Online shopping is a great tool for furnishing a home. But a lot of us write off the idea of buying furniture online because it seems too risky. How can you tell if what you see is actually what you get? How do you know the piece will work in your home if you haven’t had a chance to see it first?
If you’ve ever asked yourself similar questions, this post is for you. In an effort to guide you through this process, we’ve taken the liberty of pulling together our four top tips for purchasing furniture online. Read them over carefully for the next time you’re ready to change up your interiors. With our help, we bet you’ll feel confident enough to add online stores to your repertoire.
Measure everything more than once
Measuring is the most important component of buying furniture, period. It’s even more crucial when buying online. Since you won’t be able to walk into a brick-and-mortar store and see with your own eyes how that piece will fit in your space, you’ll have to make sure your measuring skills are solid.
When you have an item you want to buy, read over the product listing to find the dimensions. (If you can’t find the dimensions, don’t buy that one.) Then, use measured-out painter’s tape or string to build a layout of how it will look in your home. If your furniture expands somehow — like a recliner or extendable dining table — make sure you account for the largest version. Then, double check your work.
Keep in mind this isn’t the only measurement you have to account for. If your furniture is coming to you already assembled, you need to measure any relevant doorways and stairways to make sure you can actually get it to where it’s supposed to go.
Read reviews from other buyers
Product listings are supposed to sound complimentary. That’s why it’s not uncommon for a piece of furniture to sound exactly like what you’ve been hoping for at first glance. Often, though, reviews tell a slightly different story. That’s where other customers often get real about their experience with the product.
When buying online, these reviews are key to your success. Focus your shopping on items that have lots of available reviews and read over them carefully. You’ll usually start to detect a theme about certain details mentioned by multiple customers. Weigh these comments in your decision, as they’re likely to be reflective of your experience.
Keep in mind that every product is bound to have a few bad reviews, especially if it has a high number of comments. A bad review doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the product, but it should factor into your decision. Pay close attention to the percentage of bad reviews overall and how the complainants say the seller handled their issue. That said, if a review doesn’t sit right with you, it’s probably best to explore other products.
Try to view the real thing
Online product photos are hard to judge. Yes, that may technically be what the piece of furniture looks like, but it’s also being shown in the very best light and with the very best placement to encourage you to make a purchase. Often, once you get it home, certain details — especially color and texture — can be wildly different than in the photo.
That’s why we recommend viewing the real thing before buying, if at all possible. If taking a trip to a store to see it in person is doable, that’s your best bet. If not, try requesting a fabric swatch. Many companies will send one to you to ensure you’re happy with the way the fabric looks.
Lastly, if a swatch is not an option, you can always do an image search for consumer photos of the product. While some details will still be slightly altered by your computer screen, those will show you a different version of how the piece will look once you’ve furnished your home with it.
Check the return policy
No one wants to go into a purchase thinking they may end up sending it back. However, it’s often unavoidable with online purchases. Sometimes, even your best judgment is not enough and the furniture just won’t work in your home the way you thought it would. Checking the return policy ahead of time gives you the reassurance that you have a backup plan if things don’t go your way.
Here a few things to look out for:
- Do they accept returns at all?
- Is there a time limit to their return policy?
- Do return items need to be in their original packaging?
- Are there any fees for returning an item?
- What’s the return process like? What will you need to do to return the item?
- What is their turn-around time for a refund? When can you expect to get your money back?
Ultimately, whether or not a return policy is satisfactory to you is a personal decision. Only you can tell whether or not you’re willing to take the risk. However, since furniture tends to be a costly item, we recommend sticking to stores that allow returns so you can protect your investment.
Buying furniture online doesn’t have to feel like you’re taking a big gamble. You just have to be smart about your selection process. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of our best advice for shopping online. Keep these tips in mind for the next time you’re ready to make a big purchase, and we’re sure you’ll feel much more secure about what you’re bringing home.