How to Shop Craigslist Like a Pro

If you follow me on Facebook, you might have noticed that from time to time I post some of my favorite Craigslist finds.  When I’m on the hunt for something, I check Craigslist EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  Seriously.  It might sound extreme, but when you’re looking for a bargain or a hard-to-find item, persistence usually pays off.  Some of my favorite things in my home are from Craigslist, like all of the furniture in this room!  {Which didn’t come from the same seller and didn’t start out black.  You can see the Before HERE.}

 

 

Here are my tried-and-true tips for finding the best things on Craigslist, while avoiding scams and headaches.

 

Search By Owner

There are two categories of sellers: Owners and Dealers.  Unless you’re looking for something new or a good price on a closeout item, choose Owners.  Owners are everyday people looking to get rid of something they own and you’ll find that they typically have better pricing and more unique pieces.  Dealers, on the other hand, are businesses who are looking for new ways to attract customers.  At times, searching Dealers does pay off, though.  For example, if you’re looking for outdoor furniture toward the end of the season, searching Dealers might land you a good deal if a business is trying to move inventory before Fall!

 

Use Multiple Keyword Searches

Sure, you might know that piece of furniture is a Duncan Phyfe table, but not everyone does!  Start your search with specific keywords for what you want, but if you don’t find what you’re looking for, do the search again using more generic terms.  You have to think like a seller – what would they have put in their ad?  That’s what you need to search for!  So you might start with Duncan Phyfe table, then try pedestal table, vintage table, etc.  The results you get for each search depend on what the person listing the item put in their ad.  If they weren’t specific, the item won’t come up in your search result until you expand your keywords.  Sure, this process might take some time, but if you follow the next step, it’ll go a lot quicker.

 

Use Gallery View

Search results can be viewed in either List, Thumb, Gallery or Map view.  Ignore Thumb and Map because neither are useful.  Really, just focus on Gallery because it provides a large picture of the item that is for sale so that you can immediately skim the page to find what you want.   This will save you a ton of time clicking into ads that sound good and then turn out not to be at all what you want.

 

Sort Your Results

By default, Craigslist sorts your results based on items that are most relevant to your keyword searches.  This is typically helpful, since if you’re looking for a “bench” chances are you mean a piece of furniture, not a seat arrangement in an old car that’s for sale.  Once you’ve completed your searches and feel you’ve seen everything there is to see based on relevancy, the next time you do your search {which could be the next day}, try sorting based on Newest first.  If you’ve already seen everything that was posted in the last couple of weeks, there’s no need to look at the same ads all over again when instead, you could just look at what was posted since you last searched.  The caveat, of course, is that you have to do your searches within a day or two of looking at the relevant listing; otherwise, you’ll be too far behind in the listings and are likely to miss something.

 

Check Garage Sales/Estate Sales

Search the Garage Sale area of Craigslist for upcoming sales in your area by date and location, but don’t search by keyword.  Items for sale in the Garage sale section of Craigslist are very rarely also posted in the For Sale area, so these items won’t have come up in your other searches.  Typically, people holding garage or estate sales won’t list all of the items they’re selling, which means keyword searches aren’t useful.  These listings do usually have pictures, though, and that’s what you should focus on.  You can quickly scan the pictures in Gallery view to see if they’re selling the type of items you like.  If so, click the link and view more pictures to see if you can spot something you might want.

 

Search by Decorating Style

If you’re not looking for anything specific but want to see if there’s a good deal on something that fits your decorating style, search by style and see what comes up!  Sellers tend to include an item’s style in their description whether it’s French, Italian, Industrial, Modern, etc., so being open to find anything that fits your style can land you some good deals!

 

Choose Your Categories Carefully

Once you enter your search, you’ll need to refine your results to the categories that you’re interested in. For example, when I search “French” items from all categories come up in the results {like French door refrigerators and French press coffee makers}, but I’m more interested in furniture and antiques,  so I uncheck all other search categories and focus on just the categories that are relevant to me.

 

Expand Your Search Area

If you’re willing to drive a bit to get what you want, look at the Craigslist ads in other areas or cities!  Taking a vacation road trip? Check areas along your route – you’ll be passing through anyway!

Use Caution When Negotiating

People selling on Craigslist are not professional retailers; therefore, they are not accustomed to negotiating when it comes to pricing.  If you see something that is exactly what you want and the price is reasonable, buy it.  If the listing is new, chances are you aren’t the only one contacting the seller and if you start out offering a lower price, you might just put yourself out of the running!  Plus, sometimes Craigslist sellers get offended and won’t sell to you based on principle, even if you make a full-price offer later!  Best not to make the seller mad.  Of course, if you truly feel something is overpriced and you’re willing to lose it at its current price, make an offer!  This is especially true if a listing has become stale {usually a week or more old}.

 

Use Google Earth

If you’re picking up something big and need to rent a truck, or you live in an area where certain parts might not be safe to visit alone, check Google Earth to get a detailed look at where you’ll be going for pickup.  You might find that the streets are too narrow for a truck or the house sits atop a big hill!  Best to know exactly what the pickup situation will be before you head out.

 

 

Other sites that are really up-and-coming when it comes to shopping for used items include Nextdoor and Facebook sales groups based on the area you live.  The FB groups tend to be closed groups that you will need to ask to join, but type in your area into the Search bar and see what groups are available where you live!

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. – In case you’re wondering what keywords I use when I search Craigslist, it really depends on what I’m looking for, but my current list is as follows:

  • French
  • French Country
  • Wire Cabinet
  • Cabinet
  • Hutch
  • Bench
  • Settee
  • Linen
  • Restoration Hardware
  • Crystal
  • Cane Chair
  • Grandfather Clock {I’m really looking for a Mora clock but just in case the seller doesn’t know the term}
  • Ironstone
  • White soup tureen {in case they don’t know it’s Ironstone}
  • Coffee Table
  • Console Table
  • Sofa Table

And here are some of my finds:

 

 

 

Like it?  Be sure to PIN it!

 

 

3 comments on How to Shop Craigslist Like a Pro

  1. Marlene Stephenson
    May 23, 2017 at 3:23 PM (4 months ago)

    Thanks, good pointers. I do search from time to time and these will help.

    Reply
  2. Connie
    May 23, 2017 at 4:37 PM (4 months ago)

    Aren’t you concerned about bedbugs in furniture? It’s one thing if you know the seller, but if you don’t, it seems risky to me. How do you handle that? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Tidbits&Twine
      May 23, 2017 at 4:47 PM (4 months ago)

      Hi Connie – I almost exclusively {I can think of one exception} purchase hard surface items, not upholstered pieces, which makes bedbug contamination less of a risk. I also always make a judgement call when buying something based on not only the condition of the piece, but also the condition of the seller’s home. It’s always best to thoroughly examine anything you buy used, not only for bedbugs, but also evidence of rodents, mold, etc.

      Reply

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