miss with furniture (sometimes it’s just baby stuff), but estate sales usually have some furniture, or even a lot! With Estatesales.net you can enter your zipcode and the results will start with the sales closest to you and move out from there.
4. I do this a lot with all types of furniture that I buy from all different sites and stores, but research the piece. That might sound weird to some people, but learn more about the piece. Type descriptions of the style, wood, color, shape, number of drawers, hardware style, etc. into Google or Ebay and see what comes up. Even Pinterest in a good place to search if you want pictures of similar pieces. I’m usually able to find the exact piece or a similar piece with just a bit of searching and playing with keywords. Then see what it sells for and just gain some general knowledge about it: Where was the piece made? When was the piece made? Is it veneer or solid wood? Would it be less collectible/valuable once painted? What have other people done with similar pieces?
5. Write down any valuable information you gained for future reference. You may want to change you max budget for the piece at this point based on what you learned.
6. Do your best to inspect the furniture piece and/or photos. If you do not go to preview the furniture, carefully look at any and all photos of the piece online. The auction site I use does a pretty good job of communicating any major flaws with the pieces, but that is not always the case. Just be aware if you buy something online, sight unseen (other than just a photo), when you go to pick it up the condition may be worse than you anticipated. Photos can make things look better than they truly are.
7. Find something productive to do while you sit and wait. This is just personal preference. I guess you could just watch the auction, but those things last hours. I usually have homework to do or a school book to read and just check back every so often to see what item number is up for bid and try to time when the next item I am interested in will be up for bidding. Sometimes I just leave the site up on my computer and come back in half an hour when there are large gaps between pieces I am interested in. My favorite is when the item you want is toward the beginning and you can bid, and be done!
8. If you do win an item, write down your bidder number, the item number, and the your winning bid (purchase price). Make sure to add on sales tax and the buyer’s premium tax amount to your total. The auction site I use does not have you pay online. You just show up the next day during the open hours to pay and pick up items.
9. If you own a business restoring or painting furniture, bring your reseller’s permit. Companies usually keep these on file and it keeps you from paying tax on the furniture piece since you will sell it and end up paying sales tax. Do not use your reseller’s permit for items you are not reselling for your business.
Local Buy-Sell-Trade Groups
That’s how these types of groups usually work. I recommend finding one and joining to really see how it works and what items people are selling.