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Tips for Buying and Selling on Craigslist

This week I used Craigslist to sell both my old iPhone and my first generation iPad to gain me a nice $500 of extra money for things I was never ever ever going to use again. The best part is that I actually bought that old iPad on craigslist about 2 years ago for $400 (and then sold it for $200). I’m so surprised by the number of people who have never used this amazing online marketplace – so I thought I would break down a quick guide to buying and selling on craigslist like a pro.

What craigslist is best for:

Electronics: People are upgrading their devices and getting rid of old (but still great) one’s all the time. Buying and selling older generation apple products, cameras, speakers, etc is a great use for Craigslist.

Furniture: New Yorkers especially learn the value of CL since we move apartments so often. Whatever you are looking for, in NYC there is a really good chance you will find it. I sold every last piece of furniture from my last apartment (even a broken ikea dresser for $40) and was able to start all over with even better gently used West Elm furniture for my new place. I even was able to find all matching pieces from a few different people. Just make sure you have a friend with a van who can help you move (I had to hire someone since I hadn’t strength trained enough to carry solid wood furniture.)

Bikes/Kids stuff: These are also things that people are buying and selling frequently and it saves a ton buying them gently used.

Buying stuff:

1. Learn how to search & do it often:

People are posting hundreds of listings every day, so you need to have some dedication to your search if you want to save money. If you are looking for a birch wood end table from Pottery Barn, do a search for exactly that. If nothing comes up for a super specific search, try leaving out “birch wood” or “Pottery Barn” or go for just “end table” to see what comes up. You never know how people will decide to describe their item, so you may have to use several different search terms. Since people in your area could be posting what you’re looking for often, you may need to be checking a couple times a day.

Screen Shot 2013-04-25 at 6.02.31 PM

2. Search in your price range & negotiate

You can save time by searching in the price range that you want to spend, but if there aren’t many options coming up when you use this feature, scrap it and remember that you can always try and negotiate with sellers. Many will put O.B.O (or best offer) – and even if this is unsaid, many people will take a lower offer just to get whatever they are selling off their hands. Don’t offer something ridiculously low, but if you’ve seen it being sold by others on CL or used on eBay for less, you know you have some negotiating power. When you actually have the product you’re buying in your hands, if you see some wear and tear you can also always use that to help negotiate the price down.

2. Get all the info before leaving your house:

If they only posted one picture, don’t be afraid to request more (and make sure it’s of the actual item). If the dimensions aren’t included in the post, be sure to ask – it’s not always easy to judge size from a picture. If it is a larger item, make sure that the seller lives in an elevator building or can help you move it if needed. I had a terrible experience buying a bed frame in the city where the seller didn’t take it apart and it got destroyed when they tried to shove it in the elevator. (I still took it for half the price they were asking and then bought furniture markers to repair the scratches, but lesson learned).

3.  Be safe

* Have an email exchange with your seller so everything is documented, and meet in a public place for the transaction.

* If you are buying furniture from someones home, bring someone with you so you’re not in some strangers home with a creepy doll collection and a scary old dog alone.

* Be sure to test the product and make sure it works before you give them money and leave.

* If you meet the buyer and the product isn’t what you were expecting or is more damaged than you were led to believe, don’t feel bad about walking away, and always have exact change (since most sellers accept only cash and will not have change on hand).

Selling on Craigslist

1. Make sure you have a good title

This is what the search engine will use to find you. Make sure you keep it simple and specific – if you are selling a bike, don’t just say “Yellow Bike” – be sure to put details in the title like “Women’s Schwinn Miranda 26 inch Moutain Bike” so you attract the buyers that are looking for exactly what you are selling. Avoid saying things like “great deal” or “really nice” – you can add that in the description.

selling on craigslist

2. Writing your description

I personally always cheat on this one. I will google the product I am selling and find ready-made descriptions online, either from the manufacturers site or another site selling the item. This usually means the dimensions are already provided for me, but if you’re unable to find them online be sure to measure the item yourself and provide as many dimensions as possible. I also like to detail what the item originally retailed for – that way it always seems like they’re getting a great deal.

Be sure to cover the condition of the item and point out any noticeable wear and tear. Even though it should be obvious, I also always make sure to clarify that it is pick up only and cash only. If the price is negotiable, state that as well.

3. Figure out the price

You can easily do this by doing a search on CL for similar items to see what people are asking. You can then adjust your asking price based on if the condition of your item is better or worse. If no one is selling something similar, do a google or eBay search for your item to see what the going price is right now. You can’t consider the price you originally paid, because just like a car – once it’s used it loses a good chunk of its value. You can try setting it at a slightly higher price followed by “or best offer”, or if you just want to get rid of it, set it at a slightly lower price than everyone else to help generate more interest. You know what this thing is worth to you  – so decide the lowest offer you will accept so you can better negotiate with people who may try and low ball you.

4. Always include pictures

Be sure to take flattering pictures of whatever you are selling in a good light so buyers can see it clearly. Taking the picture against a solid background is always a good idea – no one needs to see all your dirty underwear on the floor in the background. Try to shoot as many angles as possible, and be sure to capture any visible wear and tear or defects so that buyers can’t use this as a reason to offer less money when they meet with you.

good craigslist photos

5. Be safe

I personally like to use the anonymous email feature so that my personal email is not made public. When you’re meeting with sellers, be sure to meet in a public place – if they are coming to your home, make sure that you’re not home alone.

What are you waiting for? Start taking advantage of the best local marketplace that you can access from the comfort of your living room couch.



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