Rules for Feathering the Nest on a Budget

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Your home is your sanctuary. Whether itís a rented shoebox apartment in Yaletown or a sprawling mansion in Beverly Hills, you want it to be beautiful, functional and comfortable. For most of us, itís an ongoing process! Fortunately, weíve learned some tricks for making that perpetual search easier:

1. Negotiate!

Furniture pricing is based on the cost of materials and the workmanship involved in constructing it. And this is about as specific as we can get — the range of prices out there is absolutely staggering.

But as with all other major purchases, we heed Commandment #1 and negotiate. If you can’t get a lower price and can’t afford to pay full pop, see if they’re willing to sell the floor model. The minor wear and tear from customers usually results in a better deal.

You can also ask when floor models go on sale. If they’re still not budging, ask to get delivery thrown in for free. A furniture store Kristina dealt with finally relented on this point and she saved over $60 on a buffet.

2. Read those hanging tags
It may look like solid wood, but how do you know it’s not a cheaper veneer? Knock offs and cheaper imitations abound in the furniture industry.

But there are some ways to assure you’re getting quality: It’s a federal offence to misrepresent the materials used. If the product is made with veneer, it must say so on the label.

We always look for a hardwood frame (like maple, alder or oak) as opposed to plywood or softwood. Hardwood costs more but it will stand the test of time.


3. Buy direct
Check to see where the item was made. If it’s made locally or nearby, you might be able to buy directly from the manufacturer at a better price. Like the time Anna got her farmhouse-style mirror at a fraction of the boutique’s price, simply by looking up the name of the manufacturer in the phone book. It’s worth a try!

4. Warranties
Almost all new home furnishings come with one, but some ‘guarantees’ are better than others, so you need to read carefully. In general, warranties won’t cover everyday wear and tear or “improper use” but they will cover defects in workmanship, materials and construction for anywhere between three and 25 years.

But every component has a different guarantee and a different expiry date. Frames and springs are usually guaranteed longer than cushions, fabrics, and zippers. For example, Ethan Allen guarantees the frames and springs on its sofas for seven years, but zippers are only covered for three – and tailoring defects have to be reported within 90 days of delivery!

Bottom line: How much stock you put in the warranty ultimately depends on how long you need the furniture to last (do you have young kids? Is it a light colored couch?). Think about how heavily it’ll be used.

5. Consider additional protection
Does your new couch need extra stain protection? If Scotch-garding isn’t included in the price, negotiate for it. That said, our experts agree that a good spray you can buy at a drugstore will do the job just as well. You just have to be diligent about applying it.


6. Bring a tape measure
Warning: objects in showroom are larger than they appear. Always, always bring a measuring tape with you, and be sure to measure out the space you’re looking to fill at home beforehand. Also remember to measure doorways and stairwells that the item will have to move through to get to its final destination room. It can be a nightmare, and costly, if something just doesn’t fit through your door.

7. Use In-store designers
Take advantage of them! National retail chains like Bloomingdale’s and many independent furniture stores offer the services of trained designers at excellent rates. Sometimes design service is even free with a purchase, regardless of how much you spend. It’s definitely worth seeking out.

8. Beware the “Zero Money Down” offers
We’ve all seen advertisements at furniture (and electronics) stores: “buy now and pay later, no interest!” But be aware that some of these programs do have additional administrative fees or may require you to use an in-store credit card, which typically comes with a higher than usual interest rate.

If there’s any chance you won’t be able to afford the item when the deadline comes around, we recommend avoiding zero deposit, zero interest programs.

Heck, we prefer to just save up and buy when we can afford to pay. Call us old fashioned!


9. Online Shopping
Unless you know exactly what you’re looking for – down to the make and model – we don’t recommend buying large pieces of furniture online. It’s important to assess quality by examining items in person. Plus sitting and lying on chairs, sofas and beds is a must!

10.  Be garage sale savvy
If you’re buying something large at a garage sale and need to go away to arrange for delivery, take a drawer or other such piece of the item with you so the seller doesn’t resell it before you return.



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