As we come into Spring, people ask me, “Where do you get pieces to refinish??” For me, I look in a bunch of places! Sources that were once very good, are now not so awesome. Our local thrift stores and Habitat for Humanity reStore are options, but they’re onto us and what we do. Their prices reflect that. I find broken pieces that would require SO MUCH WORK, at prices of double what I’d usually pay. So I really have to think outside of the box to find anything good. Here are my top 5 sources!
5) If you live in an area where people vacation, it’s a great resource to get to know your local realtors and property management businesses. In my area, people own vacation homes, while living full time elsewhere. Many times, when those people go to sell these part time residences, they don’t want to mess with getting rid of the furniture. Yes, sometimes they hire an estate liquidation professional, but sometimes they just tell the agent to deal with it. In most cases, these agents just donate these pieces to local thrift stores. Sometimes, they’ll ‘do me a solid’ by calling me first.
On this same line of thinking, sometimes renters just ‘disappear’. Sometimes, when they move out, there isn’t room in their new place for some furniture, so they just leave it behind. You can get these pieces for free, because it’s easier to have you come haul it away, than it is to hire someone to do it. Be sure, in these cases, that you aren’t taken advantage of. Come to an agreement and stick to it. Don’t take pieces you’ll never use, just because they’re free.
4) Online or in house auctions. Online auctions are a little bit of a gamble, so for those I don’t bid as high as I would at a place I can see and feel the piece before bidding. The most important thing you have to be careful of, is not getting sucked in to the competitive arena, and over bidding. It does take some self control! Personally, when bidding online, I set my max price and then walk away. If I get it, I’ll get emailed and if I don’t, oh well.
3) Yard Sales and Estate sales – Yard sales are great! You’ll definitely have to go early to get the best deals, especially if there are flippers in your area. If you go picking at yard sales often enough, other regulars will begin to recognize you. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. Bad because it’s annoying when they beat you to the best deal, but a good thing when they get ahold of you to tell you about some amazing pieces they didn’t have room for, or weren’t interested in. A ‘heads up’ is always a great thing. Here, Estate sales are outrageous. The ones I’ve been to are charging more for items than I could get in selling them myself, and that’s after refinishing it! The ONLY time I’d go to an estate sale is if I’m sourcing something specific for a client, AND I go on the last day (typically 50% off)
2) Hire a picker. Every once in a while, someone will come to me with furniture over and over. Like more often than if they were just selling their own stuff. They’re getting up early, so I don’t have to and hitting garage sales. I’ll give them my parameters, and what I pay for stuff, and they bring me things. I DO spend time with them, showing them about what I personally look for in pieces. A little education is super important! So for example, if I’m willing to pay, say 50 bucks for dressers, they go and find them for less than that. And I buy them for 50 bucks. I don’t care if they got them for free, I still pay that much. This ensures that they’ll still bring me the good stuff. Also, the couple I have I trust with having my phone number, so they text me pics if they have any questions about an item.
And my NUMBER 1 Source for finding furniture to refinish is:
WORD OF MOUTH! I tell everyone what I do. Not only is this good practice if you’re in business, but even if you’re just looking for pieces for your own home. I just bring it up in conversation and someone in the day will offer me something. Now, I’m not saying that you see a friend or acquaintance and the first words out of your mouth should be ‘I refinish furniture!’ No, no. You have to bring it up casually. When someone says ‘What have you been up to?’, I see this as a perfect opportunity to mention what I do. I get calls all the time, about free pieces or pieces someone is going to sell (before they list it). Just the other day, I had someone message me. They had heard from my brother that I refinish furniture, and called me because they were downsizing. They wanted to give me first dibs before they donated the items to charity!
I seriously get about 75% of the pieces I refinish via word of mouth. I can’t tell you the number of times I get to my studio, and a pile of solid wood furniture is waiting for me. Of course, I know who that particular ‘furniture fairy’ is, and they always come back by to take away anything I don’t want.. How cool is that?!?
Now you may have noticed that I left out the very obvious: Buy & Sell groups and Marketplace on Facebook. While these are great resources for some, I’ve found them to be more trouble than they are worth most of the time. Most of the people on these platforms are selling things that have ‘personal value’ to them, and therefore their prices are higher than I want to pay. Also, in this world of impersonal interactions, I find myself going on ‘wild goose chases’ more than I want to admit. I message the person, arrange pick up, drive ½ an hour to get there, and they sold it out from under me. Or they say it’s solid wood, and it turns out to be particle board. I just don’t have luck with these avenues, so I steer clear.