How To Shop for Secondhand Décor To Give Your Home an Affordable Upgrade

Vintage toned portrait of a young beautiful brunette woman in London second hand marketplace.
lechatnoir / iStock.com

If you’re looking for some different furniture or décor to freshen up your living space, you don’t have to pay a bundle. Think secondhand instead of new. A network of local shops and internet sites offer just what you need at a fraction of the original price, if you know where to look. Where you shop depends on your needs.

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The Big Pieces

While a number of web-based stores exist that sell high-quality secondhand stuff, you’ll probably want to look locally first. The first reason is delivery cost, which can exceed the price of the item you’re buying.

The second reason? Buying furniture is personal. If you shopped at a local furniture store for a new couch or recliner, you’d plop yourself down to check your comfort level. Does the chair have nice padded arms? Does it recline easily? Is the couch comfortable enough for you and your significant other to sit on during movie nights or for friends to sleep on when they visit? The experience of shopping for a secondhand couch or chair shouldn’t be any different.

Make Your Money Work for You

Read: 24 Ways To Make Money Off Your Shopping

Chances are your community has a thrift store or two, or maybe a consignment shop, that will have gently used furniture. Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity ReStore and The Salvation Army are options, and many towns also have stores run by locally run charities. Shopping at those stores allows you to save money, divert items from the landfill and also try them on for size – something you can’t do if you go the internet route.

When you head to the store, go prepared with the measurements of the space you have to fill. After all, if the wall where you plan to put your couch is just 7 feet long, you can’t buy a 96-inch couch. Take the tape measurer with you to get the dimensions of your find, and if you see just what you want, be prepared to buy right away. Stores, especially in bigger areas, have constant turnover, and it might not be there tomorrow.

On the flip side, if you don’t see what you want, keep going back to the shop. On its website, Goodwill Industries says most of its stores put more than 2,000 new items out for sale each day.

Make Your Money Work for You

Local estate sales and auctions also are a source for secondhand furniture, and some communities also have swap meets or flea markets where sellers can rent space to try to sell their goods. If you hope to find a bigger piece of furniture that way, be sure to have a truck to transport it. Merchandise can’t be held at those types of venues.

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You also can scour the internet for locally-owned living room furniture – or furniture for any room, in fact. Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist both have pages of listings for furniture, and you can make an appointment with the seller to view what interests you.

Facebook recommends that buyers and sellers using Marketplace meet in public places, but that isn’t possible with big pieces of furniture. The site advises you to tell a trusted friend where you’re going or use a live app so people know where you are.

The Medium-Sized Pieces

For smaller pieces of furniture, such as kitchen tables and chairs, add garage and moving sales to places where you’ll potentially find some good secondhand furniture. Size again could be a factor, so keep those tape measurers handy. But you’ll also want to look for defects in the merchandise.

Does it wobble? Are there chips or nicks in the wood? Do the legs have any cracks that could make the table or chair unstable? Are the seat cushions clean?

While the furniture might not be turnkey, scratches or other mars don’t have to be a reason to walk away from an otherwise solid piece of furniture. You don’t have to be a refinishing pro to give an old piece new life. A dresser might just need to be sanded, repainted and outfitted with new drawer pulls to look new. A kitchen table that a child spilled a bottle of paint on will be just fine covered with a cute tablecloth if the legs are in good shape. And you can recover worn chair cushions with some new fabric attached to the back by a staple gun.

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The Small Stuff

Once your bigger things are in place, you’ll need the small items to provide the finishing touches. With shipping costs more manageable on lighter items, open up your search to include sites such as eBay and Etsy, the latter of which has vintage items. Even Amazon is open to resellers of used items for the home.

With the holidays approaching and guests potentially coming over, now is the perfect time to add some new touches to your home – and still have money left to celebrate the season.

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About the Author

Jami Farkas holds a communications degree from California State University, Fullerton, and has worked as a reporter or editor at daily newspapers in all four corners of the United States. She brings to GOBankingRates experience as a sports editor, business editor, religion editor, digital editor — and more. With a passion for real estate, she passed the real estate licensing exam in her state and is still weighing whether to take the plunge into selling homes — or just writing about selling homes.

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