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How To: Buy on Craigslist

By Our Lake Life on Jan 08, 2013

Craigslist is like the world's online garage sale. It’s a treasure hunt and it’s where we go more often than not to find awesome affordable secondhand furniture. Usually the pieces need a little love, which is why the owner is willing to part with them at a discount. But other times people are just making way for new stuff and earning a little cash in the process.


Over the years we’ve bought a number of great pieces that would have easily cost us tons more like the bar cabinet my father-in-law repaired or the nightstand and the cane chairs that are in the middle of their makeover. We also have sold tons more stuff that we were ready to let go to a new home.


But even with all the great deals that are available on Craigslist, the site can be a little intimidating for first-time users. Especially when given some of the scary news stories that have circulated around involving Craigslist.

My friend just recently used Craigslist to sell her coffee table and called me with a number of questions before finally pushing the publish button on her ad. Here’s my advice all rolled in a nice little post to help you navigate the great world of Craigslist.

 1. Know what you want and keep and eye out.
Craigslist is like your neighborhood garage sale all in one convenient little online place but that doesn’t mean what you want will be there when you want it to be. It’s kind of like a treasure hunt, if I’m looking for something specific  I’ll check everyday and keep on looking till I find it. The good stuff at reasonable prices can go really fast, so if you think you really want something don’t hesitate, contact the seller as soon as you can and make arrangements to go see it.

2. Look past the ugly.
Yes, that’s right, people are notorious for posting awful dark pictures on Craigslist. But dark photos can be your friend, a lot of people will simply pass them right by because they’re ugly. Try to look through the awful photos and you just might find a treasure. Depending upon your level of expertise and how much your willing to work to make something nice is a key factor when browsing on craigslist. Are you willing to reupholster something want to try your hand at it. That cheap chair may turn out to be a jewel with a little love.

3. Be friendly.
So you found your diamond in the rough, or at least you think so. It’s time to contact the seller. Be friendly when you contact the person, introduce yourself and let them know why your calling and which add your referring to. Often times people have multiple listings if they’re cleaning at their garage so it’s always good to let them know which item you’re asking about. I’ve sold tons of things on Craigslist and if you’re creeping me out on the phone or are just plain weird chances are I won’t feel comfortable giving you my address. So be nice, courteous and above all don’t be weird.

Phone-Call image via

4. Follow directions.
One of the drawbacks of Craigslist gaining popularity is the increase in the number of spammers. Be a little more specific in your response. If your responding by email include your name and phone. Let them know when you can come take a look.

Oftentimes a sale is made or broken depending upon the time you’re available to come pick it up. If there’s a phone number in the listing use it. It usually puts my mind at ease to speak to someone instead of just emailing back and forth. I always feel more comfortable going to a strangers home after I’ve talked to them.

5. Ask questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask. How big is it? What color is it? What material is it made of? Depending upon the item and description there are a number of questions you could ask. I also like to ask How heavy is it and how many people do you need to carry it out. A lot of time the seller is unable or unwilling to help you bring it to the car.


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6. Make the sale and bring cash.
You’ve got all the details, and you’ve spoken to the seller. It’s now time to set up the transaction. Cash is king on craigslist. Bring cash in small bills, you can’t count on the seller having change for you. Once I’m there I usually like to ask the seller if their willing to take a few dollars off. If you’re their with cash in hand they may take you up on it. If not no big deal, it’s all a part of Craigslisting.

7. Be safe.
Finally, my last tip of the day is be safe. I always like to ask  Bryan to come with me, even if it’s a small item that I could easily carry out by myself. If your willing to by yourself then always let someone know where you’re going, the address and phone number of the person you contacted. Most of the people are genuinely nice folks. I have yet to run into someone that made me run for the hills but it’s always nice to let someone know where you’re going. In general it’s a good rule to live by.

So that’s it, there are my tips for shopping on Craigslist. Anyone have any good experiences on Craigslist? Any bad? Did you score something awesome. I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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