Two things can happen when you shop for your home on Craigslist.
You can get lucky and find a great piece for a good price or it can be a huge waste of time and money.
I've been through both experiences and I'm here to help guide you on your hunt.
Even designing just one room in your home can get pricey, so when you're able to save money on stylish secondhand items with sites like Craigslist, it really helps.
When it comes to shopping for home decor and furniture on Craigslist a lot of people think what I used to - that it's full of someone else's old, dirty junk. But, I learned that isn't necessarily true.
You can find some great stuff for your home in various price ranges and styles that people have taken good care of. Sometimes the items are in near perfect condition.
You can also find postings where people are selling new items they didn't like or that didn't work in their space.
Think of Craigslist when:
These are the opportunities you want to keep an eye out for. Below I share my best tips for finding them on the website.
1. HAVE GOOD SEARCH SKILLS
The first thing you want to learn is how to search Craiglist. Unlike most sites you're used to, Craigslist is not optimized to help you find what you need. It leaves it up to sellers to assign keywords to their listings and categorize them on the site.
Some sellers post really helpful, descriptive titles and listings and others just give the basics (or wrong information). This can make finding what you want difficult and time-consuming, so it's important to know how to search the site well. Here are a few tips:
Know your keywords.
Brainstorm several different keywords for your search and try variations of those keywords. For example, the search for "armchair" and "arm chair" will give you different results. Consider the brand(s) you're looking for to help narrow your search. So, instead of searching for side table, try searching CB2 side table. If you don't find anything move on to Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel, etc.
Use the sidebar to narrow your search.
The idea is to cast a wide net, while still setting parameters so you don’t have to sift through unrelated posts. For example, say you want a new chair for your living room. You’re not quite sure what you want, but you’d prefer something with arms. You’re thinking gray and you’d definitely like a modern style. For the reasons I mentioned above, if you search “modern gray arm chair” you might get a couple of listings if you’re lucky.
Instead, you need to brainstorm multiple keywords for each descriptive term. So, for this you might search any of the following: club chair, living room chair, lounge chair, accent chair, modern chair, arm chair, armchair.
Since your net is wider with these terms, you’ll want to narrow your results as much as possible. You do this by using the sidebar.
First, select only the categories that are relevant to what your search. In this instance it would be furniture. Second, select owner, otherwise you'll see ads from furniture stores. Third, select the other options that apply. I always has image and adjust my price range.
Tip: Add 20% to your budget so you have the opportunity to negotiate and still land within your budget.
If you’re on the hunt, but aren't necessarily in a rush to buy, search a couple of keywords every day. If you search regularly you can select posted today from the sidebar. Then, instead of sifting through hundreds of postings, you’ll have 5-20 and it’ll only take a couple of minutes.
Download an App.
If you use Craigslist often, you might find it useful to download an app on your phone. There are several to choose from and while I don't use one (yet!), CPlus gets great reviews.
The app allows you to search and post on Craigslist just as you would on the actual site, but it includes some extra benefits.
It offers notifications for new listings with a keyword, a way to save listings for later and the ability to add notes to those saved listings, which comes in handy when you’re comparing different items.
This works great if you’re searching for something really specific, like an Eames piece or an Egg Chair knockoff.
Use what's free for the taking.
There's an entire section of Craigslist dedicated to stuff people are giving away for free. This can be a great resource for budget renovations. I did a quick search in NYC and found a pizza oven, firewood, bricks, subway tile and paint just on the first page.
2. REACH OUT
Send the right message.
Let’s say you’ve found several listings you’re interested in. You’re excited because there’s one in particular that's amazing, and it’s at a great price. With a good find like that, chances are someone else is eyeing it too. If you want to be the one to lock it down, make sure to reach out to the seller in a way that will get a positive response.
Reach out like you're very interested. Be thorough, but not pushy or annoying. If both the phone number and email are listed for the seller, reach out both ways to have all bases covered.
Say you’re interested in the item and tell them when you’re available to come take a look (or ask when the're available). Don’t agree to a price or try to negotiate on the price just yet — leave that for the face-to-face meeting.
It goes without saying, always be polite and courteous. Even though you're communicating with a stranger, they're a human being and treating them with respect can go a long way. I've even had sellers who were willing to hold a piece for me or abandon my first-come-first-serve policy because of our online exchange.
Ask the right questions.
Make sure you reach the full posting and don't ask questions they've already answered. A few things you may want to ask in terms of furniture and decor are:
If you've been communicating through email, make sure to get their phone number in case you get lost. You can also let them know when you're 10-20 minutes away so they know exactly when to expect you. Bring the exact amount you need in cash. Credit cards, checks and getting change are not acceptable.
As is the case anytime you're meeting a stranger, bring someone with you or have someone who knows where you're going check in on you. I've never had a bad experience with a Craigslist seller, but you should always be safe.
You may feel uncomfortable or vulnerable starting a negotiation, but worst case scenario you end up paying the already discounted full-price.
If you're there ready and willing to take their piece away in exchange for cash, and you offer 10-15% less, chances are you will be able to make a deal. If it's a hot item and you know there are other people interested, you can still try to negotiate, but it's more of a risk. If the item has been listed for over 2 weeks you have a great chance of getting the price down. Hey, it never hurts to ask!
Don’t be afraid to walk away.
This one is important. If the item isn’t what you were expecting, you have zero obligation to buy it. I’ve made the mistake of buying items I knew wouldn’t work, just because I felt guilty about the trouble the seller had to go through or how long I had to travel to get there. So maybe you end up wasting an hour or two, but that’s better than wasting your money and bringing home unwanted items you'll have to deal with later! The seller may be disappointed, but that's all part of buying and selling on Craigslist.
There you have it! Did you like these tips and strategies for buying on Craigslist? Do you have any of your own to share? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading and being here.
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