Need to sell 6-yr-old Ikea furniture. How do we figure how to price it?
June 27, 2019 4:11 PM   Subscribe

My son is moving from his college city to another state for grad school. He plans to sell most of the furniture from his studio apartment, and needs to figure out how to price it.

There's a great website that students at his college use to buy and sell furniture, so he has a place/way to sell it all. But he has no clue how to *price* the furniture. It's almost all Ikea furniture, in decent condition, but it is six years old.

Are there any general guidelines on pricing used furniture for sale? (He still has the receipts from when he bought the furniture new, but I don't know how much help that would be!)
posted by merejane to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Pricing for used furniture is so dependent on many factors.

First, how quickly does he need to get it sold? (Price lower for quicker sale.)

Also, how much energy does he have to throw at this? (You can get a higher price if you have time and energy to deal with multiple buyers who each want to haggle on each piece.)

You can keep it stupid simple and price everything at $25. Or you place it all in one 'lot' and ask $250 for everything.

He can also get ideas for pricing by looking at similar furniture on the site he's using. Maybe he can even see 'closed' listings to see what stuff ended up actually selling for.

I find it's best to keep your expectations low on something like this. Hope that you can get *something* for used furniture, but don't expect much. After all, you did get 6 years of use out of it as well.

If you're looking for a number, I'd start with a price around 30-40% of the purchase price.
posted by hydra77 at 4:19 PM on June 27, 2019 [7 favorites]

Generally, you're looking at 30 - 50% of the new purchase price. You'll likely be able to get a better percentage for anything real wood, less if it's all MDF and cardboard as that has a reputation for falling apart the more it's moved. You CAN get more than 50 for some quality stuff if it's like-new, not common, and you're prepared to wait weeks but it's rarely worth the time and effort.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:26 PM on June 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

I personally buy a fair amount of used furniture and I never pay more than 50% of retail for these items.

Your local resale market may be different though, check Craigslist, Facebook, and any other neighborhood sale pages to get "comps" so to speak.

You might be able to get more money faster by listing it in bulk. In the places I live, if something hasn't sold in a week people assume something is wrong with it and it rarely moves. Be ready to make a deal.

If all else fails, consider donating it Habitat for Humanity ReStore for a potential tax deduction. (Assuming you have one around.)
posted by stormygrey at 4:44 PM on June 27, 2019

- If Ikea is far away, there may be more value in this furniture. If Ikea is close, it might not be as useful.
- In a college town, people may not have access to larger vehicles in order to transport the furniture from the seller's place to the buyer's place. It may in fact be easier to buy that bookcase or whatever at Ikea where it is flat and designed to be transported or that Ikea will deliver it (couch). If he wants to get some money for it, he might need to offer to transport it.
- People are moving out of their college town places right now, not moving in, so it isn't as if there is a huge market at the moment.
- Where I live (Seattle), Ikea particle board furniture almost always goes for free. A couch? Maybe people would pay, but not much.

But here's what he should do -- look on the buying/selling app for the names of the items and see what they go for. Otherwise, around 25-30% of the original price is probably the best that he can hope for.
posted by k8t at 4:45 PM on June 27, 2019 [8 favorites]

I live in a college town about 100 miles from the nearest IKEA. Under these conditions people seem able to ask much closer to 60 - 75% of full price for gently used IKEA furniture, even when it's just MDF, and especially when it's a piece that is a bit of an IKEA "classic" for students. Second hand IKEA commands a premium over generic second hand stuff because you know exactly what you're getting - you can look the dimensions & details up on their website. Definitely include the full name of the product in the ad if you know it eg. IKEA Hemnes 3-drawer dresser, not just IKEA dresser.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 4:51 PM on June 27, 2019 [9 favorites]

I fed myself one college summer by flipping cheap/free furniture on our college marketplace. I know what I'm talking about here.

You're thinking about this the wrong way. His market is college students, but not just any college students. College students who do not already have an apartment with furniture. College students who have stayed in town over the summer between quarters (more likely to be on their own dime than funded by their parents) or who are more transient (just did a semester abroad, staying in a sublet) and need essentials. College students are also more likely to be lazy, inexperienced, and without vehicle based transportation.

No one cares that it's a 3 year old HEMNES being sold at 50% of purchase price. They just don't.

The ideal post will say:

Full Size Bed (Frame Only) - $75
Ikea full size bed frame in good shape, small scratch on the left side panel. Can help you disassemble if needed.

It really doesn't matter at all how much you paid for the furniture. All that matters is what the market will bear. Look at other things listed on the college marketplace right now, see what stuff is going for. IT DOESN'T MATTER IF IT'S THE SAME MODEL OF FURNITURE, I promise you. No one cares.

Back in my day (I graduated college 10 years ago) the going rates were $30-75 for a bed frame (low end being those no frills steel ones, high end being anything from a plain Ikea platform bed to something with a headboard), $25 for a dresser, $20 for nightstand with drawers, $50 for kitchen table, $15 per kitchen chair, $20 for any kind of other table (coffee, end), and anywhere from free-$50 for couches and plush chairs depending on how much old beer and semen was spilled on them. But you gotta check your market and price to the market. Something with a nice photo and simple explanation will sell for as much as $20 more than the average going rate.

If it's coming to moving day and he's having trouble moving an item, listing something at $5 will move it much faster than listing it for free. If it's free there's something wrong with it. If it's $5, well, wow you just got a great deal on a $5 couch my man! (I had a shitty (shiiiiiity) old couch my roommate listed for free for weeks with no takers, then I listed it myself for $5 and took the same picture and slapped a MSpainted WOW! $5! over the top of it and had at least a dozen emails with interested parties within minutes. People are dumb, what can I say.)

I would be remiss if I didn't also include my single best piece of craigslist advice.
posted by phunniemee at 5:35 PM on June 27, 2019 [54 favorites]

Definitely include the name of the piece if you can, because people most certainly do search for Kallax / Expedit and other popular models, in addition to just "shelf".
posted by gatorae at 6:41 PM on June 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

Is ikea close by? Because you know they will buy back their furniture, right? They resell it in their as-is section. Might be easier.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:16 PM on June 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

whew .. maybe I'm simple.. I'd just look at Craigslist and use that as a guide.
posted by elgee at 1:01 AM on June 28, 2019

I've gone through this recently when I combined households with someone who already had a house full of furniture. Almost all of my furniture other than bedroom stuff needed to go. I had a couple of months to do it.

After dealing with the GIGANTIC FLAKES on places like Craigslist and Facebook, I finally gave up and had Habitat for Humanity come pick it all up. They showed up when they said they would, were respectful and quick, and gave me a receipt to use for tax purposes. I wish I'd just done that in the first place.

This was nice furniture (real wood, good condition, no smoking, etc.), for which I theoretically should have been able to get hundreds of dollars. I contacted the local consignment shop, and they were interested in some of it but didn't pick up and I couldn't move heavy furniture nor have the right vehicle.

I also tried to give away some smaller odds and ends on freecycle. Gave up. Trashed some of it, dumped some of it off at Goodwill (even though I really don't like their model). This will be the last time I bother trying to GIVE things away (!!!?)

I'm sorry to be discouraging, but I'd balance the possible money he could get for his furniture with the hours of his life he will have to spend dealing with people who:

1. Claim interest but then disappear before you can set up an appointment
2. Set up an appointment a few days or even a week in the future, leading you to hold the item for them, only to disappear
2. Say they will be picking it up on a certain day and time but then disappear entirely, or want to reschedule at the last minute, and then disappear
3. Pepper you with questions. People don't read ads. It doesn't matter how clearly you state what the item is, how much it costs, when it can be picked up. Lots of people will still ask you questions that are covered in your ad.
4. Haggle with you over price, even AFTER price has already been set.

People are GIGANTIC TIME-WASTING FLAKES. Factor that into your pricing model. I like the idea of pricing everything in a lot. That might be appealing to a student who needs basically everything, and it saves your son from having to fight through the firehose of flakes for each and every individual item.

I also think that selling it through a friend of a friend of a friend would work better than selling to strangers. People may not be such dicks when there are some social consequences for it...
posted by nirblegee at 1:50 AM on June 28, 2019

Oh yeah, and I tried selling one thing on ebay, thinking I might do more if it worked out. The buyer never paid. I got an email from her stating that she didn't realize that the item had to be picked up and wouldn't be shipped to her. Even though it stated that ultra-clearly in the ad. She thought she would get a sofa SHIPPED TO HER for $25 all inclusive. This was a nice, great condition, La-Z-Boy sleeper sofa.

I didn't bother listing anything else.
posted by nirblegee at 1:56 AM on June 28, 2019

Oh yeah, and I tried selling one thing on ebay, thinking I might do more if it worked out.
I don't sell collection-only items on eBay any more, because people don't understand "buyer collects from [my town]". They think it's okay to send a courier who requires the item to be boxed up (on my time and at my expense) and who will maybe turn up at some indeterminate point between 8am-7pm.

I lost count of the number of times I sold an item, only to get a message saying "oh, by the way, I live in Brighton".

tl;dr: selling basic household stuff is often more hassle than it's worth for the money you get. It shouldn't be this way, but that's why the landfills are so full.
posted by winterhill at 2:11 AM on June 28, 2019

Nobody cares what it cost new, what people will pay is what they're willing to pay. And since we are awash in old stuff of every kind from decades of capitalist excess, often what people are willing to pay is nothing.

Recycle the receipts, they don't matter. Take a look at what similar items have sold for and post them at a bit lower. If you don't have any success within 5 days, make an appointment to donate it all. Do you want money, or do you want to get rid of the stuff?
posted by epanalepsis at 8:52 AM on June 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've made my living selling used things for almost 20 years. Records, not furniture.

In my experience, "What the market will bear" is the worst piece of business gospel ever coined.

Here's my advice: were he the buyer, and an acquaintance or friend of his the seller, what would he feel comfortable paying? Not: what would he like to pay. Not: what would make him think he got a steal -- but "What is fair to both parties?" Whatever number makes him think he didn't get a steal and he didn't shaft his friend... that's his number.

For a time, in one of my stores, I put out records with blank price tags on them and when people asked how much something was, I said, "What's a fair price for both of us? If it were up to you?" I probably sold records to 300 people this way and never got a single shitty offer.

So: fuck the market -- what does his conscience say?
posted by dobbs at 12:34 PM on June 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

[A couple deleted, and some advice is straying a bit off the brief here. (OP doesn't plan on using eBay, for example.) Let's concentrate on the basic question, which is asking for general guidelines on pricing used furniture for sale or specifically, 6-year-old Ikea furniture, particularly in a college environment. Thanks. ]
posted by taz (staff) at 7:03 AM on June 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thank you for all the advice here!!

Son has to move out by the end of July, so once we've sold (or donated) everything, I'll post back here to let you all know what we did and how it worked.
posted by merejane at 8:40 AM on June 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

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