The Risks of Selling or Buying Used Office Furniture Privately

We created a page on our website to enable end-user companies with unwanted used office furniture to reach out to other end-user companies that might have a use for it and be prepared to pay something towards it.  But whether you are buying or selling, there are many complications with end-user to end-user dealings rather than via the trade and in this article I am going to attempt to identify them – to help you avoid making costly mistakes.

Selling direct to other end-users

First and foremost, you should only try this if you have time on your hands and even then you should always have a backup plan in place for either a rubbish removal firm to take it away or a 2nd hand trader to take it off your hands. If you don’t, you could get into all sorts of very costly problems.  By this I mean that if, for example, your lease is about to expire, the office is full of your old unwanted furniture and the landlord expects it to be completely vacant in a few days time, then if you’re furniture is still there you will, most certainly, get an exceptionally hefty bill for its removal and disposal regardless of whether it is of value or not (invariably far higher than if you had done it yourselves because they can charge a premium for their time, the maximum acceptable disposal charge plus bill you for breach of contract). It will become the property of the landlord for them to do with and profit from (if there is any value) as they see fit but be assured they’ll charge you anyway!

If you do get a buyer, you or they still have to get everything out of the building and transported to their office.  Firstly this is normally far more involved and costly than you might expect and should therefore be a consideration in the sale price negotiated, but secondly you need to be absolutely sure the buyer has arranged the collection and that the window given to them is sufficient for them to get everything away in time. It’s important to note that it could take longer to dismantle everything and get it out of the building than it did to bring everything in and assemble it in the first place!  That’s because the new owner wants to be sure that by time it reaches their office it is still in good condition with all the parts and original fixings,  and because it is no longer all together in protective packaging it just takes that much longer.  And finally, you need to be sure that whoever they get in to dismantle and remove your old furniture are professionals who are not going damage the walls, ceilings and floors in the office and common parts/lifts etc with gauges, scratches and marks that your landlord will charge you for to put right.

Make sure the buyer takes it all unless you’re getting a fairly decent price for individual items! If they don’t, you may be left with a whole load of stuff that costs almost as much to dispose of as it would have been to junk everything.

Get an agreement, in writing and well in advance, from your landlord giving special permission to waive any normal restrictions relating to permitted times for use of lifts and carrying large items through and out of the building. This will apply to your whole office move, not just removal of furniture. You can’t afford to be restricted by times or methods of moving out as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

Finally, however little you might be offered (or conversely however much you might be charged) it is invariably going to be far more straight forward and considerably less time-consuming on your part to part company with your old desks, chairs, cupboards and so on by handing them over to a dealer. You might consider your time much better spent running your business and generating income rather than attempting to gain a relatively small amount from selling office furniture items. Whatever you do, the first step should probably be approaching a number of people in the secondhand trade and finding out what, if anything, they’re prepared to pay you.  If it seems reasonable, go with it!  But if they’re offering little or wanting to charge for the removal, then by all means try the end-user to end-user route if you have the time  – not withstanding all the issues identified above.

Buying direct from other end-users

There’s probably less downside here, assuming you can negotiate a really good price, but here are some considerations you should pay attention to:

As mentioned in the note for sellers above, you will probably need to make your own arrangements to dismantle desks, cupboards and other larger items of furniture, get them out of the seller’s building, transported to your own office and re-assembled.  That’s a lot of work and can be quite costly so be sure you make allowances for this when you agree a purchase price.

You need to be sure that desks and cupboards, in particular, are easily dismantlable without risk of damage so that it can be done quickly but also that they can be re-assembled back at your office without any loss of functionality, sturdiness and appearance.  It is worth doing a trial run on a couple of units before committing to purchase just to be sure that the original fixings are all there and easily removable and that that the original installer didn’t compromise or force the assembly. If it can’t come apart or be re-assembled without breaking, you shouldn’t even consider it. Just to stay on this subject a little longer, most wooden components of office furniture are usually MFC (chipboard) which is not particularly ideal for securely fixing screws unless they have fitted with quality metal fixing inserts. Much of it, particularly at the the lower end, does not stand up well to re-assembly.

New furniture can often cost less than you think.  Of course, its worth considering quality used furniture rather than budget new furniture, but be careful you’re not paying for budget used furniture when you might be able to get some nice new mid-range products at an affordable price.  Be sure to compare the total package cost – product, transportation and assembly – rather than just the product itself.

New furniture is usually available in a wide choice of sizes, styles, colours and finishes. With 2nd hand you’re restricted to whatever is on offer. No matter how good the value, it might be a compromise.

Buying 2nd hand furniture may restrictive if you need to reconfigure your office or add desks in the future. Whereas there is never any guarantee that further down the line you will be able to get another couple of desks of exactly the same colour, finish and specification from the manufacturer you bought them from new, it’s far less likely you will be able to do that with the used furniture you bought. So, you could end up with an office full of mismatched kit.

There will be no warranty when buying from another end-user.

Finally, make sure that whatever you buy you can physically get into your building (through doorways, corridors, up the stairs in particular). Not everything can be disassembled, particularly certain cupboards which are originally supplied not as flat pack but factory assembled instead and may have been glued or welded (if metal). But even if things that are flat packed  could contain some very large and heavy panels or boards (e.g. reception counters, big boardroom table tops etc) which might also be too large to get up stairs or around tight corridor corners.


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