If you’re like me and love the warmth and texture that rugs give to a room, this post is for you.
I used to scour antique stores, estate sales, and craigslist for rugs, but no more! After discovering the universe of rugs on eBay I stopped looking anywhere else. You can find pretty much anything you could dream up– I am typically partial to Persian rugs, but I’ve been known to fall head over heels for kilims, and lately I’ve been lusting after dark floral Bessarabian rugs–and the prices are cheaper than what I’ve seen in stores. I’ve bought quite a few rugs on eBay now, and I thought I’d share the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.
1. Don’t Get Caught up in the Chase
It’s happened to me many times: I’m blithely perusing rugs on eBay when suddenly I come across the blue-hued Persian of my dreams. I’m in love, it’s meant to be, the universe ordained our union! I know it’s perfect and I want it so badly that it makes my bones ache.
HALT! Unless the listing is about to end, cool your jets and add it to your “watch” list. After letting it sit for a day or two you might find it’s not the dazzling woolen fifth-wall solution you’d dreamed of after all. The moral: Don’t move too quickly. Despite eBay’s attempts to convince you otherwise, there actually aren’t millions of people around the globe fawning over the same rug. No matter how great a deal it is, it’s still a big purchase and you want to get it right. So add it to your watch list and think about if for a few days. If you have a laptop or iPad look at the listing in the room where you think the rug will go. Is it the right color? Will it be too busy, too dark, or too precious for the space? And, if the worst happens and someone buys it, guess what? There are thousands of other gloriously beautiful rugs on eBay just waiting for you to discover them.
2. Read Every Word of the Listing
This may seem obvious, but some listings are really wordy, and there may be a reason for that. Take for example this insanely gorgeous peach and blue rarity:
Those colors! That price! But uh oh, look at the seller notes. “Some odor” is not a good sign, but for this beauty I might be willing to accept some mustiness. Keep on reading and you learn two things. First, this is the world’s most honest rug merchant. And second?
Do they mean old dog urine as opposed to puppy urine? Or dog urine that has been on the rug for a long time? Either way, I’ll pass.
3. Look Closely at the Units of Measurement
When buying from international sellers make sure you know what unit of measurement they are using. I am hopeless when it comes to the metric system and can only visualize in feet (no, not even inches), so I use an online calculator like this one to get a mental picture of the size. Then, duh, measure the space where you want the rug to go. Unlike shopping for contemporary rugs that are either 3×5, 5×8, or 8×10, hand woven antique rugs are often irregular sizes, so make sure it will fit just right before you buy.
4. When Figuring Out Whether a Rug is a Good Price, Include Shipping in the Total
I’ve had the best luck buying from international sellers. Domestic prices tend to be higher, and I’ve gotten better deals buying rugs directly from Turkey and Romania. The best part is that, especially for those of us in Alaska or Hawaii, international sellers typically charge less in shipping (ironic, I know).
Remember this rug from my first round of playroom plans? This insanely gorgeous creature is 8 1/4 feet x 5 feet, and I’m sure it’s HEAVY. If you paid for shipping it would easily cost upwards of $100, and this seller is offering it for free. That is a really really good deal.
Domestic sellers often offer “free shipping” . . . except to Alaska and Hawaii. Here’s an example of a rug being sold by someone in the U.S. The price is okay, and it says free shipping! But look closer:
See that little “see details” link? Click on it and here’s what you learn:
Wah wah. I have contacted sellers for shipping quotes and still made the purchase, but not before recalculating the total cost to make sure the cost of the rug + shipping is a price I would happily pay for the rug if I found it in a store.
5. Spelling Variations are Your Friend
I once got a pair of beautiful “Morroccan” pillows for $10. I can neither confirm nor deny that I stumbled upon them because I misspelled Moroccan. Lessons were learned, both in spelling and in effective eBay searching.
Particularly with international sellers, you should search iterations of common words (one at a time) to find hidden gems. For example, lots of sellers in Turkey list “kelims” and “cecims.” If you find a listing with a misspelling or a less well known variation of the word, you’re more likely to get a great deal.
A savvy seller prepared to catch any spelling variation.
6. Cast a Wide Net
If you’re willing to search through thousands of listings, it’s pretty likely that you’ll find the perfect rug for your space. I haven’t had much luck narrowing search results by using terms related to color or size. Most of the international listings provide only general descriptions and while they include a lot of pictures, they don’t say anything about color, so that wouldn’t show up in the search. Words I commonly search when rug hunting include: “oushak,” “persian,” “kilim,” “bessarabian,” “boucherouite,” “anatolian,” and “cicim”. You can use the eBay search functions to filter by general size, and you can order the listings by price so that you don’t bother looking at the ones that are out of your price range.
7. Use the “Make Offer” Button
Most listings have several purchase options: bidding, buy it now, or make offer. On eBay you can make up to three offers to a seller to purchase an item for less than the “buy it now” price. It’s good to remember there’s a person on the other side of this transaction and you don’t want to insult them with a super low-ball offer, but if the seller has chosen to include the “Make Offer” option on the listing, you can pretty much bet that they’d be willing to accept, say, 10% less than the buy it now price.
This seller would likely accept an offer of $470–$500 (eBay will show you the GBP to U.S. dollar conversion).
When you enter your offer it gives you the option of leaving a note for the seller, and I usually say something like “Thank you so much for listing this beautiful heirloom. It’s just what I’ve been looking for and I hope you will consider my offer. I look forward to hearing from you!” It just makes the transaction a little more personal, and I like to think that sellers are more inclined to accept the offers of people who appreciate what they are selling.
So there you have it, my 7 tips for finding a beautiful rug for a super price on eBay! Anyone else have success buying rugs on eBay or elsewhere lately? Any tips to add to the list?