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#13: Tips for Buying Refinished Furniture Online

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

What is UP my friends and fellow busybees.

Today is a bit of a Part 2 because in Blog #9, I went over all of my tips for selling furniture online but I think it’s also important to provide my tips, lessons learned and the Do’s and Don’ts (in my humble opinion, at least) for the opposite side of the interaction, which is for those who are buying furniture online. So if you haven’t yet listened to Blog #9, I do recommend you go over and listen to that because there’s definitely some nuggets in there that will also apply here!

And I hope this episode today can be useful not only to those who do furniture makeovers, whether it be just for themselves or as a hobby or business, but also for those of you who are interested in buying things on online platforms like Facebook Marketplace. Because while I’ll be chatting in the context of picking up a furniture piece, this really could apply to anything and as I look over this list, it really all does just come down to etiquette overall.

Now let me preface this with the statement that I am so happy with every client I have and have had. I am so appreciative of anyone that has ever purchased a piece from me, and none of these things that I go over today are meant to be a slight to anyone or to make anybody feel bad if they have ever done any of these faux pas when buying something off Marketplace before - we are here to learn and improve and do better. So with that, let’s get into the first thing I recommend you do when purchasing furniture online on a platform like Facebook Marketplace.

Number one, compile your thoughts upfront. As a courtesy to the seller, before you send a message to them, look over all of the photos and information provided in the description and then think about what it is you want to know about the piece, and be concise and put all of that into your message. This helps to save time for both of you and avoid the back and forth.

If you’re curious if it’s still available, and if it is, know that you would be interested but want to know if the price is negotiable, say “hi there, if this is still available, is the price negotiable?” instead of sending one message asking if it’s still available, waiting for the person to say yes, then asking the next question. Put it all together, even if you have a couple different questions. Especially when it’s someone who is doing this as a kind of business, they will take the time to make sure that they hit all the points in their reply. And even if they don’t and they just answer 75% of what you asked, you can just repeat yourself at that point. Not only does this ultimately save time for you both, but depending on both of your availabilities, this could make the interaction take extra hours or even days to get to bulk of the interaction, and in the meantime, someone more straight to the point might message and snag the piece.

And actually, that was kind of a horrible example to provide, because one of my pet peeves personally is when people ask if the price is negotiable. My recommendation, if this is a thought in your head, is to ask “would you be willing to take X amount?” instead. Because even if someone asks if it’s negotiable and I am willing to lower the price a bit and I say “I would be able to do X amount but unfortunately that’s the lowest I could do”, 100% of the time the person is going to reply offering a lower amount. Which absolutely dumbfounds me every time, and I do not think is a good negotiation tactic, so please, just go in with your actual offer and take it from there and again, avoid wasting both of your times’ needlessly. I’d be interested to know if this is just a me thing or if other people have that pet peeve as well, if so, please send me a DM on Instagram @MelDidItHerself and let me know!

I know that sometimes it may not be the case, so I do understand this one a bit more, but it does also errk me a bit when you get the “hi, is this still available?” messages because 99.9% of the time, if a piece has sold, it will be marked as such and removed from Marketplace. And even if, on the off chance, someone forgot- when you message them saying you’re interested and would like to buy the piece, the person will let you know if it has already sold and they accidentally just forgot to remove the listing. Because it does happen if you’re busy and it slips your mind. I actually used to include a sentence at the top of every single Marketplace listing I had that said “if the ad is still up, it’s still available” but then I would still receive the messages from people asking if it was still available and that just hurt my brain a little too much to handle so I stopped adding it in. Also because I kind of feel like people who are looking at it might read it as passive aggressive, which I guess it was, but whatever.

I’m ALSO aware of the fact that, since Marketplace just pre-populates the message already in the chat box when you go into a listing, that sometimes it’s just a matter of a slip of a finger or clicking send when you were trying to scroll to see the description, so for peace of mind I just tell myself that that’s the case any time I get one of those messages. Maybe I’m just a psycho, who knows.

So along the lines of compiling your thoughts and getting your ducks in a row before getting too far into the interaction, another recommendation: find out if the piece would fit in your space before we start going back and forth, please. There have been soo many times where I go back and forth with someone asking questions about the piece, is it still available, what’s it made of, negotiating pricing, deciding they’ll take it, arranging a time and date for pick up… all to then receive a message later that day or the next day or whatever saying either “oh I just measured and it won’t fit where I was thinking it would go, sorry I’m going to pass” or “I just showed my wife and it wasn’t what she had in mind so we are going to pass”. Like, GUYS. That should be step one before you send a message, please let it be step one. If there is something that is a game changer on whether or not you could conceive of having it in your home, do that thing first before going through the rest of that process… Okay, you can confirm that it’s still available before showing the Boss, if you must, but that’s about it. I just find it really disrespectful when people waste other people’s time in life in general, so that one really does grind my gears a bit. And I don’t think those people meant any harm by it obviously, but it’s an easy fix and so now that you know, I hope you won’t do the same for someone!

Next up is to make it apparent if you want the piece and are committed to buying it by saying something concrete like “I’ll take it” or “I’d like to buy it” so that I, as the seller, know to focus my attention and efforts on you and closing that deal and the details, in case I’m getting a million other messages from people at the same time. I personally like to adhere to a “first come, first served” policy where, whenever possible and reasonable to do so, I’ll offer the piece to the first person who gets concrete and expresses their desire to purchase the piece, but only after confirming that the person who is still messaging me about it and was the first to message is not interested. And I won’t wait a million years to get back to that person who expressed interest, I’ll give the other person maybe a half hour or whatever after sending the message, but I try to be reasonable.

Included in that is my policy that, if I have someone who has said they want the piece, we set up a date and time for pick up that’s maybe not until the next day sometime but then someone messages saying they’ll take it and can come tonight, I won’t screw over that person that I already promised it to. I know I could, and I know some people do do that, but I just don’t find it to be good business practice and I don’t want my potential clients to feel like they have to drop everything and run to my house- because life happens and everyone is busy and I understand that.

In line with that, though, if you are a buyer and say something like “yes, I’m interested, I’ll buy it”, it’s also helpful to just say within that same message when you would be available to pick it up. That just gets the ball rolling quicker to finish up the sale, and if I’m not available at that time for whatever reason, I as the seller will let you know and suggest another date and time or offer my availability and see if any of it aligns with yours. On the opposite hand, if you are no longer interested in the piece but we have been chatting back and forth about it, I do always appreciate when someone says something to let me know that they are moving on like saying “we found another piece that will work better” or even just saying “actually I’m not longer interested”, just so I can keep mental tabs on how many actively interested buyers I’m talking to and can try to adhere to that first come first served policy whenever possible. I promise I won’t be offended if you find another piece you like more or will work better in your space, I want your home to look great just as much as you do, but it just helps me in my processes.

I usually set up a date and time that the client is planning to come pick up the piece and then will just leave it on the porch for pick up, because I think people prefer that for the most part so they can quickly grab it, and I also prefer it, because then I don’t need to completely pause my day and wait around looking out the window for the client to arrive. I can continue on with my work or chores or whatever it is I’m doing, and if they need any help or want to chat or have questions, can ring the bell and I’m happy to come out. But, as the buyer, if you are going to be substantially later than the time that you say you’re going to be or if something comes up and you can’t make it, please do let the seller know by shooting them a quick message, if you’re able to. Even if, you know, you were going to come at 6pm but got out of work late so it will be more like 8pm, just let us know. If it’s a matter of being 15 minutes later or whatever, that’s not a big deal, but if it’s a couple of hours then please do.

For one, because it’s nice to be nice and to be mindful of people’s time because chances are they are planning their day around you and are putting off doing something or going somewhere until you pick up the piece. Also, if it’s going to be a couple hours or more, I’m going to bring the piece back inside in the meantime. Whether it’s in the winter and super cold or wet from snow outside or if it’s maybe in the summer and quite humid, I want to decrease the amount of time the piece will be sitting out in those temperature and moisture changes, because I don’t want it to affect the finish in any way or have the piece shift if it’s solid wood and is reacting to the elements. Might not happen, but it could, so I like to stay on the safe side and do what I can to avoid it, so sending a quick message really helps me ensure that you’re going to get the best piece possible.

Another thing I recommend is to always leave a rating once you’ve picked up the piece and finished that interaction with the seller. On Facebook Marketplace it’s just a matter of leaving a rating out of 5 stars, it’s usually located at the top of the conversation but if you can’t find it, the seller can also click a button that sends the request directly in the chat window. It takes maybe 7 seconds of your time, but I promise it really helps out sellers so I encourage you to always do it. This is because, assuming this person sells items on Marketplace often, it lets other buyers know that that person is a trusted seller and so helps them to get more sales in the future, so we really appreciate you doing that. Sometimes I will send a message after the person picks up the piece asking if they wouldn’t mind leaving me one, because I’m sure people don’t often think to, and typically people are happy to do so.

This is a Nice To Do and not a Need To Do, but as a seller of refinished furniture, I frickin’ love it when people send me over photos of the pieces in their space when they get it home and set up. It’s so nice to see the piece in its forever home and honestly it’s crazy because sometimes I’ll see it and be like ‘holy crap that is exactly the kind of space I envisioned this going in when I was making it over’ so that is always an awesome full-circle moment. Now I know if you are just selling off something random on Marketplace, people likely aren’t going to be doing this but when I sell the pieces I refinish I include things like a thank you card, business cards, care cards and extra paint so it’s pretty apparent that I do this as a business, so I think people understand that that kind of thing would be appreciated, and it always makes my day when they do!

I feel weird most of the time if I were to ask for people to send it because some people are more private about their spaces and I am a complete stranger so I don’t want to give off any weird vibes, but I try to make it apparent how much I appreciate it when people do send them over. And, especially if it’s a well staged photo with good lighting, I’ll usually ask if they mind if I share the photo on my social media or website too because it’s always a great marketing tool as well. But of course if they said they weren’t comfortable with it then I wouldn’t.

So then my last recommendation overall, is if you have any questions at all when purchasing furniture or something else from someone online, to just ask. You never know until you ask. For example, in my ads I state that the items are to be picked up and I say the area that I live. Nowhere do I mention delivery as an option, because typically, I don’t deliver. However, there HAVE been exceptions where the piece does fit in my vehicle, I have the time to do so, and someone messages me and they don’t either have a vehicle at all or don’t have one that would fit the piece but they really love it and want it, and so there are those times where I will offer to deliver it, usually for an added fee. And those people wouldn’t know that that was a possibility if they didn’t ask in the first place, so let that be a lesson. The worst case scenario is that someone says no, sorry, that’s not an option or I can’t or whatever.

And this goes for negotiating as well. I DO want to be careful here, because ultimately, I don’t encourage you to try to negotiate the price of someone’s refinished piece that you see being listed online. Particularly when it’s made apparent that this is their business, and thus their livelihood is depending on that income. Assume that they have an equation that has taken many things into consideration to price that piece - and if you want some insight into that and haven’t yet listened, pop over to Blog #12 where I discuss Pricing Your Painted and Refinished Furniture.

However, there are times that someone may be willing to lower the price of the piece, OR, a more realistic example might be if you are buying furniture on Marketplace to refinish so it’s an older, ugly piece that someone is trying to sell off. You never know until you ask, and I try to remind myself of that. I typically will save a piece if I come across it and know it would make for an awesome project but it’s priced much higher than I would want to pay. I save it and then, sometimes it gets sold before I get the chance to go back and look at it a week or two later, but sometimes it’s still sitting there. And if that’s the case and I have the space to take a new piece in (which is rare, if you’ve seen my garage lately, you know why), but I’ll send them a message and offer them the price that I would be willing to pay for it. I typically will say something like “I know it’s much lower than you have it listed for and I don’t want to offend you, but I have a furniture refinishing business and this piece has caught my eye a couple times now. I only pay X amount for my pieces and I was wondering if you would be willing to let it go for that amount, as I see it’s been listed for a couple weeks now?” or whatever the case may be.

And often, they do say yes! I can’t confirm whether or not this is the case, but I think, from a seller’s perspective if I’m putting myself in their shoes, that acknowledging that the price I’m offering is much lower and I know that but explain my reasoning for it and that I plan to bring new life to it is, presumably, why they often are willing to go for it. I’ve found that a lot of people really love knowing that the piece will be getting a makeover, and often they’re interested in seeing what happens with it so they ask that I send a photo when it’s done, or they follow me on Instagram so they can keep up-to-date on what happens with it. In my opinion, everyone wins in that case, which is why I like to keep in mind that you never know until you ask!

And something you may not know about me… I love little motivational messages. They literally always get me fired up, and I keep a running list of ones that are especially catchy or speak to me in the Notes app on my phone. So I’m going to end every podcast episode with one of those that I have noted down over the years, in hopes that you leave our time here each week feeling inspired, motivated, and ready to take on whatever comes your way that week.

So this week’s Mel’s motivational message is: There’s a difference between being nice, and being kind.

And if I’m being honest, this is just the closest thing that I could find that is semi-relevant to the topic today because… not a whole lot of motivational messages that are speaking to me that are about buying dressers online, if I’m being honest. But I DO think this one does apply, because when we are talking about all of these things that are ultimately just about being polite, respectful and courteous to the people that you’re interacting with online, it is the difference between being nice and being kind.

Because you can be nice, you can be polite and not overtly offensive to someone that you’re trying to buy a side table from, but you can take it that extra step and be kind. And do those extra things like taking a moment to compile your thoughts or measure the space before you start messaging someone or asking them what the dimensions are even though it’s already written in the ad and things like that. Take that extra minute, do that upfront “work” and then you’re helping to save that person’s time.

If they’re a small business owner, they have a million things going on in their day. And even if they’re not, I’m sure they still do. I’m sure they have families and friends and work and hobbies and lives that they are leading just like you. So try and take that time, be a little extra courteous and kind and respectful to them, leave the rating, do the things that are going to bring that good karma back to you.

And then when we look at the world in general, there is a difference between being nice and being kind.

So as you’re moving through the world, think of the instances where you can go that extra mile, take that extra step to be kind to a stranger that you’re interacting with fleetingly in your day. You never know, that could be the one thing that person really needs– they could have been having the shittiest day ever, you don’t know what people are going through, you don’t know where they just were, who they just talked to, what just happened to them.

So take a moment and think of the ways in which you can be kind, instead of just being nice as you move about this world.

Alright, that’s it for now, I appreciate your time, and I’ll catch you guys next week!

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