Interiors // an eBay buying guide {hunting for vintage treasure on a budget}

April 07, 2018

As well as antique market and car boot scouring, over the years we've made many an eBay pilgrimage. Driving all over the country to pick up furniture for the house at crazy low prices. I can remember driving through the Cotswolds to pick up a rolltop bath from a farm for our first bathroom, one from Kent for our new house {it was the first item we bought, 6 months before we even exchanged but felt so excited. I can still remember now the new Coldplay and Beyonce song playing on the way home as we drove across the Dartford bridge talking about all the plans we had for our new abode}, a set of beautiful pine doors from South London for less than £10 each, the mustard chair from Dulwich for our snug that the guy was selling to move to Australia, cast iron fireplaces, vintage mirrors for gallery walls and table bases.

Sometimes we'll borrow a van, but mostly we'll make it work in our car {with one of us often squeezing into the back!}. For our very first flat we had a memorable drive home from Luton after picking up a stair-case with half of it sticking out of the car window and me crunched up in the back laughing the whole way home.

My husband's uncle once had a small column called Car Boot Phil, and we joke that Ben's would be called eBay Ben. We often prefer buying second hand, a) for the price but b) for unique finds and the sheer range that's available. I also love the cycle of it all, we often sell things ourselves on there that we haven't got room for anymore and it feels good to put new life into something that somebody wants rid of, to give it love in a new home.

So over the years there have been lots of bargains. But I think last week's buy was probably one to remember forever... We'd been looking for a chest of drawers/dresser type unit to upcycle for the new attic en-suite. It's a funny size, and something new just wouldn't look right up there. Ben searched with the measurements and came back with a listing that looked perfect {and not too far from us}, in the end he won it for £6.50 last Saturday night and we picked it up on Tuesday! He then searched eBay again for a sink that would fit in the middle {this one}, and it arrived a couple of days later. Done and done, for the grand total of about £70.

After sharing that on Instagram lots of you messaged to ask for some eBay tips. Lots of these will be obvious if you already use the platform but some of you literally asked for a beginners guide so I've asked Ben for his tips for auctions;

- To maximise the chance of what you're looking for, don't be too specific with your search terms. Every seller is an individual so everybody describes/lists things differently. For example, the sink unit we just bought Ben searched for chest of drawers rather than a vanity unit. It will mean you'll have to scroll through a lot more listings but it's worth it for increasing the chance of finding what you're after.

- Often you'll find less competition on items that are poorly worded in the search terms rather than a title that everybody is looking for.

- Sometimes it is just a waiting game. There might not be the exact item you're looking for first up, so maybe search again a few days later, or set up a search notification when a new item gets listed with your description.

- Put a search location filter on for distance, to avoid the item you find being the other end of the country. You can add a mileage range, these days we tend to stick to around 20 miles but in the past we used to drive alll over {Ben once drove hours way up north for a cream fridge!}

- Watch items and set alarms for when they're ending.

- Then only bid in the last few minutes to avoid being constantly outbid. We try and leave it as late as possible and will often go in on the last 30 seconds {it gets very tense, and we have lost out on things in the past with the internet crashing etc!!}.

- You want to set an obscure maximum bid when you place a bid, don't just go for £10. Go for £13.37 or something random.

- Ask the seller if they'd prefer payment via Paypal or cash on collection. Paypal is safer, especially if they're shipping the item to you - you're properly protected then - but we often just take cash if we're picking up.

- Think about how you'll collect the item. Will it fit in your car with the seats down to save the cost of van hire?

- Make a trip out of it to make the journeys less of a chore.

- If there's an auction we really don't want to bid on or wait, we often message the seller to see if they have a buy it now price in mind. For example with the new bathroom unit, we knew it was the perfect size so messaged to see if they'd want to accept £60 for it and for them to end the auction. But because it already had a bid on, he said no he'd let it run. That's how we then ended up with it for £6.50!

- Buy it now prices; some items will already have a set buy it now price instead of an auction, or sometimes at the same time as {and sometimes a reserve too that means a minimum bid}. You can then just click and buy instantly. It's always worth messaging them to see if they're open to an offer so you can still end up with a bargain that way too.

As well as auctions and one off, second hand pieces, we also use eBay for the shops/businesses on there for new items. We use it for buying things like wall hung toilets and frames, bath tubs for Ben's developments, taps, showers etc. Ben even found a carpenter on there who made our utility doors and there are lots of customisable items. Don't be put off if items come from China {like our brass bathroom fittings} as we've never had any issues with this, just always check their reviews and feedback percentages. You'll save so much money compared to buying from a bathroom retailer on the high street, it just saves on the overheads etc.

An example of a few new items that we've bought from sellers on there {see more on this Where's it from post}
- Kitchen chairs 
- Brass Shower
- Brass Taps  and these wall taps
- Belfast Sinks
- Bathroom Sinks

We've never had a bad experience from buying on there. Selling can be hit & miss but that's a whole other story. I feel like eBay has had it's real peak though, we used to use it all the time around 5/10 years ago but now with all the local Facebook groups it feels like people are starting to shift to free selling platforms instead. Of course, when you do still find items on there then it's amazing and often is a really friendly, helpful community.

I hope that helps! Let me know if you're an eBay fan,

R <3 xx

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