10 Tips for Finding What You Want on Craigslist

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Pay cash: It gives you more bargaining power if you can offer to pay for something in cash.
  10. 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