My blog is about refurbishing and redesigning furniture, and I try to give pretty detailed explanations on my processes. Which is great except what if you don’t have any furniture to try these methods out on? Not everyone has a garage full of old furniture begging to be updated.
In order to get you thinking about where to find some great product, I have listed my top 6 places to find furniture for your next project:
I actually have mixed emotions about using Goodwill as an inventory source mainly because they seem to love their own stuff. What I mean is the price on everything, not just furniture, is pretty darn high for a used item. I’ve seen a used floor vacuum with a price tag of $50!! I had to ask one of the salespeople if that was right and was told sometimes the prices are sent down from corporate. Ahhh big, bad corporate.
Then there is NO negotiation room, and that hurts my soul. To be completely transparent, it is difficult to find the well-made wood furniture that I like to work with at Goodwill, but sometimes you can find a great deal. And I’ll just say it: If you do find that unicorn, snatch it and run to the counter as fast as you can.
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat is somewhat like Goodwill as far as pricing. It can be high especially if the store manager researches going prices for their products. In my mind, it is still a used item, and I am THAT type of bargain hunter. But they also seem to have a system where the price is reduced after a certain amount of time, usually 6 weeks to 2 months. The only problem with waiting to see if the price will go down is that someone could buy it in the meantime. It is rare, though, that I fall so hard for a piece that I am devastated if it is sold in that timeframe. If you see a piece that has potential, weigh the risks of waiting for the price to drop.
Another caveat: sometimes their pricing isn’t clear on the floor, and you get sticker shock when you get to the counter. I’ve had to fight for a lower price a couple of times, but they are usually adamant about their prices.
You also must be able to visualize the potential because I’ve seen some butt ugly paint jobs, upholstery that smelled, chips and dents and peeling wood that scared away other potential buyers but with a little (ok, a lot) of work, these turned out to be goldmines.
Finally, I love to get my embellishments here: hinges, handles, knobs, trays, etc. Super cheap, and with a little bit of spray paint, you have a brand new accoutrement for your piece.
Estate sales – This is my top place to get really good quality furniture and other items that I turn into home décor. I once bought two green metal light covers for $10 each that were previously used in an old gas station. Brought them home, cleaned up the little bit of rust, spray painted the inside white, left the outside green---resold them on Ebay for $100 total. I also did another post on a three drawer chest purchased through an estate sale.
Estate sales can either be held in person, usually hosted at the home of the person the estate sale is being held for, or they can be an auction type held online. When bidding or purchasing online, you will still need to pick up your furniture at the end of the sale, sometimes at a warehouse but usually at the estate. Depending on the auction house, shipping of the won item might be allowed, but I’ve found that the shipping far exceeds the top price I wanted to pay for that item because of the weight and/or dimensions. But then, I’m cheap.
I always make sure the auction is within driving distance, AND I am able to pick up the item at the specified time. Each estate sale will provide this information which you need to be diligent about reading each time as they can and will vary. I purchased a set of tools one time from an estate about two and a half hours away. That was drivable to me, but the pick up date was during the week, and, as my day job pays my mortgage and lets me eat, I couldn’t leave to go pick the items up. So I forfeited those tools AND the money paid for them (which still pains me.)
I used to do a combination of in person sales and online sales, but with COVID19, I am strictly online—and very, very sad as I love traipsing through houses, talking to others like me, and finding treasures.
OfferUp/LetGo – I use this platform both ways: I purchase and sell/resell. You have the option to select a radius of miles so only items in that area are shown. OfferUp/LetGo allows its sellers to ship items, but they have to be within a certain weight. Normally, the items I am looking for are out of that range so the radius feature helps to keep me sane. Otherwise, I’ll see a piece I HAVE to have, and then discover it is in California.
I like this platform also because you can attempt to negotiate a price with the seller. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. As a seller myself, I often overprice my item a bit so if I do get low-ballers, I can still get at or close to the price I need so keep that in mind as well.
The cons of using this:
For the heavier items, you must meet in person to pay and pick up the piece. That can be somewhat scary especially if you go by yourself. Word of advice – always meet in a busy parking lot or even in front of a police station whether you are alone or have a friend or family member with you. If the seller (or buyer) will not meet there, cancel the transaction.
Or you arrange a meeting in a safe area, and the buyer/seller doesn’t show up. No call, no text, no nothing. Extremely frustrating.
I would caution against giving someone your address as well especially if you live alone. Safety is paramount.
FaceBook Marketplace/NextDoor Marketplace –
This is essentially like OfferUp/LetGo. Same concept, but I do find better deals on this platform than on OfferUp/LetGo. There are many free items, and a lot of them are the big, heavy items that I like to work with. People move and don’t want to lug it around with them, so I take advantage of that when I see it. I have even negotiated a delivery into the price, but still made sure I had someone with me when it was delivered. The last purchase made through this platform was a three piece bundle for $175: a cherry sleigh daybed with trundle (no mattress), a 4 drawer chest of drawers, and a wood chest. You can see what kind of shape the daybed was in. All three are still on the project list, but I’m estimating a 350% ROI when they are completed and sold.
Curbside – This is the one that horrifies my son the most. He secretly believes I will soon be on Hoarders, so when I texted him pictures of the chairs I wanted to pick up from the curb in my neighborhood, he just shook his head. These are not always a sure thing because the reason people put furniture out on the sidewalk is because they want the city to take them away---they are broken or damaged in some way. Some can be repaired easily, and some need to stay on the curb. Just remember, you always make a profit with this scenario because you pay nothing for the item. By the way, I didn't get those chairs because someone with a truck whisked them away before I could get back from my walk. That was a sad day.
There are many other ways to get the furniture you need to refurbish, redesign, and transform, but these are the first places I go when I need a new project. In my next post, I’ll show you the advantages and disadvantages of going to flea markets, consignment shops, and antique shops.