Could decorating with antiques be a good financial choice?

Decorating with Antiques

by Amy White


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A piece of furniture is a lot like a car; the second you bring it home, it starts depreciating in value. That dining table you paid a thousand dollars for five years ago is now worth only $200 on sites like Craigslist or worth nothing on Freecycle. However, some furniture retains its value (even increases in value) as the years pass. Antiques are desirable and collectable, making them smart purchases for savers. Buy an antique chair or table now, and when you sell it in ten or twenty years' time, you could recoup your initial investment and potentially make a profit. Here's how to buy and sell investment antique furniture.

Buying

When it comes to purchasing investment pieces, where you buy is just as important as what you buy. If you are looking to spend over five hundred dollars on a piece of furniture, buy from a reputable dealer. Think about it. You wouldn't buy stocks from a person you met on the street, so why spend a lot of money on investment furniture that comes from the back of someone's car? Reputable antique dealers can spot the difference between valuable finds and cheap knock-offs; they can steer you away from spending a small fortune on a worthless modern reproduction. If, on the other hand, you're looking for a bargain, head to garage sales and flea markets. It might take several hours of hunting, but you can find some real treasures amid the knickknacks.

Most antique furniture is constructed out of wood. When you're buying wood furniture, the heavier the better. Heavy hardwood is more desirable than lighter softwood when it comes to furniture because oaks and maples are extremely durable. Hardwood tables and dressers will hold up to everyday use without incurring much damage, making them a smart investment. They will look just as good and be just as easy to sell well into the future. Just because a furniture piece is hardwood doesn't mean it is well built. Inspect any piece of furniture before you buy. Open drawers and doors to make sure the wood hasn't warped or twisted. Dovetail joints indicate high craftsmanship, while nails and staples can be a sign of inferior construction.

Selling

For a hassle-free selling experience, head to the local auction house. Auction houses employ expert advisors who will help you set a price for your furniture and guide you through the auction process. Before settling on an auction house, do some research. Look through an auction house's catalogue to make sure it carries the same type of furniture you want to sell; an auction house that specializes in Art Deco pieces is not the place to bring your Louis XIV chairs. An auction house with an online presence is preferable to one that is strictly local, since an online listing will attract buyers from around the world. Also ask the auction house about fees and make sure the profit you make covers the fees you will have to pay.

Antique dealers are always on the lookout for their next great finds, making them a market you should target. Visit your local antique shops and antique fairs to find dealers who carry the same types of items you want to sell. Bring pictures of what you have to offer, and ask the dealers you meet if they would be interested in buying. But be warned that antique dealers are looking out for their bottom line, just like you. Head into negotiations with a clear idea of what your furniture is worth (a quick online search should help you determine what similar pieces sell for) and be prepared to negotiate with the dealer to get the best possible price.

If you're willing to put in a bit of extra work for a larger profit, click your way over to eBay. The online auction website is easy to use, and the fees are reasonable. But selling on eBay will require more work on your part, since you are acting as the dealer/auctioneer. Before writing up your listing, search for items similar to yours to figure out the general sales price. When writing your listing, pay careful attention to keywords; the eBay search function relies on these keywords to find your listing, so use words like antique and vintage to help buyers target your one-of-a-kind items. Write a detailed listing, outlining how old the piece of furniture is and where it originated, as well as its weight and dimensions. Lastly, make sure you showcase your furniture with great photos. Set your furniture in front of a white wall and snap away, taking several close-up shots of important details like drawer pulls or carved feet.

Department stores and warehouses might offer sales on the latest furniture models, but those sales could cost you in the long run. You will receive the greatest return on your investment when you purchase antique furniture. By following the above buying and selling tips, you could even make a profit selling your furniture when you're ready to redecorate. And that's far better than finding a few quarters hiding under the cushions in your living room sofa.

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