I'm in the midst of redecorating. On my list: a rug or two, a couch, a credenza and more. I've definitely been turning to Craigslist to find what I need. Here's some tricks I've learned about weeding out the good from the bad and finding great bargains.
- Have an idea of what you want — but be open to surprises: Sometimes the best bargains come through serendipity. Often I've opened up a listing for a couch only to find the exact coffee table I was looking for. Be willing to be flexible in what you want.
- Do your research: Knowing how much similar items are selling for enables you to bypass the listings that are overpriced and pounce on the ones that are bargains.
- Think generally rather than specifically in your search: If you're looking for a sofa, do a search for couch as well. Better to search for sofa rather than mid-century sofa; few sellers are well versed in decor periods.
- Set a schedule and read the listings every day: When I'm on a serious hunt for something, I check the listings every morning (when sellers usually list) at the same time and scroll through beginning from where I stopped the prior day. This way, I'm sure to catch everything that's new.
- Read the listing carefully: Check that the measurements, style, and condition are acceptable to you before you contact the seller. If it's not what you're looking, for don't waste your (or the seller's) time.
- Save the bargaining for when you see the piece: Often, if you offer a lower price in your initial contact e-mail, the seller will ignore you (Save this tactic for items that you recognize as having been up for a while.) But I have found that many sellers are willing to bargain when they meet you in person.
- Search outside your area: I've found the best bargains outside of my immediate area. A little extra energy to go further afield will often yield the best bargains.
- Be safe and let people know where you're going: CraigsList sellers have not been vetted so use your judgement when heading to a strange neighborhood. It's good to bring a friend with you for safety's sake and you might need them to help you carry anything particularly heavy.
- Pay cash: It gives you more bargaining power if you can offer to pay for something in cash.
- Practice common courtesy: Show up when you say you will and don't waste a seller's time looking at items unless you're serious about buying them.
For tips on selling your stuff on Craigslist, see How To: Optimize a Craigslist Listing
Image: Flickr user Global X licensed by Creative Commons