A buyer is ready to make an offer on your house. As they size up the home itself, they’ve also been eyeing a few extras. The sectional that fits squarely in your family room, your wistful backyard patio set, the mahogany pool table in the rec room downstairs — well, it all looks pretty nice where it is!
During negotiations, you find out that the buyer is interested in tacking on all or some of this furniture as part of the deal. Should you entertain their request? And if so, how do you go about pricing furniture when selling a house?
This guide will walk you through your main options for selling furniture, either as part of the real estate contract with an addendum (the trickier route) or separately with a bill of sale. We’ll also offer some strategies for how to keep your pricing realistic so that you don’t throw a quality offer away over something like a $100 loveseat.
How to determine the value of furniture
To be honest, it’s difficult to stay objective when setting a price for your own furniture. Sentimental value, original cost, and endless “what ifs” over whether you should hang onto certain items or try to fetch more for them through a consignment shop can skew your numbers high.
Keep in mind that selling the furniture to your buyer does offer a few conveniences, namely, that you won’t have to haul the furniture out yourself or spend time listing and selling it elsewhere. If the furniture isn’t going to fit in your new abode, selling it to your buyer is a seamless way to avoid storage costs, too.
That said, you don’t want to give away the farm.
“Selling furniture along with a house is the hardest thing because the seller and the buyer have two different ideas about what the furniture is worth,” shares Allison Van Wig, a top real estate agent in Los Angeles County.
Follow these steps to set a fair price for any items your buyer would like to purchase, so that when it comes to negotiations, you aren’t flying blind:
1. Find your original receipt and collect key details.
You can’t expect to command retail value for your used furniture, but the original price gives you a reference point to work from. That receipt will also tell you how old the furniture is, and where it’s from. If you can’t find your original receipt, check the furniture for any identifying marks that indicate its age, brand, or model number so that you can look up the piece online.
2. Get a sense for how well your furniture has aged.
Once you have the overall specs for your piece of furniture, start fine-tuning your calculations.
Add value for the following:
- Brand name recognition: Is your piece from a well-regarded furniture company such as Restoration Hardware, west elm, or Pottery Barn? Name brand recognition can boost the value of your furniture — your buyers may see it as a steal compared to the retailer’s prices for new merchandise.
- Quality materials: What is your furniture made of? You can likely charge more for hardwoods such as oak, maple, and mahogany, which stand the test of time, while softwoods such as pine and manufactured wood like plywood and particleboard will go for less.
- ‘Like new’ or excellent condition: This label only applies to furniture that you’ve barely used. Given that your piece is likely out of the box by the time a buyer sees it, it’s more likely to be in “good” condition for used furniture standards, meaning it has some discoloration, cushion “settling,” or minor wear and tear — but still functions perfectly well.
- Modern style and goes well with the home: A nautical themed piece of furniture may seem over-the-top out of context, but buyers may love the look of it staged appropriately in your waterfront home. In addition, pieces of a neutral or contemporary style will probably be worth more than a bulky, flowery ‘90s furniture piece of a similar condition.
Subtract value for the following:
- Dings, scratches, tears, and other signs of use: It’s unlikely that the buyers of your home would offer to buy any furniture that isn’t in somewhat decent condition, but if they plan to give the piece some TLC and restore it to a new state, then they will expect a discount on price.
- Depreciation: Like a car that loses value as you drive it off the lot, that couch, table, or chair you picked out in the store starts depreciating the minute you take it out of the box. Old furniture is worth less, period — even if it remains in great condition. Generally, furniture that’s only a year old will be worth significantly more than the 10-year-old version of the same piece.
3. Find listings for similar items online, in thrift stores, or at auction houses.
Similar to how you would use recently sold homes in the area as a reference point to price your own house, you should also get a sense for the going-rate of comparable furniture being sold in your locale. Browse the furniture section of Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for your ZIP code, and get even more granular by checking out furniture listings on Nextdoor featured in your neighborhood.
For pieces made by a trendy furniture maker, check sites like AptDeco who factor the brand name into their used pricing. You can also check your pricing expectations against furniture available at your local thrift stores, consignment centers, or auction houses (they’re not just for antiques and artwork anymore).
4. Bring in an expert to value special pieces.
If you know or suspect that you have furniture that’s antique or retro, contact a reputable antique dealer, high-end auction house, or an estate sales company to get a valuation for those period pieces.
“I’ve had situations where I’ve insisted that the sellers call in an estate salesperson to evaluate the furniture. I’ve seen mid-century modern furniture, which is in high demand, and antique furniture from the 1930s,” recalls Van Wig.
“I even had a display case filled with Hummel figurines that just looked like china figurines to my sellers who had inherited the house. I had them bring in an estate salesperson who found that many were worth $200 apiece or more.”
Should your expert confirm that your special pieces are indeed antiques or high-demand retro items, it’s probably best to sell them after your home sale closes, or you might wind up accepting less than it’s truly worth.
5. Set your price, but prepare to negotiate.
Armed with all of this information, you’re ready to set a price for your furniture. Assuming that you’ve put your antiques aside, if your furniture is newer, in great condition and has a trendy brand name, you might ask as much as 70% of what you paid for it. However, if your furniture has aged 9-10 years, you should expect to fetch more like 25% to 33% of your original purchase price. If you’re still struggling to set a price, use an online furniture valuation calculator such as Blue Book Furniture and Splitwise for additional guidance. These tools take into account your piece’s age and condition, as well as the original purchase price.
6. Add your price tags.
Finally, you need to clearly communicate how much you’re charging the buyer for each piece of furniture. “You don’t want any mistakes when selling furniture, so I tell my sellers to put a tag on it with the prices they want,” explains Van Wig. “During the home inspection, the buyers make a list of what they want to purchase from the seller at that price. That list comes to me and we arrange to get paid for the furniture. That way it’s very clear to everyone involved what’s staying and what’s going.”
Your options for selling the furniture to your buyers
Bundling furniture into a real estate contract gets tricky because the value of your home is not based on the contents inside. The quality of its materials, square footage, number of beds and baths, and the desirability of your location — these are the features and qualities that determine value. While appliances, light fixtures, window treatments, and any other bolted-down items are expected to stay with the property, a random couch or table that the buyer asks you to leave does not make that property worth any more. Knowing that, here are the two main ways to handle a furniture deal as part of a home sale.
1. Include the furniture in a contract addendum, knowing the deal has no value to lenders or appraisers.
Let’s say the buyer makes you an offer of $350,000. You know they’re interested in certain pieces of furniture, so you counter at $355,000, plus throw in the patio set and living room pieces they requested. In this type of scenario, you won’t be able to reference the furniture deal directly in the contract. Instead, you’ll need to document the exchange using a contract addendum stating that the furniture has no value.
According to 2020 guidelines from Fannie Mae, non-realty items such as furniture or other giveaways are considered sales concessions and must be deducted from the sales price of the home. Remember: Lenders finance the property itself, not the stuff inside — they aren’t going to loan the buyer money for a couch and pool table, as nice as that would be.
In addition, you’ll need to disclose the furniture sale to the appraiser, who will not account for the furniture in their assigned value. In other words, the house will need to appraise at the agreed value of $355,000 independently of the furniture exchange you’ve negotiated with the buyer. If the appraisal comes in below contract price, either you or the buyer will need to make up the difference for the mortgage to go through.
All of this may sound a bit deflating, but it doesn’t mean your furniture is worth nothing. “Adding an addendum stating that the furniture has no value is just a paperwork thing. The furniture can have value between the buyer and the seller, but it cannot have value for the lender,” explains Van Wig.
2. Sell it separately from the home.
If the above option sounds too risky and complicated — i.e., you could raise the price of the home based on furniture value, only for it not to appraise — there is another and more common way to sell furniture to your buyer. It goes something like this: The buyer gives you cash based on your agreed price. And you provide them with a bill of sale for the items. The whole exchange takes place outside the real estate contract. Done, and done!
“Typically, the buyer has to write the seller a check for the furniture that they’re buying outside of escrow,” explains Van Wig.
She says this is the route most sellers go for all the reasons mentioned above:
“It’s difficult to include furniture in negotiations because the appraiser will not count the value of the furniture toward the value of the home. And you typically can’t incorporate the furniture as part of the sale’s contract because the lender is lending on the home, not its furnishings.”
Should you mention furniture in the listing to begin with?
Perhaps you recognize that your furniture is out of style or it won’t physically fit in your new residence. Maybe you’d like to slash your moving expenses by eliminating a truckload of heavy hutches, sideboards, and a massive pull-out sofa. In that case, you may be tempted to market your furniture as part of your listing. However, we asked Van Wig about this, and she advised against it. Instead, play your cards tight to your chest, and don’t let buyers know you’re interested in selling the furniture until you’ve reeled them in.
“I wouldn’t ever mention that the sellers want to include the furniture in the listing, because then you’re just giving it away,” says Van Wig. “Instead, when we get an offer on the home, we can counter and say, ‘We want $5,000 more, but you can keep the furniture.’”
Can you sell your house completely furnished?
Fully furnished homes are popular in certain markets and will appeal to a certain buyer set, whether it’s those looking for a vacation property or investors who seek a turnkey short-term rental. “Everybody wants the furniture in resort areas like Big Bear or Palm Springs,” explains Van Wig. “They intend to gradually decorate it, but they still need it furnished in the meantime.”
Keep the following tips in mind if you do sell the home fully furnished:
1. The “no value” addendum still applies.
Your buyer’s lender will still insist on a “no value” addendum – even for a fully furnished home – if you include the furniture as part of the home sale. For example: Let’s say you determine that the furniture alone is worth $10,000. Your buyer has made an offer of $360,000, which translates as $350,000 for the house and $10,000 for the furniture.
Then the appraiser comes in and assigns a value of $355,000. That’s the amount the lender will approve the loan for, regardless of the furniture. In that situation, someone — buyer or seller — is bringing an extra $5,000 to the table to make up the difference. If the buyer refuses to do so, you’ll need to drop the price and either get half of what you intended to collect for the furniture or re-start negotiations for the additional furniture costs outside the sale.
2. A thorough inventory can help avoid ambiguity over what’s included.
Make sure that you’re taking extra care to define “fully furnished.” “You have to be very specific and itemize everything when you’re selling all of the furniture,” advises Van Wig. “Otherwise, sure enough, the seller will agree to sell the whole house with everything in it, but then later say that the deal didn’t include their toaster oven.” From the seller’s perspective, if you didn’t have the toaster oven listed in the first place, then you’re in the clear. If you did list the toaster oven and didn’t leave it for the buyer, they may argue that you aren’t upholding the “fully furnished” end of the bargain as promised.
FYI: Get the cash before you close
If you’ve negotiated the value of your furniture into your home sale (even if the bank added an addendum stating it has no value), you’re good to go. Simply leave the furniture that your buyer has purchased behind when you move out.
However, if your buyer is purchasing the furniture outside of escrow, then you need to get that check — and cash it — before the sale closes.
“If we’re selling the furniture outside of the home sale, I always insist on getting the check upfront so that it can clear before we close escrow. That way we know the furniture is paid for and we can leave it in the house,” advises Van Wig.
“Once we close escrow, it’s the buyer’s house and everything in it transfers to the buyer. So if the buyer’s [furniture] check bounces, we can’t access that furniture anymore.”
Selling furniture with the home: Make it work for everyone!
Letting the buyer of your home purchase a few furniture items can be a win-win for everyone. The buyers get a little head start furnishing their home, and you as the seller don’t have to move so much stuff. However, it all depends on what you’re willing to sell and how much you can fetch for it. Keep in mind that age is going to depreciate your items, even if they’re in great shape — so expect to slash at least 20% of your original price from what you charge the buyers.
In addition, know that non-realty items of value such as furniture will always need to be a separate addendum of a contract, and it’s often easier to handle the exchange separately with a bill of sale. When in doubt, consult with a top real estate agent in your area who will know the ins and outs of market norms, and what buyers in the area would be willing to pay for your couch, pool table, or outdoor bistro set!
Header Image Source: (Paul Weaver / Unsplash)