Thursday, September 29, 2016

9 You Asked, IHeart Answering: Tips for Buying and Selling on Craigslist

I recently shared that I found some amazing Chippendale style chairs for my office, at an incredible price. The source; Craigslist. Over the years I have found a variety of great pieces for around our home, and I am frequently asked to share any helpful tips I have for hunting down the right piece. And because I just brought home another item for Parker's new room, I knew it was the perfect time to share.

I am absolutely no pro, but I have found my share of home gems on Craigslist. I have also been able to put a little cash back into my pocket by selling on Craigslist as well. Here are a few reasons why I have a crush on the Craigslist strategy:

  • Buying used saves money! 
  • Craigslist offers items from sellers that own one-of-a-kind, vintage and antique pieces.
  • If I am working on a room, I like that I can sell items I no longer need and apply those funds to any updates we are making.
  • "One man's junk is another man's treasure!"
  • If you do it right, you can essentially "rent" your furniture for free. I once purchased and item for around $100. I cleaned it up, used it for a few years, and resold it for $100. I was able to add a temporary piece of furniture to our home and in the end, it didn't cost me a thing. This might be a great option for renters or those who move frequently.

As much as I love Craigslist, I admittedly find parts of the process a little labor intensive, especially when it may require days or months to track down exactly what I am after. But I also know that is part of the money saving game, so you will just have to decide what your time is worth.

Entertainment center purchased on Craigslist

A few of the tips for buying and selling will overlap, but let's just dive in and start with how to find and purchase something special for your home.


Set up a special email account for Craigslist - I find this especially useful because I both buy and sell with Craigslist, and depending on how often you utilize Craigslist, you may find it easier and nicer to keep all Craigslist communications, listings and searches defined within their own inbox. Especially if your primary inbox already receives high quantities of email, you definitely don't want to miss an inquiry from an interested buyer. It is also a good idea to select an email handle that doesn't give out any of your personal details.

Save your searches - Did you know that you can be notified when new items are listed under a specific search/category? Once you type in the specific item you are looking for, there is a clickable link to "Save Search". There is also a Searches tab that will allow you to manage your searches, and turn on/off your email notifications. This is especially helpful when there is something you are actively seeking out.

Expand your search area - Sometimes traveling a few extra miles just might bring up a whole new variety of items to select from. And the best part about Craigslist is that you have the ability to communicate with the seller and potentially negotiate a meeting place that is still within your desired driving range.

Negotiate - Speaking of negotiation, Craigslist is a wonderful place to test your negotiating skills. There is literally nothing to lose, and majority of communication takes place between texting or email, making it less awkward to ask for a bit of a deal. Did you know that you can see the number of days a specific item has been listed/active? At the top of the listing it will spill the time frame details and the longer something has been sitting, the more negotiation power you may have. And don't forget, a little kindness (and sweet talking) goes a long way.

Hutch purchased on Craigslist

Think outside the search box - This one is really important as so many items have multiple names, or are described in different ways. Do you call it a Sofa Table, a Console Table, a Narrow Table or a Narrow Desk? While searching for those Chippendale chairs, I searched frequently with a variety of terms. Some of the terms I knew weren't necessarily accurate, but I would try and think how others may try and describe that type/style of chair; Chippendale, Hollywood Regency, Lattice, Bamboo, Rattan... The more ways you search, the better your luck in finding just what you are after. You can also search for specific home/furniture store names that you love to shop at.

Be patient - Slow and steady wins the Craigslist race. It is like going into a thrift store, you most likely won't find the holy grail of end tables that very first time you step through the doors. You need to keep going back, day after day, week after week. Searching on Craigslist is the same story. Keep those searches active and check in frequently for updates.

Be OK with imperfections - A lot of the furniture I have purchased on Craigslist over the years has had some scuffs and dings. This may bother me if I were purchasing something new, but if I am snagging a bargain price then I have to be comfortable with the fact there will be some wear and tear. In fact, that is typically why you can find items so deeply discounted. And when it comes to raising three boys, I know that nothing will stay nice forever, so why not select furniture that already has a little character initiated?

Be safe - I know this goes without saying, but I am still always cautious and leery about any Craigslist transactions. I try to limit the amount of identification I give out; you never have to share your real name or your address. I also prefer to meet in central, public locations whenever possible, and I always bring someone with me. If something feels off, trust your gut. BE SAFE MY PEOPLE!

Pair of Chippendale chairs purchased on Craigslist


Set up a special email account for Craigslist - I find this especially useful because I both buy and sell with Craigslist, and depending on how often you utilize Craigslist, you may find it easier and nicer to keep all Craigslist communications, listings and searches defined within their own inbox. Especially if your primary inbox already receives high quantities of email, you definitely don't want to miss an inquiry from an interested buyer. It is also a good idea to select an email handle that doesn't give out any of your personal details.

Select the correct listing category - Although I tend to search for items by specific name/keyword/title, many people hop on Craigslist and filter through specific categories. So be mindful of what category matches closely to the item you about about to list, and read through all of the options to be sure you aren't missing out on some potential searches.

Use Keywords - Not only do you want to be as descriptive as possible in your item's listing title, but you can also add specific keywords to the body of the listing. I have noticed that many sellers will list home stores that have a similar aesthetic to the item they are selling, which I actually really love. For example, if I am searching for an "Anthropologie Chair", someone may have a vintage style chair that looks like a piece that could be sold at Anthropologie, so they would include "Anthropologie" in their body/keywords. This might create a few more pieces for me to filter through as a buyer, but it also might show me more items that will work for me and my space, and maybe even save me some extra money by "getting the look" for less.

White storage cabinet purchased on Craigslist

Decent photos - I know that appeal to Craigslist is that it is quick and easy and painless to buy and list. But I find that photos really change the game. You can still use your phone and it doesn't have to be complicated, but taking a few minutes to take proper photos may result in a much quicker sale. I tend to find that 3-5 images is ideal; I recommend at least one full product shot and then any specific details you want to highlight. It is also OK to include any imperfections that you want to warn buyers of, to prevent any awkward moments when you meet. Finally, try to clear the clutter around the item you are selling/photographing. I tend to find that taking a minute to place the item in front of a blank wall to single out and highlight the piece reduces any confusion about what is actually for sale.

Size it up - Always add the product dimensions to the listing whenever possible. Craigslist has a field that will prompt for those details, but they can also be added right into the listing body. It is always the very first thing I look for when I am looking to purchase something, as if it isn't the right size, it is not worth my time to pursue it. And if it is not listed, it is always the first thing I email and ask about. So please, take a minute to measure your piece and include the deets.

Overshare - This one is up for debate and may help appeal to those looking to score a "sweet deal". Sometimes I will share a specific product link or the original purchase price, so that purchasers can get the full product scoop and determine if the marked down price is worth it. If I find a pair of chairs listed for $200, but they are linked to chairs that were originally $800, I suddenly feel like I could win the chair lottery. It's OK to create a little excitement, and it may attract a little extra interest in your item.

Location, location, location - This one is really big for me, as I am located in a fairly small town and I don't have a huge Craigslist reach. I have come to terms that if I want something to sell quicker, I might have to list the item's location as being in the closest larger city. We tend to drive a few times/week to the bigger surrounding cities for entertainment, groceries, etc... so I am willing to meet and drop-off my items at those times. Being flexible and listing larger cities as the item location attracts more buyers and also protects my home location/address. Also, adding that you are willing to help with delivery (even for a small additional fee), may attract some additional interest, especially if you easily have the means to transport larger items.

Be ready to negotiate - Buyers will want to save a dollar or ten, everyone likes a good deal. So list your item knowing you will be offered less, and keep a bottom line in mind. I always start with a listing that is $5-$10 more than what I plan on selling the item for, and if I really want something to move quickly, I will add that I am willing to take a "Best Offer". If you don't want people to negotiate, you can add "Price is Firm" to your listing details.

Beware of scammers - I am surprised how often I receive texts or email inquiries asking me to take a payment for a larger amount and "pay a mover" that will come retrieve the appliance/furniture I am selling. Um, no. Just be aware that there are people that search Craigslist ads with intent to scam you, especially when you are selling larger or more expensive items. Again, use your best judgment and also again, BE SAFE.

OK, surely I missed something, but these are the key tips that come to mind and that I have been using with fairly good success. Decluttering can be much more fun when you know you might be able to pass your items along all while earning a little monetary reward as well. Of if you are trying to clear a space to prep for a makeover. I did keep these tips fairly furniture specific, as that is how I tend to utilize Craigslist the most, but many could be applied to other household items and even clothing/accessories.

What can you add? Are you a pro-seller? Or do you buy frequently? What is your absolute favorite Craigslist score? Mine still has to be my infamous aqua hutch.


  1. I sold almost everything I owned (furniture / books / household items) when I moved cross country. Your article should be printed and laminated and followed and I guarantee people would be able to sell their belongings in a timely manner. It's a gem! Wish I had it a few years ago. Fortunately I had time on my hand so I was able to sell before moving date.

  2. I would like to shout from the rooftops to tell people to list the dimensions! You are totally right, most of the time I'm emailing someone its for that reason alone. Oe, I may just skip the effort all together and pass on the piece. You can actually set it up where your only point of contact is thru the craigslist email server so it doesn't give out your personal information, however this may turn some people off because they want an immediate response. As a seller, I've switched to using apps Letgo and Offerup with 4x more success. They both have text options built in so you dont need to give out any personal info. Plus they offer a ratings and reporting system so you know that the person you are buying from isnt going to flake on you. The only problem with this is that some people dont click on your profile to see where you are at. We are also in a rural area so i price things low knowing that the real value is for the person buying the item. I am not going to drive 20-30 min to sell a $5 item, the person who is buying is getting the good deal and in my area they would have to drive the same for retail stores. Oh, and its worth saying to be polite and tell someone if you change your mind rather than to just stop responding. That person could be missing out on other offers. But thats another feature I like about the apps. You can report someone for not returning your texts and also if they are clearly spammers, or don't show up to meetups.

    1. I have downloaded a couple of the apps but wasn't sure how much success I would have given our location, I might have to give them a try again. Thanks Nicole!

  3. In addition to searching for multiple keywords, I also find it helpful to search for common misspellings. :)

  4. check with your local police departments. many offer safe zone for craigslist transactions. if not, ask if you can use their lobby, parking lot - unlikely someone will scam you while under surveillance cameras.

  5. I agree with the above comment (Christine) about meeting at a police department lobby or parking lot - most police departments let people do this nowadays. Another good place to meet is a bank or gas station parking lot - anywhere there's surveillance cameras.

    I do have a question for you: if you're interested in buying a big piece of furniture; say, your hutch - how do you meet someone in public to look at this piece? They're not going to haul the hutch in a truck to meet you somewhere, are they? I would think they'd keep this piece in their home and have buyers come look at it. Same for sellers...I don't even have a truck! I don't want strangers in my home either - so I guess that's why I don't sell on Craigslist! :-)

    1. Hi Melanie,

      It really depends on the seller and how motivated they are, and what risks you are personally willing to take. Never do something you don't feel comfortable with, so if the seller is not willing to meet, then never feel like you have to go to their home. You just may have to pass on that specific piece or look in alternative places.

      If you are looking to get rid of a larger piece, you may have to find a way to haul it to a thrift/consignment store, and could maybe meet a seller there first. If they don't show or pass, then you can still get rid of it while you are out with the large piece. There are truck rental options at many home improvement stores, or you may be able to borrow a vehicle from a family/friend. Another option may be to sell it to your friends and family via facebook, so you know you can trust your buyer.


  6. Jennifer, these are such great tips! I have yet to purchase anything off of Craigslist, but I have my eye on a Secretary Desk that has already dropped in price 2 times. Now I feel equipped! Thanks for sharing. Happy Sunday! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse


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