How to: Be Good at Craigslist

You guys. I don’t want to brag (especially because I know that the second I do, this will stop being true)(rhyme!!!), but I am pretty dang good at Craigslist.

In the last couple of weeks, I have bought and sold about six pieces of furniture, which will make moving easier (sayonara, mammoth china cabinet) and make our new apartment prettier (he-llo, gorgeous leaning bookshelves from Crate & Barrel). Here’s a quick round-up of my favorite success stories:

1. Bar cart from Crate & Barrel
Original price: It’s not on the site anymore, but given the price of similar ones they have listed, I would guess at least $125.
Price paid: $25

We picked this baby up from a chic apartment building in one of the most desirable areas of Brooklyn. (Was the guy we bought it from wealthy? Put it this way: He had a doorman who was exactly what you would get if you combined Arthur and Lucius and who when we said who we were there to see told us to “knock because of the baby.” You know you’ve made it when you have a doorman who knows your personal life despite living in a 15-story building.)

The guy was nice as can be and had two adorable 6-month-old twins. He was obviously just selling the rack because it was easier than throwing it out, and his lack of concern about money was our thrifty gain.

Lesson #1: Try searching by the names of brands you like. I wasn’t actively searching for a bar cart (even though we would need something like this eventually), but searching for “Crate and Barrel” brought me treasure.

2. Black bookshelves from IKEA
Original price: They’re about $90 each on IKEA currently, but I’m pretty sure they were on sale when my roommates and I bought two of them almost four years ago.
Sold for: $90 for both, including delivery.

I listed these at $40 each, but a woman offered me $70 for them both and I took it. (I am always willing to engage in a reasonable haggle.) When she came to pick them up, though, she only had a small car and they didn’t fit. I offered to drop them off at her house the next day, and she threw in an extra $20. Win-win.

Lesson #2: Craigslist is supposed to be like a community. So if you’re polite an neighborly, you might end up getting more money than you even planned to charge.

3. Leaning bookshelves from Crate & Barrel
Original price: $130 each
Price paid: I’m getting two for about $100 total.

I wanted to find two slim, ladder-style shelves like the ones at the link above, but I wanted white ones. Target had a version for $80 each, but I really wanted to thrift something and I was confident I could find a better price (and quality) with a little patience.

Then yesterday, I found two sellers that were each selling one white leaning shelf from C&B. I contacted them both and offered each $50 (they were asking for $75 and $100 respectively). Both agreed (one of them actually turned out to be a girl from work who is moving to California…small world), and we picked them up on Wednesday.

Lesson #3: Patience is a virtue. (Although Joey might argue that I’m not that patient. He has asked me to please not buy anymore furniture until after we officially move.)

4. Coral rug
Original price: It’s now listed for over $200, but I paid around $90 because it was on sale and I had a coupon.
Sold for: $60

I was honestly starting to think this rug would be my downfall in terms if my Craigslist success. I’ve been trying to sell it for a couple of months, but people are understandably skeptical of purchasing fabric-based goods on Craigslist. So even though we only really used it for about a month, it was hard to convey just how good of condition it was in on a (sometimes sketchy) website.

I lowered my price and renewed my listing last week without much hope it would sell.

And then — here’s where a choir of angels starts singing — I go an email from a woman who wanted to put it in her kid’s playroom. She haggled a bit, and honestly I was nervous she would turn into one of those Craigslist phantoms that says they want your stuff and then just vanishes into the night. But she didn’t. And she even emailed me for follow-up information because her aunt loved the rug and wanted to see more pictures. And she’s coming to get it on Sunday.


Lesson #4: Don’t be afraid to lower your price. The alternative is just donating the item for free, so any gain is still a gain.

Bonus Lesson #5: Take time with your ad. I always try to write them in a business-like-but-friendly voice. I want shoppers to know I’m legit — a real person who probably takes good care of her stuff.

In the same vein, don’t just post crappy photos you snapped in the dark with your phone camera. It’s just like selling an apartment on Craigslist; clean it up, use good lighting, style it a bit. I always try to include one atmosphere shot of the item in my home (another reason why taking photo tours of your home at its best is a good idea.

So those are the big transactions so far. All I have left to sell is our dining room table and chairs, so hopefully we can move those pretty quickly. Our move-in date is most likely going to be the last week of March, but I just need to get the old table unloaded before April 1st. Wish me luck!

What are come of your favorite Craigslist lessons and tricks?

7 thoughts on “How to: Be Good at Craigslist

  1. that is awesome!! Mama MB was always good at craigslist, I on the other hand, suck suck suck at it. I’m loving this new online yard sale page I’m a member of on the Facebook 🙂

  2. Hello!

    Okay, by the sounds of it, you live in NYC. I live here and I have to sell a LOT of my stuff, also. I know I can sell my furniture, but it’s the smaller items that are yard-sale worthy that I struggle with. I have a lot of pitchers, cutlery, plates, books, DVDs, you name it. We are severely downsizing. Do you have any tips for a yard-sale type thing in frickin’ Manhattan, Land of No Yards? Thanks 🙂


    • I hear ya — this Midewestern-bred girl misses garage sales in a big way.

      Depending on how much you’re selling (and how much work you want to put into it), I’ve seen people have a lot of success on Ebay or Etsy. You could also try to round up a few of your neighbors to do a building-sale, or enlist the help of a friend who has a house. (I’m fortunate in that I know a lot of people in Long Island who would let me jump on their garage sale.)

      If you don’t care about making any money, you could also list them in the “free” section of Craigslist. That’s how we are getting rid of all our moving boxes. Hope that helps!

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