Two years ago, my husband and I moved from a two-bedroom apartment to a four-bedroom house. Even four years post-college, we had only acquired a few pieces of furniture: a sofa, a dining room table, a mattress (but not a headboard!), four hand-me-down chairs, and an Ikea loveseat I’d had since college. Needless to say, we were ready to make some purchases! Furniture, however, is expensive, and we are nothing if not frugal. Very quickly, Craigslist loomed large in our calculations. Since then, I’ve made many purchases on The List. While overwhelming at first, the deals are simply too good to pass up for those looking to feather a newlywed nest on a budget. Today I’m sharing my best tips for searching and buying on Craigslist, and I’d love to hear yours in the comments!
Photo from Erin + Ben’s home
TIPS FOR SEARCHING:
Have a clear idea what you’re looking for. Unlike browsing the aisles at a flea market, simply scrolling around on Craigslist can get very overwhelming very quickly. If you have an infinite amount of time, feel free to simply search for “table,” but your search will be more efficient if you’ve already narrowed in on the look you’re going for and use those terms (“white tulip table” or “farmhouse table”).
If you want to go one level deeper, make sure you’re nosing all around exactly what you’re looking for. Search using a slew of similar terms, because you never know how a seller might describe the item you want!
Be patient. You will quickly get frustrated if you expect to log on and find exactly what you’re looking for after one night of searching. The gems are rare on Craigslist, and they go fast! If you’re looking for something specific, check back frequently over a few days or weeks, searching the same terms over and over (new things get added all the time!). And if you’re really serious, know that some people search for 1-2 hours per night!
Search pic view. Click the button to show thumbnail images next to each listing in a list of results. That way, you can skim quickly over options and avoid opening thirty tabs for obviously wrong items.
TIPS FOR BUYING:
Move fast. If you see something you like, don’t delay: reach out with an email ASAP! However, if you do happen to see something that catches your eye further back in the results, don’t hesitate to reach out – it could have already sold, but it’s just as likely you’ve spotted a diamond in the rough others scrolled right on by. One man’s trash and all that :)
Start simple. I think this is by far the tip that has been most helpful to me. When you find something you like, make your first email simple. Try to sound put together (good grammar!), friendly, ready and willing, and low maintenance. Most sellers just want the process to be easy! I’ll usually start by simply asking if the item is still available, and I’ll offer to come by that day with cash.
Ask questions and negotiate. If they respond that the item is available and I have follow up questions, I’ll ask them then. I try to be specific instead of just asking for “more information.” (Is it a non-smoking home? Exact dimensions? Is the color accurate?) This is also the point where you can negotiate. (“Would you take $85 instead of $100?) Do any negotiating before you show up – it’s just rude to agree on a price then show up with less cash in hand. The only exception would be if the item is in a significantly different condition than it appeared in photos when you see it in person.
Photo from Samantha + Kevin’s home
Take renovation costs into account. If you’re considering a piece that needs some work and the budget is a concern, factor in extra costs as you compare the total price to buying new. Maybe you’d want to lacquer that side chair, or reupholster (or simply clean) a sofa. Your time is also a cost – how long will it take you to strip, sand, and paint a side table? Do you already have a powder sander or will you have to buy one?
Think about how you’ll get it home. Don’t assume the seller will be able to help you move the piece into your car. Take the measurements into account, too! Even though we have a small SUV, we rented a Home Depot truck to bring home a large sideboard once. The truck rental cost about $50, but even adding that cost to the cost of the piece was less than we would have paid new.
Stay safe. Whenever I pick something up, I always make sure John is with me. I also specifically tell the seller my husband will be accompanying me in our email communication. And, I try to always go during daylight hours. All of the people I have worked with on Craigslist have been very sweet, but in this case, it is definitely better to be safe than sorry, friends!
Photo from Shalyn + Drew’s home
I’d love to hear: are you a Craigslist maven? Do you have any tips to add, or have any of these tips been helpful for you? What’s your best Craigslist find? Mine was definitely a beautiful solid wood Jenny Lind twin bed for $100!