With any major purchase, there are certain risks involved. It’s easy to go out to your favorite retailer and purchase a piece of furniture without reading the fine print, but you may be kicking yourself in the butt later on.
That is why I’ve created a brief list of ways to ensure that you make the right buying choices and minimize your overall potential risk.
1. Only Buy Online When There are Product Guarantees and Returns
By 2018, the internet will account for 11% of total retail sales, up from 8% in 2013, according to a Forrester Research e-retail forecast .
U.S. e-retail sales are expected to grow from $263 billion in 2013 to $414 billion in 2018, a compound annual growth rate of 9.5%. That means more people are turning to the digital world to purchase their goods, including furniture. Leading the march is furniture e-tailer and online powerhouse, Wayfair, which broke $1 billion in sales in 2013.
To quote a Bob Dylan song, “the times they are a changin.”
Though purchasing goods online is becoming increasingly popular, it does not mean that you should jump aboard the wagon just yet. It’s important to read the guarantees and return policies of any e-retailer that you’re considering making a purchase from in order to minimize the overall potential risk.
Some e-retailers simply people acting as the middle man between the manufacturer and the consumer and don’t actually house the furniture at their own establishment. Instead, when the consumer makes a purchase, the middle man will then purchase the furniture from the manufacturer at a discounted rate (pocketing the difference) and have the manufacturer ship the goods directly to your home.
This can land you into quite a bit of trouble since you’re technically doing business with the middle man that never even sees the furniture first hand. If the furniture were to arrive damaged, this could create a host of problems for you, making the return of the damaged goods or the return of your money extremely complicated.
So, if you do plan to purchase online, only buy from the most reputable sources and read, re-read, and memorize the product guarantees and return policy that they have in place before you ever hit the “buy” button.
2. Get Insured
There’s nothing worse than investing a great deal of money into a set of furniture, only to have it ruined by some sort of unforeseen event.
For instance, when Hurricane Katrina rattled the New Orleans area in 2005, damages were estimated to be approximately $125 billion for both property damage and other. Luckily, $41.1 billion of the property damage was insured, which likely saved countless families.
Now, in the event of flooding or potential water damage, you can purchase renter’s insurance for a relatively affordable rate that will cover your costs in the event of a tragedy.
3. Put Deposits on a Credit Card (Important)
Certain payment methods may require a deposit or down payment. If this fits your needs, then by all means go ahead and do it, but be sure that you take the proper precautions first.
Never pay a deposit on debit card, check or cash. If you do so, you have no rights at all should a retailer go bust. If you’re leaving a deposit, pay only by credit card so that if something were to occur, you may be able to recoup the full amount of your deposit.
When the housing bubble burst in the late 2000’s, the furniture industry took a massive hit as the two industries are inherently linked. This forced many furniture stores to fold in a very short amount of time, which caused those consumers that laid down large sums of money for a deposit in the form of cash or debit to lose every penny.
As of right now, the furniture industry is much more stable, but that doesn’t mean that the business that you are purchasing from is financially stable. This especially applies to the smaller, privately owned, mom and pop shops that can be found in your area.
4. Be Aware of Delivery Dates
When purchasing from a store, the retailer may provide you with the option to deliver your furniture directly to your home. For most, this is a particularly good idea as some pieces of furniture may require a truck to move and the manual labor involved can be quite daunting.
However, it’s important to properly track the day that your delivery is expected to arrive because once it passes a specific amount of days, you are at risk of losing the money if the retailer doesn’t follow through.
This is especially important if you choose to purchase from an online retailer.
If you do not have your delivery within 50 days, put the credit card charge in dispute. You lose all right to any dispute after the 60th day. If your furniture arrives at a later date, just release the dispute with your credit card company.
5. Seasonal Shopping Can Save You Money
Most people are completely unaware that furniture shopping has specific seasons attached to it. Like fashion, furniture has its seasons too. There are times throughout the year when the cost of certain types of furniture decreases significantly. If you plan your purchases accordingly, you may end up saving a notable amount of money.
Office furniture (desks, bookshelves) tend to be cheaper in January, while October is the best time for dining room furniture. Patio furniture usually goes on sale at the end of the summer.
Bedroom furniture is a perennial need, so it doesn’t have a predictable sales pattern…but mattresses and box springs tend go on sale in May and again in the fall. Also, keep in mind regular holidays such as Independence Day, Labor Day, and Memorial Day, when department stores have major sales.
It’s easy to save when you understand when the prices of the particular furniture that you need will decrease.
6. Looking at Furniture as an Investment
Pieces of furniture like coffee tables and bed frames can easily follow you for over a decade without needing to be replaced. That is why it’s important to do your due diligence and ensure you’re purchasing exactly what you’re looking for.
Furniture represents one of the biggest costs of moving; mattresses, desks, bed frames, chairs, etc…you get the idea. Beds alone can cost well over $1,000, so treat each furniture purchase as you would with anything else of great value.
Impulse buying and furniture do NOT mix well together. Don’t rush into a sale and make sure these are pieces that you’ll be grateful for ten years down the road. In the long run, it can save you thousands of dollars and a lot of heartache if you do it correctly the first time around.
References: Surt, D. and Nordstrom, T. Update Your Expectations: The One Thing in Business That Needs to Change. Forbes.com. October 23, 2014.