If you are planning to redo a room or section of your house, you may decide to get rid of the old furniture and bring in the new. But what to do with lightly used or valuable furniture you just don't want anymore?
When you decide to sell furniture, there are some roads to take to ensure success. Keep in mind that it's not always easy to do, but if you are realistic, you will have success.
If you think your used furniture has value, or if you are selling the furniture from a relative’s estate, the first thing to do is to determine if the furniture was made by a famous manufacturer. Typically better manufacturers mark their pieces. The most common locations for these marks are in drawers or on the back of the piece.
You can also figure out if the furniture is collectible by searching websites and reading price guides and furniture collecting books. The books are usually available in the library, so there is no reason to buy a lot of expensive volumes. Most are available online, too.
Generally furniture, even from 40 or 50 years ago, is too new to be valuable. But there are some exceptions. For instance, furniture manufactured by the Heywood-Wakefield company has built up a following. Some of the rarer pieces can bring $2,000 or more. So it pays to check.
You also should visit used furniture and consignment stores, scour classified ads and listings on craigslist.org, ebay.com, and similar sites to get a feel for prices.
If the furniture is not collectible, you won’t get much for it. There's just too much competition. With some national chain stores offering no payments for a year or more, people who may have bought used will now opt for new furniture.
On the other hand, the economic downturn has opened a new market for reasonably priced used furniture that still has a lot of wear in it.
The Best Price or the Easiest Option?
In most cases, you will probably get the best price by putting an ad in the paper. Most local papers have online classified sections that draw a lot of traffic. Many of these services suggest you post pictures, so be prepared to take digital pictures of the items you want to sell.
Of course, this means more work for you because there will be phone calls and emails, and strangers coming by to look at the furniture.
You will have to negotiate prices. If someone is interested but won't meet your price, get their name and phone number. In a few days you might want to accept their lower offer.
An easier option would be to call one or more local used furniture dealers. Unless you have have something very collectible, don't expect to get top dollar. The dealer needs to make some money, and so you can expect about a third of a used store's selling price. An item that if new might cost $1,000 may sell used for $300 — and you will get an offer for $100 from the dealer.
Selling to a dealer does have some advantages. They'll come to your house and make an offer on the spot. And they will haul the furniture away.
You could try selling the furniture over the Internet, but packing and shipping it is not easy. Sites such as craigslist cater to local markets and so the buyer often picks up the piece, which makes dealing with online sales far easier.
If you want to try the Internet, you should put a “reserve price” on the auction. That way, if the bidding doesn't reach your minimum acceptable level you won't be forced to sell the furniture for less than you wanted.
Finally, in some cases it might even be a good idea to give the furniture to a charity. You won't be paid, but you will have a tax deduction.
And that’s not all bad!
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website.