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Each year, about a quarter of a million people enter NYC, and just as many leave the city behind. And within the five boroughs, too, many New Yorkers move frequently: One-year leases are common, and serial renters abound. For the most peripatetic among us, figuring out what to do about furniture can be a headache—what’s the point of investing in big ticket items like couches and beds if you don’t plan on sticking around for long?
A startup called Furnishare, founded in 2014, aims to help locals make their temporary digs feel like home, without committing to bulky and expensive items they’ll have to drag from place to place. Similar to the designer clothing rental service Rent the Runway, Furnishare’s model allows customers to browse a furniture marketplace and rent up to three items for a monthly fee. There are three, six, and twelve-month long subscription plans—the yearlong one is the cheapest, at $59 per month—and perhaps most appealing of all, the company’s insured movers deliver everything for free. (Note that delivery zones are limited to most of Manhattan, as well as Williamsburg and Astoria, though the company eventually intends to expand to all five boroughs and beyond.)
And for New Yorkers who want to downscale, Furnishare also offers a plan for providers: You submit the furniture you no longer need—provided that wear and tear is minimal—which the company then assesses, picks up, and adds to its marketplace. You get paid only if your belongings are rented, at which point you earn 50 percent of the revenue for two years. (Note that once you surrender your furniture, it's no longer yours, unlike consignment stores; you can't change your mind and ask for it back.)
Established from experience
Furnishare founder Alpay Koralturk, an entrepreneur who previously founded the Turkish game studio Gram Games, says he got the idea for Furnishare because during his first six years in New York, he moved each year. "I thought about the problem and the pain of moving so much," he says, "and after discussions with investors and entreprenuers, I decided to try to do something in the sharing economy with furniture."
Rami Abramov, Furnishare's director of marketing, says that people are drawn to this service because there's so little hassle involved: "You don't have to haggle or negotiate," he says, adding that revenue is shared through a convenient online account. Plus, turnover is quick: "If you post something on Tuesday, we're able to pick it up the next day." And renters, Abramov says, don't have to deal with getting a certificate of insurance for the furniture, which many buildings require for deliveries of large items.
Abramov says that it's very rare a piece won't get rented. "It's in our best interest to get them rented because of the overhead: we pick up items, professionally clean them, photograph them, store them, and then deliver to the people who rent them," he says.
A look at Furnishare’s offerings reveals sofas, tables, chairs, dressers, and beds, as well as storage and décor ranging from lamps to framed artwork, in a wide variety of styles; you’ll find everything from a Banksy poster to a loveseat from the Cindy Crawford Home Collection. The website details each piece’s condition and dimensions, and also assures renters items will be professionally cleaned before arriving at their places.
As for the danger of a rented item carrying one of New Yorkers' greatest fears—bed bugs—Abramov acknowledges that while there is a small amount of risk, "we take preventative measures, and to date we haven't had a single occurrence." After cleaning, all pieces are individually wrapped—which would prevent any bugs or insects from moving to other pieces of furniture—and stored in Furnishare's warehouse in North Bergen, NJ.
But is Furnishare really much different from that of Rent-A-Center, the rent-to-own company that has been around since the 1960s? As a means of comparison, Rent-A-Center offers a three-piece sectional couch for $36.99 per week; after 81 weeks, the would-be renter would own the $2,996 sofa. (Rent-A-Center also claims customers can return items and freeze payments at any time.) On the other hand, a three-piece sectional from Furnishare would run a renter $149 per month as part of a three-month subscription, on par with Rent-A-Center’s price—but they’d also get an additional two items along with the sofa. To buy the sofa—a Crate & Barrel “Lounge II”—outright, a customer would pay over $2,000. For the short-term, renting is clearly the better deal—but if you fall in love with a Furnishare rental, you’re no closer to actually owning it, no matter how long it’s been in your home.
Of course, there are other cheap furniture options long beloved by itinerant New Yorkers; consider how many people pack onto the ferry to the Red Hook IKEA each weekend. But once you factor in the hassle of schlepping and assembling your Billy bookshelves, Furnishare’s no-fuss offer may become more enticing.
Plus, its offerings are of a higher quality. Koralturk notes, "Our prediction that New Yorkers have great furniture that goes to waste has been proven with our catalogue." So far, he says, customers have been pleased with their rentals, which online reviews seem to support. The challenge, he says, is to encourage consumers to stop thinking of furniture strictly as something they purchase, and consider subscription services instead.
The deal seems an especially good one for those who need to get rid of their furniture; stashing your stuff with a company like Manhattan Mini Storage will run you at least $30 per month. With Furnishare, even if no one rents your furniture, you’ve gotten rid of it for free—though the downside is that if you want it back some day, you’re out of luck, as the company becomes the new owner. Koralturk points out that the incentive for Furnishare is not entirely profit-driven: "We also believe in the fact that we're helping furniture stay out of landfills."
It’s worth noting that if you’re certain you’re ready to part ways with your furnishings—and you’d rather they not languish in a dump somewhere—there’s always the option of donating them. Organizations like Housing Works, for instance, will pick up your furniture for free; it will then be sold in one of the nonprofit’s thrift stores, which raise funds for HIV-positive New Yorkers. You won’t have cash on hand, but you can rest assured that your old sofa is helping neighbors in need.
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