How to Buy on Craigslist

how to buy on craigslist

I am the Craigslist QUEEN. Ask anyone. Well, ask my husband, my family and any of my friends. I. LOVE. Craigslist. The possibilities are quite literally endless. People get rid of all sorts of things everyday and you, my friends, can reap the benefits!

As new homeowners, Nate and I didn’t have a lot of furniture. After years of dorm and apartment living, we each owned only as much as we could fit in the back of a mini-van for the easy/quick moving that is popular with college/post-college 20-somethings. Our life’s possessions amounted to childhood furniture taken from our parent’s homes (to their great relief), a few cheap Ikea quick-fixes, hand-me-downs, and a few things leftover from our college days (think dorm room décor…). Not really fitting of a married couple with their own big grown-up house.

However, though we had just bought a big, grown-up house, we didn’t have a big, grown-up budget for furniture to fill it with. Thus, I turned to Craigslist. I have used CL in the past for selling items (separate post on selling to come) but haven’t ever had to buy permanent adult furniture before. I set out to scour the ads eagerly and came away with some great finds.

Erica’s Craigslist Finds:

First was this couch for our entry/living room. We got it from a guy on Alki for $275. It had never been used and was in perfect condition! He could have easily sold it for double that!

buying on craigslist

Next, we needed a big couch for our family room. We love to host and have people over for football games, movie nights, girls and guys nights, you name it, we love to do it! Thus the need for a big couch. In our tiny apartment we resorted using kitchen chairs and computer desk chairs to fit everyone in the living room. We didn’t want to do that anymore. We wanted to class it up. After looking through countless ads, I found this couch and got the guy to give it to us for $900 AND delivered it to our house! This is a full 13ft couch with all feather down cushions and a pull out bed inside. It had only been bought a few years previously, and new, cost the guy $4200. To go with the couch I also found this leather ottoman in Greenwood and got the lady to give it to us for $100. It had a few scuffs, but was the perfect fit for our new living room and giant couch.

buying on craigslist

We wanted to save money by canceling our gym memberships and decided to invest in a CL elliptical to save money and to add the convenience of being able to work out from home. I found this one for $500 that currently runs for $1300 – $1500 new!

buying on craigslist

My most recent purchase, and one of the ones I’m most proud of, is our new kitchen table and chairs. I got this beautiful farmhouse table, an extender leaf, and 8, count ’em, 8, kitchen chairs to go with it (2 chairs and leaf not pictured), all for $200. The table alone could have gone for about $800 or $900 and the chairs could have gone for $30 – $50 each. Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked about this purchase! It replaces our tiny hand-me-down 4 person rickety table and really adds an air of permanency and grown-upness to the space. I dig it!

buying on craigslist

I know that Craigslist can seem overwhelming with all the postings, prices and locations. But don’t get turned off! As you can see from my finds above, you really can furnish your home for half, or even less than half, the price by being a savvy Craigslist shopper! Here are some tips on how you too can get great deals and make successful CL transactions:

1.Check the free section!

buying on craigslist

The free section is highly underrated. A lot of people, particularly older people, just want their stuff gone, and don’t want to deal with the hassle of trying to sell it. Their loss is your gain! Scour the free ads and see if there is anything that looks interesting. Usually the listing will just say that the item is on the curb, so you can go and pick it up without having to coordinate with anyone. Added bonus? If you end up not liking it, you didn’t pay anything for it, and you can likely turn around and sell it on Craigslist to make a profit!

2. Set a price limit for yourself

buying on craigslist

If nothing is tickling your fancy in the free section, then it’s time to head on over to the “for sale” section. Never fear, you can still get a lot of great deals! The first thing to nail down how much you are willing to spend on a CL item. Even though these aren’t usually brand new items that your are buying, it is still good to have a budget to stick to so you don’t overspend.

3. Use different search term combinations to get better results

buying on craigslist

I can’t emphasize how huge this is. This technique alone is what usually ends up finding me the perfect piece that I end up buying. Sometimes it helps to go more general, sometimes it helps to use more specific search terms. For example, when looking for our new kitchen table I used all the following search terms: “kitchen table,” “dining table,” “farmhouse table,” “farm table,” “rustic table,” “6-person table,” “handmade table,” “reclaimed wood table,” “modern kitchen table,” “industrial table,” “pottery barn table,” and even more. I used each search term individually, went through the results, bookmarked ones that seemed like possibilities, then I would try the next search term. Rinse and repeat. It can be time-consuming, but worth it. New listings are posted every day, even every couple hours, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t find exactly what you are looking for in your first few searches!

4. Look for well-done pictures

buying on craigslist

Usually I won’t even look at a listing unless it says there is a picture attached. No picture, I usually skip it, unless the title is just too intriguing. If there is a picture, I check to see if it’s a least a decent picture. If the photo is just one pulled from the internet, I might have some reservations about the condition of the item that they have. Good postings will usually have more than one image, from different angles, and will usually honestly highlight any flaws that the item has. And of course, photos are great for telling if the item you are looking at is actually something that fits your style!

5. Assess potential for DIY updating

buying on craigslist

Craigslist isn’t Restoration Hardware or even Walmart, sadly. It is a place for people to sell old, less-than-perfect, and out-of-date items. While something might look cringe-worthy at first glance, don’t write it off just yet. Fabric and paint color can always be swapped out. Look at the bones of the item, the lines of the chair, the fullness of the cushions, that the drawers still open and close. If something has a great base, you can always update it and make it your own by using spray paint or new upholstery for a custom piece that fits your space exactly.

6. Check the description for proper grammar and important info

buying on craigslist

While Craigslist postings aren’t college essays, it’s still important to check for proper grammar and sensical postings. If the words don’t make sense or the English or grammar is poor, it could be a scammer, so steer clear! It’s also important to check the posting for important information such as the condition and size measurements of the pieces. When we were looking for our new family room couch, a crucial thing we had to stay aware of was the dimensions of our room and the size of couch that would fit in the space. Most good listings will have the dimensions, but if they don’t, you are more than welcome to send off an email asking them for the specifications! The last thing you want is to spend money and time hauling it to your house only to find it doesn’t fit!

7. Haggle

buying on craigslist

Like street markets in many countries, prices on Craigslist are not absolute. Don’t lowball the seller, but feel free to offer an alternative price that is fair, but gives you a deal. I usually throw out a price that is about $50 – $150 less than what they are asking, depending on the item. When a seller says “OBO” that means “or best offer” – these kinds of listings are great because it means the sellers are more motivated to sell and will take the best offer that they can get. A few sellers are firm on their listed price, but you’ll find that most are willing to cut the prices a bit!

8. Be aware of item location and ask about delivery

buying on craigslist

It’s really easy to get sucked into the Craigslist postings and get really excited about different pieces. However, keep an eye on the location on the listing! It’s definitely a downer to find the perfect desk only to realize that it’s sitting 75 miles away. You can set your preferences on CL to just look in a certain area, but I usually leave it at “all of the greater Seattle/King County/Snohomish County area” to maximize my finds. I also usually ask about delivery. We don’t have a truck, so trying to get our 13ft couch or elliptical to our house wasn’t possible for us. Asking if the seller can deliver never hurts, and luckily it worked out for both our couch and our elliptical. Usually I offer to compensate them for delivering it by adding $30-$50 bucks to our agreed-upon base price, depending on how far they have to go or how big the item is.

9. Have a spouse/friend/family member come with you to pick up the item

buying on craigslist

(Couldn’t resist the cute animal picture…)

Even if the posting and pictures are top-notch, you never really know who you are going to run into on Craigslist. Absolutely ALWAYS bring someone you trust with you when going to look at/pick up a piece. Most people on CL are really nice and just like you and me, but you don’t know for sure until you show up at their door. Let someone know where you are going and when. Having someone with you provides a safety net should things ever turn south. If you aren’t able to bring someone with you or even if you can, suggesting a public place to meet the seller (assuming the item is small and can be transported easily) will help keep you safe as well.

10. Bring Cash

buy on craigslist

Always bring cash to pay for your CL find. Sellers won’t take personal checks or credit cards. Some will take cashier’s checks, but absolutely ask them if that’s okay before heading to the bank. Have the money in an envelope and hand it over once you have decided that you will actually take the item in question.

All of these tips and tricks have been honed and perfected as I’ve used Craigslist to furnish our home. It can be a fun process is very rewarding when you realize just how much money you’ve saved by being Craigslist savvy! You don’t have to have a big budget to make a big impact when it comes to interior design for your home.

What are some of your best Craigslist finds? I’d love to see them! Any tips or tricks to add to the list?

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