3 Things Home Experts Say You Should Always Buy Used

updated Oct 22, 2020
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Credit: Tamara Gavin

Whether you want to breathe new life into your current home or are eager to make a just-bought dwelling your own, updating your home can be incredibly expensive. When you’re finally ready to level up and replace those prefab doors and vinyl floors with more sophisticated pieces, the price tag is bound to give you second thoughts. But before you archive your dream home Pinterest boards and hide under the covers, there’s good news: Real estate professionals say homeowners can save money on updates by searching for some gently used pieces.

Christopher Totaro, an agent with Warburg Realty in New York City, is an expert on stunning spaces. He’s seen enough multimillion-dollar Tribeca penthouses to know the details that make an ordinary space truly captivating. His advice? Seek out a specific set of pre-owned materials to meet your functional and aesthetic goals. Read on for more of his best tips:

Architectural elements

If you’re looking for doors, appliances, or major built-in pieces, Totaro notes, “There are a lot of companies that specialize in architectural salvage.” Sturdy, sophisticated doors, classic fireplace mantles, bookcases, and more abound. “Especially if you’re trying to stretch a budget and are willing to do some of the legwork, some things that are great to buy are antique clawfoot tubs that have been restored,” he says.

By doing some research and hunting for nearby salvage warehouses, local restoration artisans, and even shops on Etsy, you can save plenty of money achieving an elegant look. Manufacturers who create new versions of old classics charge a small fortune—and those prices can’t compare with the smaller price tag on the real thing.

Designer labels

“If you’re really into designer names and such, there are plenty of companies out there where you can go and buy salvaged,” Totaro says. You can find items like stainless steel countertops and islands by staying alert. That fancy Smeg appliance you’ve been eyeing? You can score it gently used.

“Let’s say you want a cheap designer vanity. If you go and buy that thing new, it might cost you between $5,000 and $8,000. But if you’re willing to do some legwork and keep an eye out, you can find stuff like that that’s lightly used and been reconditioned,” he says. Listen to the expert, and put in the effort.

Period pieces

These days, homeowners aren’t shying away from throwback looks, especially as major retailers continue mass producing mid-century modern furniture. “Let’s say that you’re restoring a townhouse and somebody did a bad renovation in the ‘70s and you want to bring it back,” Totaro says. To do that, he suggests forgoing ordering custom-made millwork, and instead springing for salvaged millwork from period homes. With many companies charging a pretty penny for replicated characteristics, this route may be a more budget-friendly way to achieve a specific vintage look.

But don’t overdo it

While it’s true that pre-owned pieces can be both high quality and low budget, not all salvaged furniture will fit the bill. The best example of a pricey salvaged item, according to Totaro? Flooring. Salvaged or auctioned flooring can be a steal, but depending on the material’s history, the dollar signs can fluctuate. Salvaging 100-year-old plank floors, for instance, is a project for those hoping to achieve a specific look—not for the budget-minded.

No matter your home maintenance project, be sure to explore all your options, keep an open mind while browsing used pieces, and be strategic about buying used versus investing in something new.