I wrote about this on my blog --
but Erin encouraged me to post this to all Curbly peeps -- so here is the detail on how I use Craigslist. Hope it's useful!
I found this overview on Craiglist at Curbly — and it’s absolutely a great article and completely true.
It got me to thinking about how I use Craigslist — and what other things I’d add to this list if I were the one who had originally written it.
Bring cash only. Even for big items. No one wants to deal with a check. Would you? Sometimes saying I have cash and am VERY interested has gotten me the deal over others who responded before I did.
Use listpic.com — look at EVERYTHING with pictures. I personally won’t look at anything that doesn’t have a picture attached (unless it’s something specific. I did go and get an entire set of Thread Magazines — for free mind you — without seeing a picture first). Listpic allows me to sort quickly through anything that might be interesting without having to open each item up in Craigslist — a huge timesaver.
The interesting things usually get posted around working hours -- not always, of course, but a lot of the time. So — think - early in the morning before work or late at night. Make sure to look first thing in the morning and, if you can, around lunchtime and again in the afternoon. I look at Craigslist at least 3 or 4 times a day.
Respond with email or call right away –even if you’re only SLIGHTLY interested. You can always say no — and the seller will go to the next person on the list. Don’t hem and haw.
Open a separate window with your email open and ready to compose. That way you can just highlight the email, slap it in the “to” box and write away. My formula is this:
Topic: Very Interested in xxx
Body of Text:
If still available?
That way you are quick, not giving too much information away and putting the ball into their court. Then check email frequently — because sellers want immediate gratification too. They think it’s cool if they post something and sell it within a few minutes or a couple of hours. It makes them feel good too.
Sometimes it’s good to focus your search as the article mentions — but I’ve also found that many people who post to Craigslist may not know exactly what they are doing and don’t categorize the items correctly or even logically.
Don’t assume it’s gone if you don’t hear back right away. Sometimes sellers are good about letting you know if an item is no longer available, sometimes they aren’t. I’ve written off some really awesome things because it took the seller two days or more to respond — and then been pleasantly surprised when they actually contact me. Dont’ assume anything. And it’s okay to send another inquiry email if you haven’t heard — restating your interest.
Always be polite and charming. Polite and charming always win out over pushy.
Come prepared to buy. This may sound simple and obvious — but make sure if you’re buying furniture that you bring a truck and blankets to wrap. Or if it’s something breakable that you can accomodate that. And the other article is spot on — bring someone with you — sellers don’t want to help carry heavy objects — they just want it out of their house.
Don’t underestimate seller’s desire to get rid of stuff. I’ve seen AMAZING things go up for sale for very little money. Pay attention when the add says they are moving. They have a deadline and are ready to negotiate. Sometimes the asking price just means — please get this out of my house. All is negotiable. But. If I really really want it — -I usually don’t negotiate — I just pay what they are asking (in cash). Then everyone wins.
And finally, reassure the sellers that their item is going to someone who will love it and take care of it. Show enthusiasm for what they are selling. I’ve gotten offers of more stuff that they’re going to sell in the future because they felt good selling to me. I also, if they are really nice, send a follow up email thanking them and letting them know how much I love the piece.
Craigslist is fun -- and I'm convinced that eventually, every item you want will show up. You just have to be on the lookout for it!