Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tips for Buying on Craigslist

New to Craigslist? Don't Panic! Here Are Some Helpful Hints.

Shopping on Craigslist got you nervous? Confused? Overwhelmed?

Craigslist is an amazing service, but it can definitely be daunting at first.  You can save money, recycle old items, sell your creations, and all for free!  Sure, the interface is nothing fancy, but it doesn't need to be. It's a free service and you're not being bombarded with ads.  But you do need to know how to work it.  Here is a list of tips I've put together from my Craigslist buying experiences. It's a dynamic list that will certainly keep changing, so feel free to make suggestions based on your experiences, too!

Tips for Buying on Craigslist

  1. The first rule of Craigslist: don't forget about Craigslist! Before you go to the furniture store to pick out a new dining room set or sofa table (or really, anything else), check out Craigslist. You can save hundreds and hundreds of dollars on things that are perfectly good.  BTW, If it "grosses you out" to think about reusing someone else's stuff, than just stop reading now, this post isn't for you.
  2. Check out your surrounding areas, too, not just your region.  For example, if you live in New Haven, CT, look in the New Haven, Fairfield, and Eastern CT, even RI or MA sections, if you really want something and are willing to make the drive. But know what it takes to get there; I usually avoid searching in NYC because the GWB charges quite a toll!
  3. Check out the FREE section! Choose your region, look under "For Sale," and click "Free." Beware, you usually have to act fact here. There are a lot of people who stalk this section! If you want it, contact the seller immediately! And don't ask them to make special arrangements for you. And especially don't tell them you're coming and not show up! Remember, these are real people with real jobs and real families, too!
  4. There are a lot of dealers who post things on CL, too, and I'm never interested in them and it bugs me to see their ALL CAPS DESCRIPTIONS FILLING MY SCREEN. You can get rid of those listings by choosing "For Sale-By Owner" on the top left of your screen when you're in the correct section (e.g., furniture).
  5. When you find something you like and decide to contact the seller, be polite but concise. You don't need to tell them your whole life story, but a few personal details usually don't hurt. I know I scored a free sleeper sofa over other people one time because I mentioned my 3 young kids and their aunt who would soon be visiting and would appreciate a place to sleep instead of the air mattress!
  6. People who are on CL a lot can be really picky.  Maybe they only want phone calls, maybe they don't want any phone calls, maybe they want to text.  Whatever it is, just pay attention and contact them in the way they ask. Otherwise, they'll just ignore you.  My point is, there isn't necessarily one "right away" to communicate, just pay attention to the directions in each ad.
  7. Think of the possibilities! Don't like the color? You can paint it! Think creatively. My Craiglist Dining Table and Saved From the Dumpster Table didn't look like they do now when I first saw them for free on CL.
  8. You can always ask for more pictures if you need more info to decide. You'll probably need to provide the seller with your email address to do this.
  9. Don't be afraid to try to negotiate prices. Most people will expect this and have a "bottom line" already in their minds. Either make a reasonable offer or ask them their bottom line. It doesn't hurt to ask (but if you low-ball them you run the risk of losing it entirely. Believe me, I've been there.).
  10. If you're feeling nervous, try to talk to the seller on the phone. Often, by hearing their voice, you can get a sense of what they are like and feel better about meeting them in person. But if you get a weird vibe or something, you might want to abandon ship :)
  11. When it comes time to pick up your item:
  • Be safe: While I firmly believe most people are good, I'm constantly shocked by the evil in our world. So I'd recommend bringing someone along with you when you go to pick something up. 
  • Bring muscle: If you can't handle the item yourself, can you rope your husband, brother, neighbor, or friend into helping?  My husband has gotten much less willing to help over time (and I can't say I blame him). If you can't find anyone you know to help, consider hiring someone to pick up the item and deliver it to you (you can find them on CL, too)! And you may be able to negotiate their regular fee if they're having a slow day.
  • Ask the seller to meet you outside with the item (obviously this only works with smaller items).  Don't forget, in most cases they're going to be wary of you, too, so they probably don't even want you inside their house!
  • Have your cash ready.  Bring exact change. Don't make it an awkward situation by expecting people to make change for you. And don't try to negotiate more if you've already agreed on a price. That's just rude.
  • Last but not least, break out those Clorox wipes or laundry detergent, and give your new item a good washing!
And like I said, I will keep modifying this list as time goes on, but I'd love to hear your experiences, too: good or bad!  Give me your comments and help me prepare the Craigslist Newbies!

Some of my Craigslist projects:


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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing about Craigslist. I don't always remember to look there and never the free list! I appreciate all the tips you gave.


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