Decorating and furnishing your apartment is a fun way to give your apartment your own personal design flair. But it can also cost a lot of money—an especially daunting expenditure if you’re a young adult or college student renting an apartment for the first time. Fortunately, there are many online resources for purchasing used furniture, and buying from a furniture online marketplace like Craigslist, eBay, Etsy, or Facebook can save you a ton of money.

While you can be sure you’ll find some amazing deals, buying used items from a furniture online marketplace can be a bit of a gamble. After all, as the old adage says: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. And when money is tight, the last thing you want is to waste it on a low quality item that falls apart fast. Or, even worse, furniture that introduces unwanted pests into your apartment

Here are some of the pros and cons of purchasing from a furniture online marketplace, including what to look for, what to avoid, and how to conduct the transaction safely, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

What are the Risks of Buying From a Furniture Online Marketplace?

Once upon a time, you could only search for used furniture in person. Today, with the proliferation of online furniture marketplaces like Craigslist, eBay, Etsy, and Facebook (among others), you can furnish your whole apartment with a scroll and a click or two. In fact, convenience is one of the biggest benefits of  these platforms. 

But an online marketplace also presents its own risks. Unlike antique stores, consignment shops, and traditional retail stores, buyers don’t get the peace of mind or protection of an established business backing up their items. Online sellers can be unpredictable or even dishonest about the quality of their furniture pieces. And there is no return policy in place if you’re unhappy with the piece after you get it home. 

What are the Benefits of Buying from a Furniture Online Marketplace?

Besides convenience, another major benefit of buying furniture from an online marketplace is price. The average price tag of a mid-range new sofa is around $1,000-$2,000, while you’ll find sofas listed on an online furniture marketplace for a fraction of that cost.

Buying used is also an environmentally-friendly option, both in terms of reducing car trips to stores and keeping used furniture from ending up in the garbage. Did you know it can take anywhere from 80-to-120 years for a mattress to decompose in a landfill

Plus, when you buy from an online furniture marketplace, you know the item you want is in stock, already assembled, and you (usually) don’t have to wait to have it shipped. But you will need to make arrangements to get the item back to your place. 

Tips for Buying Used Furniture Online

  • Shop Around: Besides Craigslist, eBay, Etsy and Facebook, there are a number of other furniture online marketplaces, including 1stdibs, Chairish, and Sotheby’s Home, which are all popular with vintage and design enthusiasts. For more local used furniture options, check out mobile apps like Letgo, OfferUp or Apartment Therapy Bazaar
  • Do Your Research: Search for used furniture from brands you are familiar with. Read ads carefully, and make sure they include important information such as the dimensions, materials, condition, and age of the item. Then do a Google search to confirm that the asking price is fair before you make an offer. If any information is missing, reach out to the seller and ask as many questions as necessary to determine whether the item will work for you. 
  • Act Fast: If you see something you’re even remotely interested in, contact the seller immediately. Online furniture marketplaces are all about speed and convenience for the sellers. The sooner you can take the item off their hands, the more you can potentially save. Be upfront about your interest and arrange to go see the item as quickly as possible. 
  • Have a Plan: Congratulations, you’ve gotten that like-new leather sectional for a steal. Now, how are you going to get it home? Even the best deal can be a bust if it won’t fit in your cozy studio apartment. Know your room dimensions ahead of time, and if the item is too big to fit in your car, be prepared to rent a truck or U-Haul. 
  • Inspect First: Do yourself a huge favor and inspect the furniture for pests before you buy it. Top of mind here are bedbugs, which travel easily and spread quickly. Unfortunately if you bring them into your home (or worse, your building) the cost for extermination will be on you. That sofa won’t seem like such a great deal if you have to foot a $500 extermination bill because of it. While bedbugs are the most obvious concern, other pests such as cockroaches or mice can travel in furniture, too. Just make sure you give any fabric piece from an online furniture marketplace a good once over before committing. 
  • Protect Yourself: Don’t give out any bank or personal information. Use Facebook’s and Craigslist’s privacy settings to keep your profile and identity anonymous. Meet in public spaces during the day or bring a friend with you when you look at items. If you do suspect you’ve been scammed or are experiencing a personal safety issue, report it to the platform and/or local police immediately. 

Safety Tips Related to COVID-19

Buying used items from a furniture online marketplace and moving it into your space can be perfectly safe even during the pandemic, provided you take some additional precautions. 

  • Meet Outside: If you are buying from a local seller, make sure the exchange is done in a manner as distanced as possible. Conduct transactions outdoors in a driveway or a yard, where you can avoid contact with potentially contaminated surfaces. Request ahead of time that both parties wear masks and stay at least six feet apart to reduce the risk of viral transmission. Wear gloves and dispose of them after handling and inspecting the item. 
  • Pay with Contactless Apps: Apps like Venmo, Paypal and CashApp allow you to make cashless payments on the spot. If the seller prefers cash, make sure you have the exact amount in advance and place it in an envelope. 
  • Let Shipped Items Stand: If you’ve ordered an item, leave the unopened box out of the way for a day or two before opening. COVID-19 lasts for up to one day on cardboard, two days on stainless steel, and three days on plastic, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine
  • Disinfect the Item: Use disinfectant spray or wipes for furniture surfaces such as glass and plastic, but be careful with wood and fabrics. It’s best to do a test spot on those surfaces to make sure you don’t damage the item. 

Ready to Furnish Your New Apartment?

With these tips you’ll see that buying from a furniture online marketplace can be a very safe and economical option. 

At Southern Management we provide the home, and you provide the inspiration. Whether you choose one of our fully furnished apartment options or want to source your own furniture and decorations for your new space, we’re sure that together we can make you feel right at home. 

If you’re ready to start decorating but haven’t signed a lease yet, we’d love to speak with you. If you have any questions about leases, specific apartment communities, or pricing, contact us.