The 5 secrets to my awesome Craigslist-fu

Guest post by Hvizzle004
I got lucky on Craigslist button buy it from Etsy seller bohemianapothecarium
I got lucky on Craigslist button buy it from Etsy seller bohemianapothecarium

I have found so many deals before on Craigslist. My future husband and I have bought downhill skis, our big-ass TV, and furniture off the site, and paid WAY less than we would at any store. I find the best deals on Craigslist. Because of Craigslist’s bad/weird reputation, my friends are always curious and a bit amazed at how I find these things.

So I am going to let you in on some of the secrets to my Craigslist-Fu…

1. Research, compare, and learn

Educate yourself about the costs of an item you are looking for, and see what price other Craigslist sellers are offering for the item. When looking for downhill skis, I looked at what skis cost in stores and what prices different sellers were offering for skis of varying ages.

Then ask yourself these questions:

  • What price are you comfortable with spending?
  • What does the average quality look like for that price?
  • How far are you willing to drive, and do you have the means to pick it up?

Doing all of this research will help you be more confident in recognizing a really good deal when you see one.

2. Keep at it

I don’t get the great deals by buying the first listing I see. I keep looking down the list, and try to find the lowest price item for the highest quality. Sometimes I look at pages of listings for days until I find what I am looking for, in the quality and price I find acceptable. I am an indecisive person, so I will spend what seems like forever to another person just weighing my options. My partner says the same thing that makes my Google-Fu (being able to search something online quickly) so horrible, makes my Craigslist-Fu (Getting awesome deals) so great.

I will keep coming back to the site each day if I am looking for something specific, and I will often email a few people about their items if I find more than one. When looking for a rug, my partner got frustrated that weeks went by and we still had nothing on our floor. I didn’t want to settle for something that I found cheap but ugly. Finally, a guy that was moving out of the country listed his gorgeous rug that he had bought less than a year ago, and it was one of the best purchases we ever scored.

3. They can’t all be winners

Remember that because you are not buying from a store, that neither parties are held under any requirement to follow through. No one is signing a contract here, and the customer is not always right. There are going to be lemons, and there are going to be no-shows. I have been on both sides of this situation, and have learned not to take any of it personally.

Most times the seller has multiple people asking about the same thing, so it is possible that someone can buy it before you can. It is possible to research the item, and then get disinterested in it when you go to pick it up (the best part about this is that you don’t NEED to buy it or take it with you, because no contracts).

Also, you will be sorely disappointed if you are looking for something super specific. Keeping a general idea of what you want in your mind will ensure a wider range of items to choose from. Think “red futon” and not “IKEA brand, wine-colored futon, item #0000.”

4. Be safe

This is perhaps the most important guideline that I keep, because there is a reason some people do not trust Craigslist. Shopping smart means that you are not giving anyone more information than what is necessary to get in contact with you. Try to always pay/accept money in cash, and don’t give people your credit card information.

As I said previously, there is no obligation to go through with a sale. One time when looking at apartments, I was supposed to meet up with the person showing me the place at the front entrance of the building. When I opened the door, the awful look and smell of the place caused me to go straight back out the door without even waiting for this person. Never force yourself into a situation where you don’t feel safe. There is no shame in this.

5. Be friendly

Acting paranoid by refusing to even give a first name or basic contact info will only make you look suspicious, and make you harder to work with as a buyer or seller. I know that not everyone is an extrovert, but you will be surprised how much people want to work with you when you act like you want to work with them.

Letting people know what you’re using their items for will sometimes help, too. For example, I found that when I told people I was buying all their Medieval-themed stuff for my Medieval-themed wedding, people were often more intrigued and willing to help. Sellers may feel honored to have their old things be part of something special, and sometimes give you an extra discount if they really share your interests.

Good luck to anyone taking the thrifting route when shopping, and may your Craigslist-Fu serve you well!

Comments on The 5 secrets to my awesome Craigslist-fu

  1. Craigslist is so great (and it can be fun!). You’re right that patience is often the key to finding a great deal. An item that’s been listed for a long time might come down in price, or a better deal might come up than what you saw available the first time you looked. A really exceptional deal or product will get snapped up immediately, but a just-okay deal might sit around for a while and get cheaper.

    Also remember that haggling is allowed on Craigslist! I almost always bargain the seller down once I get there and see the item (within a reasonable price range, of course). Don’t feel bad about trying to get a little discount and don’t feel bad about walking away if you can’t get the price you need.

    Because I usually expect buyers to haggle when I’m selling something, I price a little higher than what I need to get. I’m always surprised at how few of my buyers are perfectly happy to pay that full price and don’t try to negotiate down a bit.

    Young House Love had a really great post once on their Craigslist tips, particularly around safety: http://www.younghouselove.com/2012/11/this-is-how-we-craigslist/

    • I would just like to follow up on that from a seller’s perspective. I rarely purchase things on Craigslist, but I sell stuff all the time (we seem to be forever clearing things out of our tiny apartment!)

      I prefer it SO much when the buyer haggles with me via email or phone BEFORE coming to the place to meet me. When you come to the place to meet me, I expect that you are already okay with the deal we’ve worked out—place and time to meet, and price to pay. (I mean, if I was showing up with something hugely damaged or different than what I’d pictured or something like that, I wouldn’t be surprised, but I’m very honest about what faults and flaws the object has specifically to avoid this.)

      The reason for this is that if I post something (we’ll say a Scentsy, not that this is based on real life experience or anything 😉 ) and ask a specific price for it (we’ll say $25), and I have two people email me asking if I will take $20 for it, and one person email me saying “I love it, I’ll take it!”, then obviously I’m going to put that last person above the other two. Then I make arrangements to meet them, go out of my way to find a meeting place and time…and they show up to the meeting place and say “Oh, by the way, will you take $15?” Now I’m either out 30 minutes of my time or out an extra $5, and I could’ve avoided all of that by knowing that that person wanted to haggle in the first place.

      • Yes! Haggling! I didn’t mention it because I am so bad at haggling and feel so guilty asking for less. I still do haggle, but I like the comfort of haggling over e-mail instead of face-to-face, as you said.

    • I didn’t know haggling was part of Craigslist until I posted something and got tons of people asking me if I would take less for it. I’ve never haggled with someone when I bought something.

  2. One word: RSS streams! I use feedly to save Craigslist searches, and then I get to see when there are new results. I’ve bought lots of things–up to and including both my cars–that way. To give you an idea of organization, my feed will look like something like:
    folder: Cragislist cars
    honda civic manual ’06 or later….3 new results
    folder: Craigslist household
    red gabbah carpet…0 new results

    In terms of haggling, I usually ask for about 20% off and that almost always works (except for cars, obviously–that involves a lot more pricing research, and the haggling happens over a long timeline, sometimes 2-4 weeks). I ask for a bit more off if a posting has been up for a long time.

  3. Argh, but how do you deal with the paages and paages of stores trying to sell shit, or people being like “ALL THE THINGS FOR $1!!!” just so you click it and their things are out of your already selected price range!

    I just can’t deal with it most days, sifting through what’s actual stuff being sold by actual people and what’s just stores putting their ads out. Or maybe St. Louis’s Craiglist just sucks 😛

    Edit: Holy shit you can sort that stuff out! Why had I never seen the filters before? Agh yesssss

    • If you sort by “Price range: $2 – [whatever your max is]” it filters out all of the annoying “ONLY $1!!!!!!” ads!

  4. As a hobby, I like to go through Craigslist ads occasionally for things I assume I’ll need in the future but don’t need now, like chicken coops and apartments. That way when I do need to move to get chickens, I’ll already have an idea of how much I should expect to spend and whether or not apartments in X neighborhood even become available.

  5. I think considering the reason why people are selling is something (less important than what you meantioned, but still) to consider. My partner got a fantastic deal on a table saw. The seller was retiring to FL, and couldn’t move with all of his tools. Just to get rid of more stuff and make his move easier, the seller threw in a bunch of other tools for free on top of the already great bargain!

  6. i just learned today, from this, that there is a way to see thumbnail pictures on Craigslist.
    you have no idea how happy this makes me (and i don’t know why i didn’t know this before.)

  7. When buying vehicles off of Craig’s list have the Kelly Blue Book website open in another window, use the info in the ad to fill in KBB and compare the selling price to what KBB says its worth. You’ll have a strong bargaining point, and you’ll be able to sort through the crap. I did this 3 years ago when I bought my 20 year old truck and I paid what KBB said it was worth and it still runs great.

  8. This is so weird that this posted today. I’m moving across the country and selling all my stuff on craigslist. For the most part it’s been good but I sold something 3 weeks ago and now the buyer is calling me leaving angry voicemails that it doesn’t work and demanding their money back. I have no idea what they did with it for those 3 weeks so I’m not going to take it back but I feel really uneasy about it and am afraid they might show up at my house :/

    • Oh no! I’m sorry you have to go through this! As more of a buyer than a seller, all I can say is that we are not all bad. I hope your future experiences are much better.

  9. I notice someone else mentioned RSS feeds, and I have a similar way of tracking Craigslist if I’m looking for a specific item. There’s a website called IFTTT (If This, Then That) which allows you to create “recipes” for lots of different websites, but so far I only use it for Craigslist. You basically just conduct a search of Craigslist for exactly what you’re looking for, say, “apartment,” for $600 to $800 a month, and then you can set the “recipe” to send you an email or text whenever anything pops up meeting those parameters! Now I don’t have to stalk page after page of the site when I am looking for one exact thing!

  10. Oh I am SUCH a big fan of craigslist! To the point where I browse it randomly even when I don’t have anything specific in mind that I want, it’s amazing the deals you find. It’s like garage sale-ing right from your desk 🙂 There’s always something I’d like to upgrade or get for my daughter (just got a like-new powerwheels jeep for $40 with the battery & charger! score!). If there’s something I’m interested in, I always ask the seller if they would “consider taking $___ for it?” to get a lower price, and more often than not they accept or sometimes counter but I still get a lower price than it was listed for. It doesn’t hurt to ask nicely, but as someone already said, make sure you do before you arrange the pickup.

    For sellers I’d add one tip: re-post your ad fairly regularly if it doesn’t sell right away. There are always so many postings that they get buried & lost really quickly. Unless someone is specifically looking for what you’re selling and does a search (another thing I do quite often to easily compare and see what’s being sold), your ad won’t be seen by most users after a few days. Wait a week & re-post, it can be exactly the same ad or you can reduce the price a bit for more incentive. You’d be surprised at how many responses you can get the 2nd or 3rd time around when the first time you may have gotten zilch. Sometimes it just depends on who happens to be looking at the time.

  11. I’m still excited about my platform bed I scored for $80! I’ve seen similar styles for more than $1000 at furniture stores. I’ve had it for over 2 years now and it’s still like new 🙂
    Craigslist is my usual first stop when furniture shopping.

  12. I would also add… USE GOOGLE VOICE or a Skype number or whatever. I’ve bought (and sold) almost everything I own on CL, and it works perfectly 90%-ish of the time. However, there are crazies (like in any group of people). When they get pissed off about something and start texting crazy stuff or saying they’ll post my number all over… no problem, new number!

    And please, PLEASE have integrity when you’re posting or buying. Don’t abuse keywords and put stuff like “mission style sofabed” as a spammy keyword phrase under a listing that’s for a steel kenmore blender. Don’t show up 3 hours late and expect the seller to still sell it. Communicate if you’ll be late or early. Ask for help if you’re lost. Say what’s wrong with the item if you’re getting rid of it. Bring a driver’s license and insurance card if you’re planning to test drive/ride a vehicle that isn’t yours. Bring enough money to pay the price you’ve agreed to. And please, PLEASE call out others who don’t. So many times, Craigslist is a great community of people, but if we let the scammers keep going, they’ll keep going!

  13. Craigslist is a great place to look for services for hire! When we needed our garden tilled last year, it was easy to find a half dozen different people to bid on our space to be tilled. Same when we needed some tree debris/brush hauled off our property, stat.

    A word of caution for sellers/job hunters:

    Be smart and careful about job postings and selling items that have a higher (several hundred to thousand dollars). It’s a VERY common scam to get a check that’s larger than your asking price, and then be asked to money gram the overpayment/fees required back. Or, alternatively, they send you a “cashier’s check” and request you send the goods right away. Or hey, let’s pay someone $2000 to do data entry/put Mountain Dew stickers on their car/etc, and the check is bogus.

    When in doubt, be cautious! Take the check and any accompanying paperwork to your bank and ask to speak to a supervisor or manager with your concerns. Or, go/call the issuing back to inquire on the check; most bank customer service numbers (once you get to a human) are happy to help if you ask for the fraud department because you’re concerned about the legitimacy of a check.

    Sadly, I see people bring these into work all the time (and I can spot them instantly about 99% of the time, but I’ve been doing this for over 8 years); and I’ve seen people come in who are the victims. Play if safe folks!

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