Annie...

If you hold out for the Seal 6080, you can actually fold it out and it becomes a real sized hide-a-bed! It is good you have your priorities straight because you can always get furniture later...

There are a number of things to look for with the press. Make sure that it has a grounded (3 prong) plug and has no fraying or burned areas on the wire. The pad has been addressed here already and is very easily replaced, I would suggest using the actual pads from Seal though, instead of composing your own. There are also test strips available from Seal that can be used to show actual melting points for the thermostat setting (a big fault of the Seal press is the unreliable wiring, but even that can be repaired with a bit of effort and patience). Be very careful that you do not use a press that is too hot, it will melt the tissue past a point of adhesion and there not an easy road of return for that print...
ALWAYS USE: clean, smooth mat boards as top and bottom covers, and whenever possible, use the Seal Release paper on top of your print as well.
SEAL MT5 is the best stuff around for mounting fiber prints (IMHO why bother drymounting RC prints?...). As for cleaning the platen, do not use abrasive anything on it as those scratches will create havoc for you at some point. Elbow grease and Denatured Alcohol will generally remove any remnant of dry mount tissue that has found its way to the surface.
Good luck and happy mounting (so to speak)!