Buying a furnished home
April 17, 2012 10:38 AM   Subscribe

How do you negotiate buying furniture in a house - particularly generally unused furniture used in a model home?

A family member is considering buying a home soon, and will be starting from scratch. The house she has her eye on, is a new construction that previously fell through from a prior contract. The builder used some of their model furniture to help make it "look nice," and kept a few pieces in the garage. It's partially furnished - has bedroom furniture, some decorative artwork, a couple of bookshelves, desk, and chaise lounge.

Naturally, some stuff to start with (namely, bedroom furniture) will be a huge help for someone who won't have any furniture to start with. Right now, it's just sitting there, costing them money. When it sells, they're going to have to find a place to put it (costing them money in labor and storage).

My family member would like to have it all thrown in, but the builder said furniture must be negotiates separately - which is odd to me. Does anyone have any experience doing this, and what a fair price would be?

The furniture is not total cheapo or super expensive - but reasonable, middle of the line stuff in good shape. How should they go about asking for it, or determining what to add on in price?
posted by raztaj to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i'd get an idea of what the stuff costs new and offer them about half of that.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 10:56 AM on April 17, 2012

Many times the furniture is model homes is leased. You may want to check and see who they lease from and strike a deal.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:02 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

My job sometimes involves wandering around new developments with the builders, and I've asked several builders and apartment community managers about their staging furniture. In some cases it gets leased from a staging firm. I'm guessing that's not the case here, since they are open to selling it, just not as part of the main deal.

In other cases, the builder owns their own furniture, in which case they generally have quite a few houses worth of staging furniture in various developments, usually enough for one staged home per community (although it's not unusual to see two or three homes staged, depending on the size of the development). Once the staged furniture is removed from the model, it probably goes to a new model. If it doesn't, well, most builders these days have plenty of empty houses for storing it in. (I've seen an partially completed home's garage used to stash floor-to-ceiling tumbleweeds -- actual, non-metaphorical tumbleweeds.)

Is this house currently a sales office as well? If so, the builder may be incurring some substantial costs already to make any necessary changes. Most model home/sales offices will convert the garage space to use as their office area, but in some jurisdictions the office wouldn't be allowed under zoning in a residence, so they have to tear the whole thing out before the model is sold. In some cases the model may have parking or walkways that need to be removed. The cost of moving furniture is pretty minimal compared to that.

I also would not assume the furniture is completely unused. I've heard some stories about treadmills in staged bedrooms wearing out because house hunters decided to go work out on them. People are weird. Even furniture showroom furniture gets wear -- most furniture stores have some maintenance on the pieces, sometimes to the point of having a regular maintenance guy who goes around touching things up once a month or so.

If I were making an offer on this furniture, I'd spend a bit of time researching current prices for similar pieces (a) new, and (b) on Craigslist and the like. I'd figure out what the furniture was worth to me -- probably a cost somewhere between the two (because there's no transport or time costs like there are on Craigslist). And then I'd ask the builder to give me a price for the furniture, and compare that to my estimate.
posted by pie ninja at 11:03 AM on April 17, 2012

Usually, legally, it needs to be a separate deal, because you need an agreement transferring personal property separate from the real estate transfer, even if the personal property is sold for $1. That's probably why they are saying it's a separate negotiation.

Don't ask them to name a price first because you'll then be negotiating down from a high level. And don't offer them half of the new value as suggested above.

I would make a guestimate of what it would all be worth retail and offer them 10 percent, for all of it, no exceptions. If they counter at 20, settle at 15 but don't go any higher. Keep in mind if they bought it wholesale they probably paid 50 percent, or less. And it's probably not top quality furniture.

At 10 or 15% of retail value, even if you toss out or sell some of it, you have a deal. But keep in mind that if you don't buy this stuff, and go shopping at used furniture stores and Craiglist, you may be able to acquire stuff that's better matched to your tastes for not a whole lot more.
posted by beagle at 11:24 AM on April 17, 2012

The reason the builder wants to negotiate the furniture separately is because that will tend to lead you to spend more money total than if it were all lumped together as a single line item: the more separate items you have to negotiate over, the more likely you are to give way on at least one of them.

So work it backwards: if you want it all thrown in, come up with a plausible number for what you think the furniture is worth, and subtract that amount from your offer for the house itself. In other words, decide what your total offer is going to be first, then divide that up as needed.

For that matter, I'd consider erring on the high side for the amount you "set aside" for furniture, so it becomes a stronger bargaining chip for you (since you can, if it comes to that, cut the furniture out of the deal without losing the whole house.)

Remember throughout the negotiations that as the buyer, you basically are holding all the cards these days. You can afford to be very aggressive in your offers, because it's not like there's a shortage of houses for sale out there right now.

Why yes I do have a house for sale at the moment, how can you tell? The best offer on it we've received was 33% below our already-at-a-heavy-loss asking price. We said no, but we had to seriously consider it first.
posted by ook at 11:28 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

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