5 Tips to Buying Pre-Owned Luxury Furniture Online

The sources we listed in “Our 5 Top Sites for Pre-Owned Luxury Furniture and Decorative Accessories” are great e-tailers. Yet caveat emptor—Latin for “buyer beware”—is our mantra when we buy any piece of pre-owned furniture online. Pictures give us a good idea of its condition, but we can’t try it out for comfort or scrutinize it with our usual rigor. And while the companies we deal with have solid return and exchange policies, it’s still a hassle to pack something up and ship it back. So we have a strict due diligence process. Here are the five most important things we consider before we buy something for our clients online.

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Even if something is perfect for your place, priced right and downright fabulous (like this sofa and console from DECASO), there are many more things to consider before you buy it. (Images: DECASO)

Read the descriptions with eagle eyes: Don’t just scan the narrative—think beyond it. If you’re serious about an item, ask questions. It’s not enough to say wood—vintage pieces may not be solid wood but rather veneer or composite. Is something brass or brass-plated? If the description doesn’t mention construction methods, ask. And if it does mention defects and imperfections, scrutinize them on the photos (see point 2).

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(Images: DECASO, Sotheby’s Home and Chairish)

Scrutinize the photos: Online sources post multiple shots of a piece; look at each and every one CAREFULLY and decide if you can live with the defect. We do this on our big screen computers, not our phones. While most sources have pretty good shots, with some sources, such as Etsy or Ebay, it depends on the dealer. If in doubt, ask for additional pictures. Also, be careful with colors. The way a color looks virtually is not always the way it looks in reality. We’ve asked for additional images at times when color was an issue.

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Are you ok with the wear? (19th Century Gainsborough Armchair at Sotheby’s Home, $3250) (Images: Sotheby’s Home)

Double-check dimensions: Photos are deceiving; your measuring tape (used correctly) is not! The piece’s measurements will be on the site; measure your space carefully and even draw out a floor plan if you are unsure about whether a piece will fit or not. We also take screen shots of measurements and save them just in case a piece’s measurements are inaccurate when it arrives. Finally, make sure a piece can fit through your home’s doorways and hallways or up a staircase if necessary.

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We use laser measuring tapes; these are three of the most highly rated and all sold at Amazon. (Images: Amazon)

Make sure it’s priced right: Most items—from vintage to antique—are truly not one-of-a-kind. Research other sites to see what else is out there that may be the same or quite similar, so do some price comparisons. Don’t forget to factor in a piece’s condition (will it need a touch-up or repairs) and its taxes and shipping. Some sites accept offers and we often find the same piece for less at another site and will negotiate.

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We found many different versions of the iconic hand chair at Chairish and Decaso; imagine what else is available at other sites? (Images: Chairish and Decaso)

Shipping and return policy: Shipping furniture is expensive, usually involves a third-party and involves a lot of logistics. Here’s another place where you need to read the site’s policy with eagle eyes and figure out what you’re willing to do. Also, don’t forget to consider the site’s return shipping policy and whether or not there’s a re-stocking fee.

04 Jun 2019

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