The Dos and Don'ts of Online Furniture Shopping

You can find some incredible online furniture deals, but there are certain things you should know before making large purchases over the internet. Once you learn to be a smart online shopper, you can take advantage of those fantastic furniture prices and avoid buyer's remorse.

It's nerve racking to buy important pieces of furniture online because it's an expensive hassle to return these items. Here are a few tips for ensuring your online purchases are easy and successful:

Read the Reviews: Product reviews are the best way to get sense for the quality of an item before you buy. If there are no reviews for your item, Google your piece of furniture and see if you can find reviews on other sites. If you still can't find any information, read reviews of a similar type of piece by the same brand. Most companies use the same type of materials in several different items. If you can't find any peer review information, don't buy.

Materials: It's hard to tell the quality of a piece of furniture from a picture. It's always best to be able to look and feel a piece before you buy it. Unfortunately, you don't always have that luxury while shopping online. However, many items sold online are also for sale at local stores, albeit often for more money — but that doesn't mean you can't take a look. Go and check out the stock in your neighborhood so you can be sure your online piece will be exactly what you envisioned when it arrives. If you can't find the identical item in a local store, be sure to pay attention to the written description of the furniture. Most of the time the materials are listed. Know the difference between plastic, wood composite, wood veneers and the different types of solid wood. Zoom in on fabric so you can get a detailed view of the texture and pattern of any material. Also, understand that fake leather might look similar to real leather at first, but it won't break-in with age like the real thing. Still there are great alternatives to real leather, if you're an animal lover.

Color: Read the description of the item color. Don't rely on what you see. Pictures depict colors very differently depending on lighting and exposure. I can't tell you how many things look black in picture, but are actually dark brown. You don't want to get stuck with a brown table and black chair!

Size: Size is like color, don't rely on what you see. It's hard to grasp scale from a picture. Get out your measuring tape and mock up the size of the piece of furniture. Also, it's always a good idea to measure the space you need to fill before you buy.

Assemblage: One thing to keep in mind is that furniture is rarely delivered intact. You will have to assemble the item once it arrives. The reviews often note whether or not the piece is easy to put together. Be honest with yourself about both your patience for assemblage and your skill level.

Cost, Returns, Shipping: Take into account the cost of shipping plus the price of the furniture. The type of shipping is important as well. There are two kinds of shipping, door-to-door and curb-side. If you live in an apartment building, then getting door-to-door shipping is important. Otherwise, you have to move the package from the street to your apartment. Most places offer the option to return, but you usually have to pay for the shipping, if you decide to send something back. This return shipping cost can be prohibitive. That's why it's important to make sure you're a smart online shopper!