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6 Tricks to Score Big at Any Flea Market or Estate Sale This Summer

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If you’re thinking about redecorating your home, but don’t want to splurge on all-new furniture, you’re in luck because it’s almost summer. Why should the season matter? Well, when the warm weather rolls around, flea markets, yard sales, and estate sales will start popping up everywhere, and they’re all great places to find high-quality secondhand furniture.

However, not every secondhand item is worth your buck, so we asked interior designer Katie Mundo of Highwood Home to share her tips on finding the best used furniture. Mundo is known for using upcycled pieces from Facebook Marketplace in her stunning home designs, and she has some helpful advice to guide your secondhand shopping this summer.

1. Plan Before You Buy

Sorry friend - it’s been a busy three days back to work and then we had the snow blizzard/bomb/cyclone, so I haven’t posted in a couple of days. I’ve also been pretty stressed at work trying to catch up and kick off the new year 🤦🏻‍♀️. But ANYWAY, our guest room seems to be a revolving door for all my furniture projects (or maybe like a show room? lol). However, I’m starting to like the vibe that growing in there so I think I’m on the right track for a permanent group of pieces. I’m so in love with this dresser I refurbished after snagging on #facebookmarketplace so I think she will be staying at Highwood. Do you ever just find yourself overwhelmed with so many ideas but you don’t know which one to start first? Hi-join the club 🙋🏻‍♀️. . Happy Saturday friends. Hope you all are enjoying the morning and staying warm if you’re victim to these frigid temps. Today we’re going to the professional bull riding competition in NYC! . . . . #highwoodhome #weekendvibes #diy #weekendliving #chill #guestbedroom #dressermakeover #elevatedrustic #styleinspo #homedecorlove #homeprojects #homedecor #farmhousestyle #paintitwhite #anniesloanchalkpaint #maxxinista #saturdayfeels #modernfarmhouse #simplicity

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Many people like to aimlessly browse flea markets and yard sales “just to see what’s there”—sound familiar? (We’re guilty!) However, Mundo says this is a good way to end up with furniture you don’t have a home for.

“You need to have a purpose for the item,” explains Mundo. “Whether it’s a DIY project you plan to flip or a piece for your bedroom, it’s good to have a designated plan in mind because otherwise you might just end up with something you don’t need.” With that in mind, it’s best to plan, then shop. Make a list of items you want/need and measure your space before you head out thrifting.

2. Real Wood = Real Good

So how do you tell if a piece of secondhand furniture is worth the buy? It’s all about the materials. “With furniture, it's all about real, quality materials,” says Mundo. “I usually have my eye out for solid, real wood pieces of furniture because those are the items that can stand through time and are hard to damage.”

While we always want to take people at their word, it’s best to ensure pieces are truly made of wood—not particle board or a composite. “Even if a listing says it’s real wood, I always double-check to make sure because faux wood can be deceiving. It’s hard to work with faux wood if you want to stain, sand, or paint,” Mundo explains. An easy way to tell if it’s real wood? Try to pick it up. Solid wood furniture is much heavier than imitation pieces.

3. Do Your Due Diligence

Furniture shopping on a budget can be a depressing exercise especially when you have a world of ideas and feel like you can't achieve. One of my favorite design tricks is to simply buy second hand furniture and paint it a color that works for your space. If you want to go the extra mile replace the hardware as well. A little effort and you won't know the piece. Tip: @anthropologie has the most beautiful handles and knobs. #craigslistscore #makeover #designtips #MOMme | pic via @michellesolobay featuring @floraasheville . . . #apartmentstyle #vintagedecor #jungalowstyle #designchallenge #roommakeover #greenery #greenerywedding #diy #howto #plantsmakepeoplehappy #getthelook #stylehack #paintedfurniture #anthrohome #anthropologiehome #bohostyling #plantstyling #plantdecor #plantbabies #plantaddict #houseplants #secondhandfurniture #thriftedhome #thriftedstyle #vintagefurniture #colorfulhome

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Regardless of whether you’re shopping online via Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist or in-person somewhere, you’ll want to get up close and personal with any furniture before finalizing a sale. Go over it with a fine-tooth comb to ensure there are no big issues.

Mundo recommends testing out doors and drawers: “I’ll make sure it’s working properly: doors or drawers open and close, legs are straight and not wobbly, and there aren’t any major splits or fractures in the wood. I’m mostly looking for things that can’t necessarily be repaired without an expert,” says Mundo.

4. Be Wary of Big, Cheap Items

This cabinet has come a long way from when I bought it. A little @dixiebellepaint and hemp oil made this a beautiful piece to store all kinds of things. I love the mix of wood and paint so I decided to sand and stain the drawer. Up close you can see the tiny imperfections in the wood which I love! You can’t buy that kind of character and DIYing a piece like this makes me love the decor in our home that much more. Like always, I moved this piece all around our house to find a great spot for it, but I think it will have to go to the yard sale. I can’t keep them all, but that never stops me from rescuing and restoring pieces that I see potential in. I would love to have you stop by the blog and check out the entire project. Link in my profile. Have you rescued anything great recently?

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There are definitely some red flags you should look out for when shopping secondhand, one of which is large pieces of furniture with miniscule price tags. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. “I tend to second-guess items that are super cheap but large in size,” says Mundo. “Chances are it’s not a good buy and you could probably get something similar or brand new at IKEA.”

You might be able to score these mega-deals at yard sales if it’s an everything-must-go situation, but even then, refer back to tip No. 3!

5. Steer Clear of Upholstery

Of course, there are certain items that Mundo wouldn’t recommend buying secondhand. “Be very cautious of upholstered furniture,” she says. “There could be things living in the fabric or stains that aren't easily observable in regular lighting.”

The exception to this rule is if you know where the furniture came from—if it’s a friend selling it, for instance—and are sure there are no creepy crawlies lurking: “If you have thoroughly inspected it and are very confident it comes from a clean home, go for it!”

6. Negotiate… Nicely

Negotiation is a key part of any secondhand shopping experience, so don’t be afraid to haggle a little. That said, you don’t want to go in guns blazing—be tactful and respectful if you want to score big. “My number one tip is to be polite!” says Mundo. “You never want to be overly aggressive, emotional, or bitter in negotiations because it will go south quickly and neither party will be happy.”

Further, low-balling isn’t always the best option: “I know everyone's looking for the best bargain, but also be realistic when negotiating,” Mundo recommends. “Don’t offer $10 for an item listed at $80, unless you truly think that’s what it’s worth.”

The Perfect Way to End a Day of Antiquing

Do you enjoy shopping secondhand? Let us know your best tips in navigating the once-loved world.

Tags: Shopping Guide