10 Tips for Finding Antiques on Facebook Marketplace
Updated: Jan 4
I did a poll a few weeks back on instastories to get your opinions on Craigslist versus Facebook Marketplace and the consensus seemed to be about the same for everyone.
Craigslist is over.
Craigslist (at least in my city of Houston, Texas) seems to be overrun by the same couple of vendors selling cheap mass produced bedroom sets, dining room combos, and bar stools. It's not the worst furniture in the world (so no offense to anyone who likes it or has purchased it), but if I'm hunting craigslist I'm hoping to find old furniture at garage sale prices, not basement bargain furniture store deals ya know? I don't mind hunting through trash to get to treasure, but after scrolling through page after page and still seeing the same five piece matching bedroom set selling for $649 I'm just over it.
So I can't tell you there aren't good finds on craigslist...there definitely are...I just don't spend much time searching there anymore. But I do LOVE Facebook Marketplace (and apparently so do you) and usually spend a few minutes scrolling each day to see what's new. I've purchased about 50% of the furniture in our home off of Marketplace in the last year and have learned a lot in the process. Here are a few tips I've picked up along the way.
1. Frequency is key. What you find really is just plain luck so searching everyday is going to increase the odds of finding something amazing. Sometimes a piece is amazing and is priced really high... I tend to see those items sit around for awhile and they are still worth checking on because usually after a week or two the price might come down and if I've been checking everyday I can be the first one to pounce on it.
2. Be Prepared to go now. If something is amazing and cheap you need to be prepared to hop in your car right now. There have been a few occasions that I've found something amazing, but it was way across town and I had to pick up kids from school or I was in the middle of a project that I couldn't leave. It's still worth shooting a message to see if you can go pick it up later, but if it's a good piece chances are the seller isn't going to wait. I did luck out scoring this giant chandelier (at some point this is going to replace our entry chandelier, but the ceiling is 20' tall so that project is on hold for the moment- because we probably need some sort of scaffolding),
this was selling for $60 (a steal) and the seller wasn't even in town so I didn't have to pick it up for another two weeks... which was perfect because it was an hour away and I wouldn't have been able to go that day. So you never know, it's still worth messaging the seller, but if I can't go right away I assume I will probably miss out. I've also beat out other buyers who messaged the seller first by offering to come right away. As someone who has sold quite a bit of things on marketplace too I know that a huge appeal to a buyer is someone that can get that item out of my house asap.
3. Don't use the automatic message "is this item still available?". When you click on the button to send a message, facebook automatically puts in this message for you and as a seller getting the same message multiple times can be super annoying and you have no idea if anyone is actually willing to come pick up the piece. I like to start out my conversation with something like- "I'm able to come at X time (or whenever is convenient for you), what is the best way to pay- cash or venmo?" A lot of the items I've sold on Marketplace are not even that special, but if they were priced correctly they would go FAST. At one point I had over ten messages from potential buyers about this red bench I was selling for my mom that had been in her old office.
I priced it at $20 because we just wanted to get rid of it. I got flooded with messages and I couldn't keep any of the generic ones straight, it became difficult to answer the same question over and over- is this item still available? It technically was, but I had two people that had offered to pick it up, but hadn't confirmed a time, someone that could FOR SURE come get it tomorrow, and several others offering lower than the asking price (which when something is priced this low is a bit insulting). I finally ended up selling it to someone that promised they were coming right now and didn't try to haggle the price. Which brings me to my next tip...
4. Negotiate in messenger before you go. As an introvert myself I find it incredibly difficult to haggle face-to-face so online behind a screen is SO much easier. I think it's also considerate to the seller as well, don't waste their time by coming all the way to see a piece if you are going to offer an insulting amount. Now if there is a flaw or damage that wasn't noticeable or mentioned in the listing then I think a lower offer would be completely acceptable in person.
5. Let the algorithm work for you. Facebook marketplace is a pretty intelligent program, it actually remembers what you have searched for and looked at previously. The more you search the better it gets at predicting what kind of pieces you like. Use the search bar to not only search the name of the piece you are looking for like "sofa" or "couch", but type in the style you're going for too. I often search the words "french", "antique", "vintage" along with the names of specific pieces I'm hunting for and I'm amazed how the algorithm ends up showing me pieces that not only match the piece I'm looking for like "chandelier", but will show me antique brass french chandeliers without me even having to search for it. On top of this when you find pieces that are similar to what you are looking for but not quite right (or maybe they are perfect, but the price is too high), click that "save" button. This will help Facebook's algorithm understand that you really like that piece and it will try to show you similar items like that in the future. So if I'm looking for an antique sofa, saving a few that have a great shape, but the color is off, is going to help me find the one that's just right!
6. Skip the small stuff. Little accessories and knick knacks usually aren't worth buying on marketplace. Unless it's something amazing, just skip the little odds and ends. You can usually find similar items at a thrift store so unless it's from a seller within a 5-10 minute drive, the headache of scheduling a time to meet, drive, get cash, and pick the item up is usually just not worth it.
7. Don't be afraid of pieces that need to be reupholstered. I found this sofa on marketplace for $30 and it was pretty horrifying looking.
But I loved the price and saw something in her. After a month at the reupholstery shop and some new fabric and foam, I had this beauty.
If it's a new or super generic piece it's not going to be worth it, you could probably buy something similar for cheaper than it will cost to get it reupholstered, but if the shape is amazing or the piece feels really special and just needs a refresh- go for it!
8. Find a reputable reupholstery professional now. I have sent photos of pieces I was considering buying on marketplace to my reupholsterer to get a ballpark of pricing information before I bought it. They can usually give you a price estimate by just looking at a photo, if an amazing sofa is going to cost 2k to reupholster it may not be worth it...but if it's going to cost $600 it might be perfect (the sofa above cost me $750 in labor to reupholster, which is a good price since the sofa was only $30). Either way it's handy to have that information so you aren't stuck with a piece you can't afford to make over after you already bought it. Another good question to ask the reupholsterer is how many yards of fabric they will need to recover the item. Fabric can add up quickly so it's definitely another cost to keep in mind. This sofa required ten yards and I used a fabric that I got on sale that was $30/yard, so that tacked $300 to the total price.
9. Ask questions! Need the dimensions, want to make sure a piece is solid wood? Ask! I have missed out on getting pieces before by asking questions before making an offer to come picking something up because someone else grabbed it first, but at the end of the day if you don't know if the piece is going to fit in your space or be as high quality as you are hoping then going to pick it up will waste everyone's time.
10. Use the save feature. When you click on an item in marketplace you will see a few options, the save feature looks like a little bookmark and is right next to the message button.
You can click here to save an item you want to keep an eye on. I do this for things that I love, but the price is too high, that way I can check up on it without having to search for it again. The listing will also still be there after it sells, it will just be marked sold, which to be honest is nice to know so I can stop thinking about it. The chandelier in the above listing is something I actually love, but it's only 19" and not quite large enough for me to put anywhere, but I've saved it just in case I can think of somewhere to put it. It's surprising it hasn't sold yet.
Here are a few of my favorite things I've gotten on marketplace lately.
These chairs that had beautiful frames, but needed a new seat. I was pretty confident I could reupholster them myself...
and I did! They turned out beautifully, this was the first time I had reupholstered more than just a basic seat cushion that could be stapled underneath and was a bit more involved, but totally doable. Anything more complicated than this I would definitely take to a professional.
You can see the entire process in my instastories hi-lights under "reupholstery".
I also found two of these golden french chair frames that are gorgeous.
They might be my favorite marketplace find to date! I have the second chair at my desk right now and I'm still waffling on whether or not I should add it to the other side of the TV for more symmetry. Let me know what you think! The day I got those chairs we ended up touring the entire seller's home because she was selling tons of pieces. It was so fun, we actually ended up snagging these two chairs as well.
I messaged my reupholsterer while we were there to find out that it would $350 per chair which was a bit more than I was hoping, so I've put that project on hold right now, but the shape and frames are lovely. We also saw this mirror that I am still thinking about...it's more than I want to spend on a mirror right now ($500 which is an amazing price for this size mirror) and I'm not exactly sure where it would go...but that doesn't stop me from checking to see if it's still available every few days.
I love the hunt- it is so fun to me to find something amazing that feels like a bargain- I also found my full frame Canon 5D camera that I've been using to shoot blog photos with for thousands less than a new one would have cost me! Please tag me if you find something amazing using any of these tips or just see something awesome and you want to brag for how cheap you scored it for, I want to hear all about it!