Don't put your home at risk by rushing to buy furnishings


January 27, 1991|By ELLEN JAMES MARTIN

Those who have the unhappy duty of taking peoples' home away throughforeclosure see a common pattern. A young family purchases their first home and then overspends to outfit the place with furniture, appliances and home electronics. Eventually, their lack of financial restraint costs them the property.

"There are some people who would like to buy now and pay

later--until later comes and they discover they have nothing to pay with," says Peter G. Miller, author of the book "Buying Your First Home Now," published by HarperCollins.

The desire to have a brand new sofa or refrigerator with all the latest gismos is understandable. But, as real estate specialists point out, it's folly to put your ownership of the home in jeopardy to make the place look like a palace.

"If you're clever, you'll get the home and worry about furnishing it later. Or you'll furnish it with recycled items," says Dorcas Helfant, president-elect of the National Association of Realtors.

Ms. Helfant and other realty specialists say remarkable things can be done to outfit a home on a small budget through shrewd buying on the second hand market. Whether you're purchasing a new refrigerator, dinning room table or personal computer, you can enjoy huge savings by going to the recycled market.

And these days -- with recycling back in vogue -- it's almost chic to stake out a bargain on a quality castoff. Those who think buying second hand is something done only by the impoverished should think again. Many middle and even upper-income people have turned to second hand channels for a deal on everything from an IBM PC to an Anne Klein suit.

"We urge young people, who are on very tight budgets, to not try buying everything new," Ms. Helfant says. "It takes a bit of imagination and willpower, but if you shop wisely you can furnish your house with an extravagant look on a penny pincher budget."

Here are pointers on buying top-notch goods through the recycled market:

* Save 30 to 50 percent off the cost of new furniture by buying through estate sales or consignment shops.

You don't have to be an antique buff to realize that older furniture is often better furniture. Would you rather have an ornately carved dining room table made of solid oak or one of particleboard with an oak veneer so thin that a careless guest could cut through it with his butter knife? An oak table that is, say, 50 years old, could cost significantly less than a true antique or a new one bought at your local furniture mart.

You can find out about estate sales -- which typically involve a whole household's furnishings -- through ads in the classified section of your local newspaper. You can also hear of estate sales (the way antique dealers do) through attorneys who

specialize in estate work.

In addition, there are a growing number of resale shops that take furniture and other household goods on a consignment basis. Again, they may not specialize in antiques yet offer high quality older items. To learn about resale stores in your area, phone the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops at (800) 544-0751.

* Save 20 to 90 percent off the cost of new appliances by buying through newspaper ads, acquaintances, or appliance reconditioning centers.

Some appliances -- namely stoves, dishwashers and washing machines -- take such a beating or have so many mechanical parts that they're a poor bet to buy second hand. But others, including refrigerators, clothes dryers and freezers, have remarkable lifespans and can be excellent second hand buys.

Appliances often come on the market for good reasons. Perhaps the seller is taking an out-of-town promotion and doesn't want HTC the burden of bringing her appliances with her. Or maybe the seller's wealthy godmother gave her all new appliances for her birthday. You can't expect a warranty through a private sale, but many appliance reconditioning centers offer warranties of a year or longer. Many will also professionally repaint your appliance to match your decor. Look in the Yellow Pages for second hand appliance dealers.

* Save 50 to 70 percent off the list price of a major brand computer by purchasing a used one through a computer user's club.

Such clubs, operating in communities throughout the U.S., are made up of computer enthusiasts -- many of them young people. The clubs run electronic bulletin boards listing second hand computers for sale.

Since most computer problems appear within the first few weeks after manufacture, the hope that a used computer will come without a serious kink has solid basis. Anyway, manufacturer's such as IBM offer warranties on used computers, regardless of ** where they were purchased.

From the buyer's point of view, there are two ideal types of computer sellers:

One is the guy who thought he wanted a home computer but found out all it did for him was collect dust. The other is the computer fanatic who is always upgrading his equipment. The fanatic is letting go of a K-70K13 because it's not quite as fast as the new AA-94RT-7V.

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