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Author: Joyce Huang, Graphics: Nina Tagliabue

The BRB Bottomline

Whether you are furnishing a new apartment or revamping your home-turned-office, you are likely experiencing increased prices and delayed shipping due to the pandemic. After the closings of many ports and factories, supply chains are struggling to meet the unprecedented demand. Despite this difficulty, you can improve your furnishing experience by planning ahead with a few tips in mind.

At the bittersweet end of every summer, millions of college students enjoy their last moments of relaxation. Unfortunately, for many of them, they face one final hurdle. With twenty tabs open for dining tables and couches, college students must scour for the best deals in furnishing their apartment. 

Why Prices Are Rising

Apartment furnishing is always difficult for first-timers, but the pandemic has further increased the difficulty and costs. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, furniture costs have surged by 9% from last year, and the summer of 2021 experienced the largest monthly increase in prices since 1976. One factor is the surging price of lumber, caused by the widespread closing of sawmills and ports at the beginning of the pandemic. With the pandemic dragging out longer than expected, the home renovation trend has caused an upward demand pressure. Consumers have revamped their homes to become their new offices and entertainment spaces. With supply unable to meet high demand, lumber prices have skyrocketed. 

One of the most popular furniture stores for college students is IKEA due to its relatively low prices. However, as ports attempt to regain their footing, shipping has become expensive and delayed. Low-cost furniture from Ikea and Wayfair have been hit hardest, because “low-cost and bulky goods … take up more room on a shipping container and have thinner margins to absorb rising costs.” Shipping costs are now 62% of the retail value of low-cost furniture. Furthermore, fewer international flights are operating and carrying the cargo. The Washington Post found that shipping costs from Asia, an essential source of furniture, have quadrupled. All of this explains why your Ikea couch is sold out or only available to ship on a few days of the month. 

What You Can Do

Having furnished my place for the first time this year, I have a few tips that could help you. 

You should definitely start early because August and September are the busiest months with low stock. Weeks before your move-in date, you should form a list of furniture and appliances to buy. Because having somewhere to sleep is the most important, you should prioritize shipping the mattress on time — your bed frame can wait. While most mattress sellers provide delivery windows spanning several hours, oftentimes they will only tell you your window the night before your delivery date. Thus, you should schedule a delivery date where you can be at your apartment the whole day.

For other expensive furniture such as couches and dining table sets, it’s beneficial to choose cheaper ones. Selling couches on Facebook Marketplace is difficult, so trashing a cheaper couch would feel less painful. If you have roommates and the couch ends up going to one roommate, it would feel more equitable if the couch was cheap in the first place. If you try to find furniture on Facebook Marketplace, you should be aware that most sellers do not provide delivery. Thus, you should ensure you have a large enough vehicle for transportation. 

After finding your couch and dining set, you must decide whether you need assistance moving them up the stairs or setting up the furniture. If you plan on hiring moving helpers, most of them require a two-hour minimum. Thus, you should ask whether the billing includes their drive to your apartment and back. 

For millions of college students, the struggle of apartment furnishing is a rite of passage. Although it is often overwhelming, it can be a wonderfully rewarding experience once you are finished and happily settled into your new home. 

Take-Home Points

  • Furniture costs are surging because supply cannot meet demand: ports and factories closed in the early pandemic, but people want to revamp their homes more than ever.
  • Low-cost furniture stores are hit harder due to the lower profit in shipping inexpensive goods that take up more space. 
  • When you plan your apartment furnishing, make sure to prioritize your bed coming on time and make sure to understand all the intricacies related to delivery.

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