(In case you lose interest in doing some of these tests I wanted to put this out to you that Phoenix Piano Moving does offer piano buying consultions that could be as low as $60 and could save hundreds and maybe save you from buying a money pit piano)
I touched on this a little on the article about “What to look for when buying a entry level piano”, but I wanted to cover this a little more extensive here. First, what is a money pit piano or a lemon piano? In my definition this would be a piano that costs you 3 times as much to have it ready to play and enjoy after you pay for moving, tuning and any other recovery and repairs that would be necessary before it can be enjoyed. So the biggest example of that would be the cracked sound board that affects the piano from holding a tune. This could cost you $200-$400 just to take tension off all 230 strings then applying a patch to the board so that the board does not slip when tension is applied again. This is usually a walk away senerio but if you really like the piano’s outside looks and I’m sure it will be greatly discounted if not free then maybe that is the route for you. But if you don’t want such a project and you just want a piano that your kids can learn to play on then I’ll include some simple tests to avoid buying a money pit pianos.
You have to do a little investigation on the piano asking questions like when was it last tuned last, then take a simple tuning app like “datuner” and see how many cents the piano is flat. If the person tells you its been tuned every year and then you find out that its 30 cents flat that tells us one of two things, either the person “has been less then honest with us or the piano has some serious problems, which is it?” A piano in good mechanical shape should not go more then 10 cents flat over the year. Next, examine the hammers looking for repair work that might have been done and specifically look also at the groves that are formed by the hammer hitting the strings. If the groves are deep then this means that the sound will be effected as well and future recovery work on the hammers will cost about $60-$100. Next, hit the left pedal and watch the hammers go up and return. All the hammers should return at the same rate of speed without sluggish stalls. If some of the hammers are slow then the action is due for servicing, this could be another $60-100 to clean, lubricate necessary pivots and tightening 230 plus action screws. Finally and not necessary in this order, but strike every key from left to right, with your tuning app if possible, and listening for the harmony and disharmony of the strings. The app may show that the low side is little more flat then the high side (right side) but it should be fairly close to the same cent or % flat. This simple test will help insure that you haven’t bought a lemon of piano. If there is some unevenness across the keys say greater then 50% then I would be concerned that there has been a string broke recently or worst there might be crack in the frame leding to it not wanted to hold a tune. If a string has broke, no big deal, it can be replaced sometimes as low as $25 but it’s a crack that is causing it to loose tune then maybe its best to walk away. Not all cracks will cause a piano to not hold a tune, actually maybe only 10% of cracks are in such a way that the tune is affected. The cracks can be repaired but this can be a costly expense, maybe in the $200-$400 range so make sure you ask for that discount. Actually, I would perform all this test and observations and then ask the seller to help you out with these expenses. Maybe they will discount completely or go half and half. If its a $500 piano and all these things are true except for the cracked sound board then maybe they will take $300 knowing that you have $160 plus moving expense and if its more then 10% flat, which 95% of the used piano are, then there is a $200 tuning expense, maybe the seller will give you a little break on the price. If they feel offended by all the tests and downgrading, then you can decide if the outward appearance of the piano is worth the risk of buying and hoping for the best.
Like I mentioned above, we do offer a piano buying consultation which will help you in your buying experience and in most cases the buyer saves hundreds after we go through all the expenses the piano will need to get it ready to be enjoyed and ask the seller if they will be willing to meet us half way with some of the expenses. If you buy the piano and it can be moved on the same visit then the consultation cost could be waved for this service and then the moving cost will depend on the situation.