Things are heating up with the kitchen renovation project. Bids are in from three perspective contractors—and all were higher than expected. No matter which contractor I choose, it’s clear that I’ll need to find some cost savings. The obvious place is the appliances budget—and boy that stings. My wish list includes some high-end integrated appliances that I don’t want to compromise on. I had already gotten two appliance quotes for my dream suite and as it turned out that was not a total waste of time. Knowing the real prices has helped me to quickly spot bargains, and I’m happy to say that this week I scored, big time!
It was missing the five “star” burner caps, which are a key design attraction for me. But a quick call to the Thermador helpline confirmed that I could order a replacement set for about $200. I did, and it’s on it’s way. Green Demolitions accepted $850 for the cooktop, which was 10% less than the advertised price when I pointed out that it was missing parts. To buy this new, it would cost $1,600. Total cost savings to my budget was about $500.
Next, I picked up this never-used Thermador wall-oven stack that includes convection oven, warming drawer, and microwave from a ritzy condo in Midtown Manhattan. That saved us thousands. Thanks, Craigslist!
I never even met the seller. A spiffy uniformed doorman showed me into a starkly clean storage hall, where I examined the goods and excepted the deal. I handed the front desk clerk an envelope with the agreed upon cash. Cost savings to my project? About $5,000. The cooktop was small enough to fit in the car. The wall oven stack was heavy (about 600 pounds I’m told) and required movers with a dolly and gate-lift truck. When I factor in the cost of the movers, I’m all told about $5,100 to the good.
It goes without saying when you’re dealing with online sellers, safety first. I don’t give out my phone number and I don’t use my primary email address. I have an address for these circumstances that doesn’t use my real name. I communicate through the email exchanges on the website, never directly. Sure, this can be inconvenient to not be able to text, but it’s safer. If you have an email app on your phone, it’s really not bad. Also, I always say “we” in my communications, so the person knows I’m not coming alone.
When buying high-end appliances like Thermador, ask the seller for the model number and the serial number. The model number will not only allow you to quickly find today’s price, were you to buy the item new, but also look up the year the model came off the production line. The serial number may allow you to look up the service history by placing a call to the manufacturer. Checking these things is part of your due diligence on the value of the goods. If the seller can’t tell me these things, it’s no deal. The information is usually located on a sticker in an obvious place. For example, I found it on the back of the wall oven stack—and it matched the photo that the seller had conveniently included in the post.
What I look for: When doing a search on Craigslist, I always check the “owner” filter because I don’t want to deal with sales pitches from discount warehouses. I exclude duplicates because many sellers post the same item every day to bring it to the top of the results list and I don’t want to wade through identical posts. I check the “has image” box because I’m not even considering items that have no photos. This narrows down the results considerably.
I look for sellers who are upgrading their own kitchens. They’re renovating, I’m renovating, so we have something in common already—and we both have a stake in making this deal happen quickly. In the New York area there are a lot of people right now moving into new builds, usually condos, where the developer has put in a high-end kitchen that for whatever reason the new owner isn’t happy with. This means there are lots of deals to be had. The doorman where I picked up my oven stack told me that most people in his building don’t even try to sell these brand new appliances; they just have their contractors leave them out on the curb. (If only I had time and a truck to go driving around the city looking for curbed appliances!)
How I get the best price: To get the best deal, make the seller’s life easy. The number-one thing to remember about Craigslist from a seller’s perspective is that there are a lot of flakey people out there who say they want it, then don’t show up. Let the seller know you’re serious, you’ve got the money, and that you won’t waste their time. Be polite and get personal. Don’t don’t just accept the offered price. Explain your budget situation, and ask if they’ll consider a discount. Say that you can wait and be their fallback in case they don’t get their first asking price:
“Hello, We’re renovating our kitchen on a tight budget—which has taken a big hit on unforeseen behind the walls issues. I’m a serious enquirer and will not waste your time. Would you take $1000 cash for this?
I’m able to wait awhile if you want to hold onto it for a time to see if you get your asking price.
Thanks for your consideration.”
Reuse centers are generally non-profit organizations that accept salvaged building materials and furnishings and resell them. When it comes to appliances they can come from home-owners who are remodeling, from contractors who are doing demo on a renovation job, or from kitchen showrooms. The condition can range from well-used but operable to lightly used to never used.
There are three re-use centers in my area whose websites I comb when I’m looking for bargains, and I have tips for shopping with all of them.
Habitat for Humanity ReStores are home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories, building materials and more to the public at a fraction of the retail price.
What I look for:
In the notes app on my phone I always keep an up to date list of the dimensions of things I’m on the lookout for. Recently I added a few more important dimensions — those of all the doorways leading into and up into my building, including the elevator entrance, width, and ceiling height. A few years ago I thought I’d scored on a Sub-zero refrigerator, only to find when it arrived that it wouldn’t fit in our building’s elevator. The two moving guys I’d hired weren’t prepared to carry the 400-pound behemoth up six flights and I didn’t blame them. If I’d known ahead of time, I’d have gladly shelled out for more movers. In the end, ReStore was awesome and accepted the return, however, I was out the fee and tips to the movers. My mistake, and it won’t happen again.
At ReStore I look for gently used furniture and appliances. I recently scored a Bludot chair I’d been stalking for years for just $200. It was new and had come from a furniture showroom.
This time around I’d love to score another Sub-zero panel-ready. Could lightning strike twice?
If you Like your Habitat ReStore on Facebook, you’ll be able to see daily posts of goods that have come in. However, I find tastes vary and whoever the social media person is at my local store, they don’t tend to highlight items I’m interested in. I’m lucky the store is nearby, and I’m able to drop in often.
How I get the best price: Habitat ReStore is almost always willing to make a deal. Ask to speak with the manager. He’s the guy who is constantly clearing out floor space to make room for more goods, and I find he’s especially happy to move big items that take up space.
Green Demolitions is a nonprofit located in Fairfield, N.J., that sells donated kitchens and other appliances and the proceeds benefit an addiction nonprofit called Renovation Angel. So, not only are you getting the goods at a discount, your money is going to a good cause. They’ll tell you that there’s more in the store than appears on the website, but I’ve found in my two visits that the best stuff is usually online. You can purchase appliances over the phone and they’ll send you a docusign to seal the deal, but note that they don’t deliver, so you’ll have to arrange for movers or pick it up yourself. GD will only hold purchased items for a week so plan ahead. If you’re buying a whole kitchen, there’s a white glove delivery service available in the tristate area. Buyers come from far away to catch a deal on a whole kitchen. You’ll see the moving trucks lined up early on a Saturday morning.
What I look for:
This store is over an hour away from NYC, so I tend to shop the website and only drop in if I happen to be in New Jersey visiting my in-laws. GD stocks everything from full kitchen suites of cabinets, appliances, sinks, and faucets to bath suites to home furnishings. I peruse the appliances online weekly for never-used showroom items.
How I get the best price: GD is open to dealmaking. There’s even a button on the site you can hit to make an offer. Showroom pieces tend to be sold on consignment, so sales staff are bound to a specific price range but there’s usually a 10% wiggle room.
When I was in the store last I spotted my burner-less cooktop but didn’t snap it up on the spot. I hesitated to buy it because I didn’t know if I could find the missing parts. When I finally called Thermador, they were so quick and helpful with the info that I wish I had called them on the spot and saved myself a return trip to pick it up.
Big Reuse is a nonprofit retail outlet for Build It Green, whose mission is to divert building materials from becoming landfill by accepting and reselling everything from lumber to kitchen cabinet sets, high-end appliances, lighting fixtures, solid wood doors, and furniture, and more.
What I look for:
This store is in Brooklyn about an hour away, so I tend to shop the website and only drop in if I see something I like. BR has an amazing stock of vintage bathtubs, sinks, and faucets. You’ll also find good deals on stone countertops and tiles if you’re willing to sort through the stacks. They have a small collection of appliances and I do see some high-end ranges and refrigerators regularly.
How I get the best price: BR is in my opinion quite pricey for used goods. Whether you can strike a deal depends on who you speak with. To get the best deal, speak with the manager.