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The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass
Photo: Lexy Ward

Craigslist is one of the best resources for buying and selling used items. Unfortunately it can be overwhelming to sift through thousands of results when you're trying to find something special. Here are some tips to help you become a Craigslist pro! 

 

 

DRESSERS

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - Craigslist is an excellent spot for used designer goods. You can sometimes find the real thing or a knock off. Use key terms like "MCM" for "Midcentury Modern", or the name of the designer you are on the lookout for. The dresser above is a total steal at $400! And I have half a mind to make the drive right now to purchase it!  

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

PASS - The dresser above was found searching for the basic term "dresser". When you're not specific, Craigslist will yield hundreds of pages in the search results for you to weed through. This dresser comes in a set for $100. If you look closely, there is so much wear and tear (broken drawers, chipped wood, etc.) that it's not worth the purchase considering the amount of work you need to do to fix everything. 

 

COUCHES & SOFAS

When searching for furniture like a couch, you want to take into consideration the fact that it's used and for how long it was owned by the previous owner. For some, the thought of other people's germs that have collected in the fibers of the fabric over the years is too much. I tend to search for sofas and couches made from leather. Leather is easy to clean and wipe down and gives a little more piece of mind. However, there are exceptions if the couch is relatively new, or is a designer item that was used minimally! When searching for couches, enter search terms like "leather", "sectional", and/or "chaise". 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - The sofa above is a great deal at $200. It's got clean lines, is a neutral color (grey), and can double as a bed allowing it to serve a dual purpose. There is some minimal tearing on the seating cushion which the seller has disclosed in the item description along with a picture. Though the damage is minor, you could potentially negotiate the price with the seller.

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

PASS - Sometimes you just have to say "no". Yes, this couch is leather. Yes, some of the seats are motorized. But at $300, the damage to the leather just isn't worth it. 

 

BEDSIDE TABLES 

Be on the lookout for pairs or sets. A lot of sellers will strike a deal with you if you purchase more than one item from them. You can narrow the search by color, or if you're looking for a certain material, be sure to add that in the search bar. 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - These dressers are clean, affordable, and come in a matching set and at $35 for the pair, you can't beat it!

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

PASS - Some sellers use the words "vintage" or "antique" to make wear and tear seem more valuable in the items they're selling. This dresser has two colors of paint on it and at $65, you could find something brand new elsewhere. 

 

LIGHTING

When searching for lighting, I use store names or designer names. For example, I searched "West Elm Chandelier" and was able to find stylish and affordable items that were once sold at West Elm.

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - This chandelier is missing 2 shells but still looks complete. And also need a wire reattached (a simple fix). It's a steal at $25!

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - Globe pendants like the one above are selling for $125+ on sites like eBay. This seller is offering a great deal at $75. He uses it as a porch light, but it could easily be used in a dining or living room.

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - This CB2 floor lamp is a great deal for only $100. The owner mentioned that they're moving and needing to get rid of items quickly. Use that detail to your advantage and try to negotiate with the seller! 

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

PASS - Avoid bulk images that say things like "liquidation"! These are from larger stores instead of individual sellers. Many of their images are stock images and the item in question may not be available at their store. You also leave little room for negotiation when buying from a larger store rather than an individual owner. 

 

CHAIRS

Craigslist is perfect for searching for a plethora of chair occasions. Whether you're looking for dining chairs, or a one-off item to be a statement piece in your living room, you can usually find something spectacular. 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - Eames chairs have been beloved by many for years. While you may not be able to afford an original, there are many stores that sell replicas for $75-$225 depending on the style. The chair above is a replica and is a STEAL at $35!

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - These Vintage Barrel Chairs would be lovely in a sitting room. At $200/each, they're in fantastic condition and the seller even offers delivery for a fee. In this case, the seller has many items for sale and also offers services like painting. If you have an item already, but the DIY idea seems daunting, many Craigslist sellers offer services like this and you can contract out the work to one of them! 

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

PASS - You'll often come upon an item that has nothing to do with your search terms. In this case, I was looking for a midcentury style rocker, and this striped lounger came up. At $50, it could potentially be worth it to purchase and reupholster (the item has great lines!), but it wasn't exactly what I was looking for, so I'll pass. 

 

COFFEE TABLES

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - Industrial Modern coffee tables are trending right now and can be found upwards of $200. At $45, this option is definitely affordable. Because the seller is using a stock image, it's wise to text or email asking for images of the actual item. 

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

PASS - At $75, this old coffee table is a little unimpressive. I searched for "marble coffee table" and while this does have a marble look, it's still wood grain and doesn't suit my fancy. Sellers use search terms broadly, so be thorough when investigating an item!

 

RAW MATERIALS

You can find almost anything on Craigslist and that includes building materials. Rocks or dirt for landscaping, marble tiles, bricks, and wood pallets are just few of the items you can find from sellers! Some are even free as long as you pick up and remove from the seller's location! If you're upgrading your kitchen, redoing your floors, or need landscape rock, check Craigslist first! 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - Maybe you're not looking for a full piece of furniture, but rather an ACCESSORY for furniture. Giving something a new pair of legs can give it new life! These hairpin legs are just an example of the many building materials you can find on Craigslist!

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - Carrara marble from Italy is a popular item and is, many times, sold out at hardware stores. These tiles are direct from the seller and a 12x12" is only $5.99! 

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

PASS - You can find wood pallets for free in other places like yard sales or some hardware stores will just give them to you. No need to spend $35/pallet if it's unnecessary! You may be able to find wood pallets in the "free" section of your local Craigslist website!

 

HOME DECOR

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - Save a few dollars and purchase plants on Craigslist! Many sellers will provide steep discounts to their plants to push them out of their inventory. For example, Agave like this sells for $25-40 at a plant nursery!

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - Wall hangings are the "thing" right now, but can be pretty expensive depending on where you look. Some sellers on Craigslist are selling handmade items they made themselves, or they may not recognize the value in the item they're selling. 

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass

ACT FAST - Keep plants thriving in your home with a fun planter! This terrarium is a great deal and the seller offers multiple sizes. Strike up a bargain and walk away with more than one piece! Search "terrariums" instead of "planters" to get more unique results. 

 

WHEN TO PASS - Searching for home decor on Craigslist can be a bit tricky unless you have a specific item in mind. Always ask for additional pictures and dimensions from the seller so that you can plan where the item will go and if it will actually fit in your space. If items are broken, outdated or no longer working, damaged, or missing pieces, you may want to pass. These are things to take into consideration before you pull the trigger. 

 

TIPS TO REMEMBER

Search terms - You will yield better results by narrowing your search with specific terms. "MCM", "rustic", "shabby chic", and "replica" will help you find items more to your liking. Use descriptive words like "tufted" or "marble". Be as specific as you can and you'll avoid weeding through the hundreds, if not thousands, of results.

 

Compare to eBay - If you find something you love, but the price is a bit high, try searching for the same item on eBay. You'll get a sense of the value and if it's worth it to purchase on Craigslist or not. 

 

Negotiate - As stated earlier, many Craigslist sellers want to get rid of their items and will do so for the right buyer and the right price. When initially contacting the seller, ask for more detail and also if there is any wiggle room on the price. If you can pick up same day, or pay all cash, some sellers will take a little off the price!

 

Check other cities - Don't be afraid to travel a bit for a good deal!  We live in Tucson, but the Phoenix Craigslist has sooo much more to offer! Check out the listings in cities around you and work out the travel if you find an item that you can't live without! I've driven 2 hours for a pair of wingback chairs, and I've never regretted my decision.

 

Beware of scams - While Craigslist is filled with mostly honest sellers and buyers, be on the lookout for deals that seem "too good to be true". If an item is listed for a crazy low amount, or the wording seems a bit out of the ordinary, you could be buying from a scammer. Never give your credit card information unless they're a certified business. When picking up furniture, it's best to do so when accompanied by a friend. Meet in a neutral location if possible. Always play it safe! 

 

Look at the big picture - Maybe you don't like the color or the fabric an item comes in. Think about how you can inject new life into something! Those cheaper items can be worth it if a makeover is in store! 

 

The Art of Craigslist: When to Act Fast, and When to Pass
Photo: Lexy Ward

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Lynn on Aug 25, 2017:

This is great...but maybe I'm using Craigslist improperly. Whenever I search for furniture....all I get are thousands of listings from furniture dealers...furniture stores. If I wanted furniture from furniture stores, I would go there! It seems really like a waste of time. How do you search for furniture that real people are selling? I've sort of given up on it.


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