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Tips For Buying Furniture
by Michele Dawson

Once you buy a house, chances are you'll soon be buying new furniture. With all the expenses attached to homeownership, coupled with the one-time expenses that come in the first year decorating and furnishing the house, it's important to carefully plan your furniture purchases.

"In the first twelve months after purchasing a newly built home, owners spend an average of $8,900 to furnish, decorate and improve their homes -- more than twice the $4,000 spent by non-movers," the National Association of Homebuilderssays in its report, "Housing: The Key to Economic Recovery."

The report says about 77 percent of it goes toward furnishings and changes to the property. The rest is spent on appliances.

Those who buy existing homes spend $3,766 more than non-moving homeowners in the year after they buy a home. The Eastern Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont branch of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says it's important to plan and research so you get the most for your money -- and maximum enjoyment from your furniture.

The group offers these tips:

  • Figure out what you need. Decide exactly what you will need and how long you will need it. That should also play a role in how much you plan on spending. For example, if you're buying a baby crib that will only be used for a few years, you may want to budget less than a table or piece that you will have for many years.
  • Know how it will be used. If you have small children, then you'll want to choose furniture and fabrics that can stand up to your kids' wear and tear. On the other hand, if you don't have kids or the kids are out of the house, you may prefer pieces more suitable for entertaining or that won't get everyday use.
  • Determine your space constraints. Draw up a floor plan of the room you will be furnishing and sketch in different furniture arrangements to see how you can best make use of the space.
  • Set a budget. Before you shop, determine how much you will spend -- and stick to it.

The American Furniture Manufacturers Association suggests you skim through home and decorating magazines for ideas on how to furnish your house. Specifically, you should identify your personal style, whether it's casual, contemporary, country, traditional, or eclectic. Think about your preferences -- which colors, textures and patterns you like.

The AFMA also says you should prioritize your purchases, determining which items you want or need most.

To assist you in the selection process, many furniture stores offer interior design consultation, room planning guides and product brochures. In the end, trust your own judgment and buy what you like.

The BBB recommends shopping around for quality, price, credit terms and service. Extra delivery charges or higher credit charges could mean what initially appeared to be a good buy isn't so good. And when you're shopping, be sure to check out the labels.

Federal Trade Commission guidelines require manufacturers to say whether materials like vinyl or synthetics are used to give the appearance of another material, like marble. If a label mentions only one wood, all surfaces must be wood. If there are veneers, the label has to say so.

Once you eye furniture you consider purchasing, find out the precise terms and conditions of warranties, as well as the store's return policy. And if you're buying on credit, be sure you know the full terms and know how much interest you'll be paying.