Shopping for new furniture, especially during tough economic times, does not make sense, even if you do need the furniture.
In 2016, Wycliffe Kipyegon moved to a new apartment in Kajiado’s Ongata Rongai town.
“I had ordered a new set of furniture for my new place, but I had to cancel the orders when my family and I did the math and realised that the furniture would nearly bankrupt us,” he remembers.
Kipyegon then decided to look for a cheaper alternative, which led him to second hand furniture. However, it was a difficult and time-consuming process since he had to move all over the city to look for the items that he needed. It was this laborious experience that inspired him to start an e-commerce website, Tuuze.co.ke, which connects sellers to buyers.
He says that even though his site has grown and now lists new items too, he rarely buys new furniture.
He says, “It’s no longer about saving money for me. I’m a going green advocate, and find buying second-hand items better for the environment. I’m keen on reducing my carbon footprint, and buying furniture that would have been disposed of helps me play my part in reducing waste.”
“Over the years, I’ve bought items that carry a lot of meaning to previous owners. Such items, some of them family heirlooms, come with amazing back stories that make me cherish them even more,” the businessman says, adding, “I usually encourage my customers to buy second hand items because even new goods will get old anyway.”
Kipyegon’s experience in buying and selling used items has armed him with valuable bargain-hunting tips that he is happy to share. First on his list is knowing where to look. He points out that many people generally start their search online, scrolling through e-commerce sites and niche Facebook groups that sell used items.
“I also find great items at shops that deal exclusively with secondhand goods. I draw the line, however, at purchasing items that are being disposed of by loan sharks since their predatory lending nature goes against my morals,” Kipyegon adds.
Test the furniture
The trader advises that whether you’re looking in an online platform or your local shop, it’s advisable to browse regularly since good deals usually disappear quickly, meaning, it’s the early bird that will capture the worm.
Before committing to any item, it’s wise to test the furniture first. Sit on the chair and lie on the bed first. Open all the drawers in a cupboard or a closet and test the strength of a table. For a sofa, it doesn’t hurt to turn it over and have a look at the boards underneath. This, Kipyegon says, will help you check for any damages or structural weaknesses.
Another factor to pay attention to is the material the item is made of, since this often determines the quality of the item.
“When I was buying my bed, I was particular that it be made from hardwood as opposed to softwood because I wanted it to last,” Kipyegon says.
Does it have odour?
Pay extra attention to any pests that may inhabit a piece of furniture. A major worry by customers who buy from Kipyegon’s site is that the furniture might contain bedbugs. These little vampires, he points out, have become a menace in urban areas. He recommends that you go online and learn how to identify bedbugs and their eggs.
Once your home is infested, it can take years to get rid of the pests. It therefore pays to be extra careful.
Stay away too from furniture that has an odour. Some smells such as cat urine and cigarette smoke rarely come off furniture in spite of the amount of airing you may subject them to.
Kipyegon says: “I learnt this when I once bought a vehicle from a smoker. I would not repeat the same mistake with furniture.”
As much as he prefers second hand furniture, Kipyegon does not buy second hand mattresses or bedding because he finds sleeping too intimate an act to do on pre-owned items. Not only this, pre-owned mattresses tend to sag and might hurt one’s back.
A perfect piece
Kipyegon, however, points out that since you are buying previously-owned items, expect slight imperfections on a piece of furniture. Dust and a few scratches should not put you off from what is otherwise a perfect piece.
A great joy in purchasing used furniture, he says, is folding up your sleeves and fixing up some imperfections while at the same time customising the piece to suit your taste.
“I love purchasing worn-out pieces at throwaway prices and sprucing them up. Sometimes all that is needed is a fresh coat of paint or veneer,” he says, adding that his family usually joins in and immensely enjoys the DIY makeover projects.
Since a major point in buying second hand is to save money, you should take extra care to ensure the seller is not ripping you off. Where possible, shop around to see how much the item costs when it is brand new. Do not hesitate to haggle with the seller.
Another tip that Kipyegon gives from experience is that buying several items from one seller can get you huge discounts.