1. Make a decision. In other words, decide on one thing to shop for at a time. Craigslist can be very daunting to search through day after day if you don't have a focus. It is also very easy to get distracted by the other "great" deals if you aren't exactly sure what you are searching for. If you really need a couch you don't want to get sidetracked and end up with a coffee table while your family is watching tv from the floor. That being said, keep an open mind and try to envision things in new or unexpected ways. If you need a TV stand would a sideboard or dresser make a great alternative?
2. Do your research. Before looking at craigslist I always find a similar new item at my favorite stores and I also check out ebay. Right now I am on the hunt for an entertainment system for our living room so I have picked out some favorites at Pottery Barn, Ballards, the local furniture store, Ikea, etc. This gives me an idea of the style I want and the price of the piece new. It keeps me from spending too much on a used piece that may or may not need refurbishing. It gives me a point of reference and can also help with negotiations. For instance I recently bought a buffet from craigslist for $175. Prior to making this deal I had found that similar buffets new ranged from $600-$1500. Had the seller on craigslist wanted $500 for it I probably would have passed knowing that I could get a brand new one for only $100 more. This leads me to my next tip...
3. Set a limit; both for price and condition. Decide what is the most you are willing to pay for an item. Most craigslist sellers will negotiate so it is okay to look at any item that is out of your price range if you are willing to walk away if you can't get them to meet your price. If you don't do this I am telling you you will be sorry down the road especially if you pay way too much for the item. Every time you look at that dresser that you overpaid for that is all you will think about. It will take a long time before the piece looks beautiful if you feel guilty for the extra $100 you spent on it.
Do not buy anything that you are not sure that you can fix yourself or that you are not willing to have a professional repair. Once I convinced myself that a bookshelf had really great bones and that repairing the veneer and the sides of it would not be too hard. Yep, it ended up at the curb six months later when we sold our house. I had never gotten beyond putting the pieces in a box.
Make sure you consider the condition of the piece in your final offer. If you are going to have to paint or stain the piece before you can use it make sure that additional time and money is added into your figures.
When searching skip the ads that are labeled for sale by dealer. This is almost always the same new furniture that is easily found at your local furniture stores or on amazon. Every once and a while you'll come across a used furniture place in these ads but remember even though it is used they are still a middle man adding their overhead to the price.
|I found this on craigslist for $25! See that post here.|
If you have friends or relatives that are willing and able to help you on your treasure hunt you may want to search the craigslist in their town. I would only do this if you are comfortable negotiating on the phone from the pictures that the seller provides. You don't want to put your relative in an uncomfortable position of negotiating with your money.
5. Ask for more pictures. This is a great time saver. If the original pictures are unclear or don't give you enough angles ask for more. Most sellers will readily agree to this. You don't want to drive an hour to find that the molding on a piece is just too outrageous for your home. Also, if they don't give them, ask for the measurements. Ask a lot of questions. Not only are you getting more information about the item but it gives you a feel for the seller.
6. Google your seller. If you get the seller's first and last name it is always a good idea to google them and make sure they are not a serial killer. You can't always find them but often I can check out a facebook page or something else that puts me more at ease if I am going to their home.
7. DO NOT GO TO A SELLER'S HOME BY YOURSELF. We've all seen the warnings about this but I feel the need to reiterate it as I, myself, have been tempted when the person seemed really nice over the phone and my husband was too busy to go with me, but it just is not smart. If you do have to go it alone meet in a public place. I have met people in the Target parking lot or at the library or just any place where there are other people that could help you in an emergency.
|Less than a quart of paint and 2 new drawer pulls transformed this old brown wood dry bar into a great piece for entertaining. I just couldn't pass up the copper liner. All for $60 on craigslist.|
8. Negotiate. It is always a good idea to try and negotiate. A lot of seller's, myself included, set the price with some wiggle room for haggling. Also consider negotiating for things other than cash. Often I will pay the full price if the seller is willing to deliver the item especially if it is large and bulky. One time I paid full price for a dry bar but also got a wire flower planter (you can see that post here) that was sitting next to it in the seller's garage.
9. Don't feel bad for walking away. I know it sucks and you feel bad for wasting someone's time, but if the item isn't what you expected or it is too damaged or they won't come down to your price just thank them and say no thank you. Remember you will probably never ever see this person again. It doesn't do any good to waste your money and have to relist the item yourself or worse put it to the curb when you get home.
10. Enjoy the hunt. There is nothing better than finding that diamond in the rough, getting it at a great price, and making it into something you love so have fun searching.
~ Gold Shoe Girl ~