How I Resell Furniture Without Losing Money - Or Even Better - At A Profit

Learning to decorate with no formal training takes a lot of trial and error - and money.  As I was teaching myself how to decorate our home, I spent a lot of time choosing items then realizing a few months (or years!) later that it wasn't the right item for my home. Too long for me to return it, but it was hard for me to live with it. I've always been more of a saver than a spender (In most areas, I cannot for the life of me say no to a manicure!) and I definitely don't like to waste money. So to keep up with my constant redecorating habits, I had to learn how buy and sell furniture well. Which really, in a nutshell means buying nice things cheaply, so I can resell them without losing money, or even better, with a profit.

Mike and I have an agreement: I can change anything I want in the house, I just can't lose any money. It's what's kept us married these past four years (that, and a few other things), and diminished a lot of potential fights. But it must be said, Mike is AMAZING with all my changing, indecisiveness and switching around. He'll happily live in a half finished room and truth be told, doesn't even really notice when I change things. I brought in a hot pink side table to the living room and he didn't notice for three weeks. And he only noticed it because another male that was visiting our house asked me if it was new!

So how do I not lose money? Here are a few tricks I've learned over the past few years to feed my decorating habit.

When buying furniture:

  1. Buy popular name brand furniture. Crate & Barrel, Room & Board (There's an outlet here in the Twin Cities.), West Elm, Pottery Barn, the list goes on. If you've heard of it, then by from there. I know this seems like a weird one to lead with, but you do this for resale value later. A popular name brand will usually resell on Craigslist at a far better margin than even an elite brand name that's available only to the trade. That's because you resell to "normal" people and they don't know how great an "Allan Copely buffet" is, but if you list, "Pottery Barn couch" people know what it is, the value of it and get excited. 
  2. Always buy on sale - major sale. This seems like a no-brainer, but I've been surprised at the amount of times I hear about people just buying furniture for full price. At most mid-level stores, furniture will always go on sale on a rotation. For example, West Elm has a fairly predictable rotation for their items to go 20 percent off.  Things like furniture go on sale maybe twice a year, but bedding, more like 5 or 6 times a year. If you watch their website long enough, you'll be able to track the pattern and wait it out. Alternately, if you find something you like in person at a store, ask the sales person when the next sale is. They'll usually be able to tell you so you can wait to get the deal. 
  3. On top of getting an item on sale, look for coupons. You can usually subscribe to a company's mailing list to land a coupon, or search something like, "West Elm coupon code" on Google and a lot of coupon sites will pop up with potential sale codes. Now, only about 50 percent of them work, but if it's going to save you $200, it's worth typing in eight different codes to get the right one. 
  4. Always be sure to ask. This is a big one. Often times, you'll find a great coupon, but it says that it's redeemable on "full price items only." Waltz into that furniture store and ask the sales person if you can apply it. Nine times outta ten they'll do it for me, "Just this once." I play innocent every. single. time. and have almost always gotten it. If they act like they won't do it, I first ask to talk with the manager and usually the manager will apply it. And if not, I just tell them I'll find something else. I try not to get too attached to a piece of furniture so that I truly am okay letting it go. If you're gonna play hardball, you have to be willing to act on your threats. Side note: If it's an online store, call their customer service and try. I haven't had quite as good of luck, but it sometimes works. 
My goal is to always purchase large pieces of furniture at 40 percent off or more. I've gotten things as low as 70 percent off. So I'm sure you see where I'm going by now, by buying low, when you get tired of a piece of furniture, or realize that may not have been the best fit for your room, you can sell for the same price you purchased it. Here's how. 

First off, I should say, I typically sell my furniture on Craigslist. I do think this method works better living in a big city, rather than in a small town. In a city, people are more familiar with the different brands because their brick and mortar stores are actually around, which makes their furniture more desirable. Plus there are just more people to sell something to. Also, I live in a pretty central location in the cities, which means I get people from all over the metro. If you live super far North or South, people may not be willing to make the 40 minute drive just for a chair. But 20 minutes? People will drive 20 minutes for a lot of things. So basically, all this to say, you should note, I'm in a Craigslist utopia.

While I could probably write an entire post on my tips for selling on Craigslist, today I'm really just sharing one: Always, always, always list the retail value of the item. If possible, link to the item on a store's website, just to prove it. I sold a chair and ottoman for $1,500 on Craigslist. $1,500! That's because it was originally a $3,000 leather chair and ottoman from Crate & Barrel. Crazy, right? It was nearly three years old when I sold it, had a few scratches in the legs, but otherwise was in pretty pristine condition. And we broke even. (Let's not even get into the fact that Mike and I spent $1,500 on a chair. It's a story on it's own, but let's just say that it was the second purchase Mike and I ever made for our home, and the sales lady was incredibly convincing (and cunning!), caught us in a moment of newlywed, googly-eyed, DINK weakness, and we were equipped with a few too many Crate & Barrel gift cards from our wedding. Never again.) 

At most of those popular chain stores (Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, West Elm) the furniture doesn't change over all that quickly. So if you're selling it somewhat recently (within 3-5 years) they are likely still selling it, which means there's a link on their website that you should include in your listing. You need to convince a buyer that they're getting a great deal, by showing them what they'd pay for it at the real store. They don't need to know that you didn't even pay close to ARV, they just need to know what it's "worth." I know it sounds a little sketch, but I have a clean conscious when it comes to it. If they asked me what I paid, I would tell them. But but after selling countless things on Craigslist, I can honestly say I have never, not once, been asked that question.

Over all these tips, there's one big one that covers them: Have patience. Patience to buy low and get a good deal, and patience to sell well, and at least break even or make a profit. It's not every day you sell a chair for $1,500 on Craigslist. But even for a $400 chair, it can take time to find the right buyer. Plus, if you're trying to make money on something you purchased, it might take extra time to sell it. So say I land something for 70 percent off, I'm selling it for more than I paid - especially if it's in great condition. Usually something along the lines of 40 to 50 percent off is a good starting point, but always shoot high with your first list price because you can lower it later. 

Also, even if your item isn't that new, or from a popular chain store, you might be surprised at what you can get for a good quality item on Craigslist. No matter what you're selling, have patience to sell your stuff - I try hard to never be in a rush to sell something; I'll repost it periodically and wait, days, weeks, even months to sell an item. 

So those are my tips! While I hope I'm not doing this nearly as much in the future as I have in the past, I've been pretty grateful this strategy has worked as well as it has, especially because I sort of fell into it at first, and now it's become somewhat of a goal, or skill set - as lame as that sounds. Hopefully you'll be able to apply a few of these tips when looking to redecorate your home!

6 comments:

  1. I love this! I'm right there with ya. It's totally a game, first off a game for me to actually find the "perfect" piece and secondly, to not only break even but earn some cash. I've flipped a number of things from garage sales too. Names brands are fantastic, or even just "new" works wonders. Fun posting

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  2. I really needed to read this, thank you!

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  3. Are you selling or buying? Redecorating?

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  4. Agreed! Once I started looking at it like a game, it wasn't so depressing! :) I love the idea of flipping things, I've totally thought of that, but just haven't go on it - I'll have to do it now!

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  5. We are like you--always redecorating and selling! We rent, so it makes things a little trickier, but we love our current house. Always always selling on CL! Do you have any tips for running a garage sale??

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  6. Gotcha - I wish I did, but I've actually never ran a garage sale! I should though, selling the small stuff on CL never works!

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