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9 Tips for Buying Furniture While Stores are Closed

By: Justin Chaplin
April 8, 2020

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, people still want and need to move to new apartments. Moving isn't just about finding the perfect place and signing a lease, but making your place feel like home.

However, it's hard to buy furniture when you need to social-distance and follow all of the stay-at-home and shelter-in-place protocols. Running to the furniture store and testing every couch in sight isn’t an option. What do you do in this case? Is buying furniture during a pandemic even possible? 

Thanks to online shopping, it’s entirely possible to make your place yours despite the current situation. You can do all of your furniture shopping online, and even get a feel for how things will look in your apartment.

1. Before You Start Shopping, Make a List of Your Needs

The details of what kind of furniture you need and want are critical to online shopping success. Make sure you measure your allotted space two to three times to get it right. 

A virtual planner app like Amikasa can help you to virtually see the furniture you want to put into your home. If you are doing furniture shopping on apps like Wayfair and Amazon, you’ll also be able to see how furniture will look in your apartment through augmented reality features in the app. 

Once you've figured out what size and type of furniture you want, it's time to set a budget and stick to it. Now isn't the time to overindulge on expensive furniture unless you're absolutely sure it's what you want. 

Factor in a wish list of furniture. Then, prioritize that by what you must have followed by pieces that can probably wait.

Figuring out your overall style and aesthetic can also help determine your budget. Mid-century modern furniture may prove more expensive than more generic items you can find around Target or IKEA. 

A virtual furniture planner can also help you figure out the color schemes you like and how it all goes together before you start online shopping. The idea is to avoid getting overwhelmed and stress-buying items.

2. Shop at a Reputable Retailer

Always purchase online furniture from a reputable retailer that you've used before or that comes recommended by friends. Although independent, small furniture makers are often worth their craft and higher prices, it's usually more challenging to return those items or receive the same guarantee as a big-box retailer. 

If you do want to use an independent furniture maker, try Etsy where you can see reviews and carefully study the feedback. Scouring for online reviews is also wise if you're using big name brands. 

Smaller retailers or furniture makers with no online presence may offer a great deal, but you're more likely to get ripped off or risk shoddy workmanship with little recourse. When in doubt, check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any negative reviews to consider before purchasing from a new company.

Keep in mind that sites like Amazon and Walmart often sell items from third-party vendors. That means you're not always buying directly from a company you know and trust, but from an individual seller. 

Tread lightly and make sure you know exactly what you're buying from. Wherever you buy, make sure the website is secure. If the site begins with “https” instead of “http,” it means there is an SSL Certificate in place and it’s secure. 

Here are some other online retailers to consider:

  • West Elm
  • Wayfair
  • Domino
  • Overstock
  • Crate & Barrel
  • Costco
  • Williams-Sonoma Home
  • Target
  • Crate & Barrel

3. Review Each Product Listing Thoroughly

It's easy to get caught up in the style and price point and forget to review the product listing thoroughly. Consider the description, materials, and reviews. 

Photos are also important. Try copying and pasting the name of the product into Google Images to see additional photos from other vendors. 

Measurements are also crucial for online furniture shopping. Some retailers may post the details in yards, feet, inches, or centimeters. It's easy to get confused between the two. 

4. Be Leery of Color Variations

It's usually unavoidable to experience color variations when purchasing furniture online. It's challenging to get the color of the photos to match the furniture exactly. Some manufacturers or vendors purposefully enhance their photos to make them look better. Make sure you're okay with furniture that may be slightly darker or lighter than the pictures.

Color variations are also why it's crucial to only purchase furniture with a flexible return policy. We'll get to that shortly!

5. Make Sure You Can Disinfect Your Furniture Properly

In a world where words like "Lysol wipes" and "Clorox bleach" are always at the tip of our tongues, it's essential to consider if you can disinfect your furniture properly. 

Does your new couch allow you to slip off the cushion covers and wash them? Can you wipe down the wood on your new table?

Figure out how to clean the furniture before you purchase it to stay safe in the days of coronavirus.

6. Review Shipping Costs & Taxes

Furniture isn't cheap to ship and comes with all sorts of fees. Make sure you're factoring transit costs, handling, and delivery charges into your budget. 

Some retailers can't always predict the exact cost of the shipping until after the fact. So, make sure you're prepared for some variation in price. And remember, taxes can also push you beyond your budget.

Where to ship your furniture is also an important aspect to consider. Your best bet is front door delivery so you can keep up your social distance protocols. Of course, not all furniture is easy to carry, and you may need to buzz up the delivery people and ask them to leave it outside your own apartment door. 

Make sure to inform your property management or doorman about delivery items. Service elevators aren't always available every day of the week.

7. Consider the Furniture Assembly and Set-Up Before Purchasing

Buying online furniture often requires some kind of assembly or set-up. Usually, there are scores of options to explore for furniture delivery, including:

  • Store pickup
  • Inside delivery
  • White glove delivery where the delivery driver brings the box inside, unpacks the box, and sets up your furniture for you.

As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, these types of resources, as well as TaskRabbit and other gig sites, won't be readily available. Make sure someone in your household can realistically tackle the furniture set-up without outside assistance, and that you have the required tools to get started.

8. Triple-Check the Return Policy

Since you'll be buying these pieces sight unseen, it's essential you're purchasing from retailers with a flexible return policy. Just because the chair you've been eyeing for weeks has fantastic reviews, doesn't mean it'll look great in your space. 

Think about how many times you've purchased an outfit "you love" only to be sorely disappointed. Yep, this will happen with furniture, too (and prove a lot more expensive). 

Triple-checking the return policy is a good rule of thumb for any online purchase, not just furniture. 

9. Compare Prices and Look for Coupons

Keep in mind that going with a reputable retailer is always the best bet. However, it doesn't always offer the best price. 

The same furniture pieces may be listed across various websites. Do a quick Google search to make sure you're getting the best possible deal. Who knows, maybe your favorite retailer will price-match!

You can also make your life way easier by letting plug-ins do all the bargain hunting work for you. Add some apps like Honey, WikiBuy, and Rakuten to find coupons or cashback on your purchases. Looking at the site RetailMeNot can also yield coupon codes to pop into your online cart when checking out. You could end up with money leftover in your budget.

Final Thoughts

With the right mindset and strategy in place, buying furniture during COVID-19 can be a rewarding experience. Come armed with all the best practices above and enjoy relaxing on a new couch or chair during your time social distancing.

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Justin is a Content Manager and contributing author at Apartment List, helping people navigate the world of renting. Justin previously spent his time earning his BBA in Marketing from Boise State University. Read More
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