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Pro Tips: The 7 Secrets of Craigslist Success
Master the ins and outs of the community-based online marketplace to purchase—or purge—great household goods.
Whether you’re seeking unique decor that won’t break the bank or hoping to unload a few pieces for profit, look no further than Craigslist. For 20 years, it’s been hooking people up with a huge range of items (as well as jobs, housing, and forums), and while the service has gone global it still maintains its cool, local focus. Just ask Dallas-based design maven Brynne Delerson—who titled her idea-packed blog The Gathered Home in honor of her scores on the site. Such as? “I acquired a gorgeous dining set for $100 that the seller thought was ruined due to white water marks on the tabletop,” she says. “I removed the marks pretty easily and resold the set for $750 within just a few days.” Here, Delerson reveals her secrets for finding great deals on the site as well as getting top dollar for your castoffs.
No matter what home goods you’re hunting, the odds are that they’ll turn up on the online marketplace sooner or later. And as the actual transaction often happens offline, buyers get plenty of opportunity to see, touch, and even try out items they’re considering before committing. To get to that homestretch, keep in mind these three tips for sorting through listings:
1. Be smart with searches. Craigslist is simple to use—just type your search terms into the search bar and scroll through the results. But the keywords you choose are crucial, Delerson explains. If you search “couch,” for instance, the results won’t include listings for “sofa.” To cover your bases, she suggests this game plan: “Think of all the possible ways a particular item could be described, and conduct searches for each keyword.” Then, decide how you wish to view the listings: as a list of links, as thumbnail images, as results on a map, or—her personal preference—as a gallery with large photos.
2. Follow all leads. “For truly amazing prices, check listings with super basic titles like ‘Old Dresser,’ as opposed to ‘Midcentury Modern Lowboy,’” Delerson suggests. “It may take extra time, but that’s how you find hidden treasures.”
Budget-conscious shoppers may want to stick to the “by owner” category; “by dealer” listings are often more expensive. What about dickering for a better deal? “If a price is listed as OBO [or best offer] or mentions an ‘asking price,’ that’s an indication that the seller is open to bargaining,” Delerson says. “If not, it never hurts to ask. Just be polite, inquiring if there is any leeway in the price.”
3. Ask away. Caveat emptor, indeed! “Never make assumptions about Craigslist postings,” Delerson says. “Things that look great in photos might not be so pristine in person, and sellers aren’t always completely forthcoming.” All the more reason to get your detailed, informed questions in order.
- With wood furniture, for example, have the seller clarify if the item is solid wood or wood veneer, if the drawers are dovetailed (an indication of high-quality construction), or if there are any deep scratches.
- With upholstered pieces, ask about tears, stains, and even odors—if that feels insulting, inquire if the piece comes from a pet-free or nonsmoking home.
“You might also ask about age or manufacturer, although sellers might not have that information, especially with vintage pieces,” Delerson says.
Sharp Selling Strategies
For Delerson and many other thrifters, there’s also plenty to love about selling goods on Craigslist. Unlike eBay and other e-tail sites, it’s free to use—there’s no listing fee, the organization doesn’t take a percentage of the sale price, and transactions are typically conducted with cash. The crux of her advice to sellers? In order to get your money’s worth while weeding out the spam, you must be thorough.
4. Write it right. “Targeted keywords, effective titles, and well-written descriptions are key to successful Craigslist postings,” Delerson says. “Put your most important keyword in your title, since some buyers search by title only. Then in your description, be clear and focus on getting the facts out there: measurements, materials, and condition of the piece.” Before you list, do a little research; browse listings for similar items to see what wording is most attractive.
5. Photograph everything. “Clear the area of distractions, and take many clear, well-lit photos,” Delerson says. Capture the item from a few different angles, and shoot close-ups to show important details. If it’s a dresser, for instance, shoot the insides of drawers and zoom in on the handles. Also, never try to disguise damages—in fact, make a point of putting them in your posting. You don’t want to deal with a slew of disappointed would-be buyers.
6. Strategize your posts. “A lot of people schedule Craigslist visits and pickups during the evening after work and on weekends, so posting towards the middle of the week gives potential buyers a chance to spot your item and make plans,” Delerson says. “You can renew your posting every 48 hours, which bumps it back up to the top of search results. But avoid multiple postings or frequently deleting and reposting your listing—that will annoy buyers and possibly get your post flagged.” And don’t worry about aiming too high with your listing price: “If you don’t receive interest right away, you can incrementally lower the price over time.”
7. Skip spammers. “Ask interested responders to include a phone number or inform buyers that you will ignore generic replies like, ‘Is your item still available?’” Delerson says. These parameters will help weed out the spammers. “Also, while you should be wary of any replies that ask for your ‘real’ email address, Craigslist now has an option to make your email address completely anonymous, so you needn’t be as concerned about accidentally replying to spam.”