Using Craigslist for Home Improvement and Decor

Internet? Is that thing still around?

– Homer Simpson

I recently read an excellent post on Young House Love about buying and selling on Craigslist.  There are a lot of posts on the topic, but the YHL edition is the most complete Craigslist primer I’ve seen, addressing a whole range of crazymaking issues associated with the site.  And I loooove their tips on messages to sellers!  When selling, I will jump a dozen early responders to favor a would-be buyer with some basic manners.

I’m a bit of a cheapskate Craigshound my own self.  It’s great for tools — our table saw and router were Craig-based — and materials.

This cabinet top started as century-old joists found on CL for $20. Victory!

We’ve also found furniture, including an end table, a couch, and a fantastic rocking chair project piece that is waiting its turn in the basement.  We’ve sold or given away doors, electronics, sod rolls (that’s turf, Brits!), and an Oldsmobile.

Based on our experiences as Craig-ers, I have just a few more items to add to YHL’s excellent primer.

1.  Learn to Love Misspellings

The YHL post suggests that buyers search for different terms that might be used to describe the desired item.  In addition, some generalized browsing can show some common misspellings that you can use to search (and for amusement).  Examples:

  • “Rod iron” for “wrought iron”
  • “Chester drawers” for “chest of drawers”
  • “Armor” (and, once, “amour”) for “armoire”

If you are selling an item that seems to be prone to misspellings, you might want to include the misspelled version in your listing.  People sometimes list “keywords” at the end of a Craig’s list post, which would be a good place both for different terms to describe the item and for misspellings.

2.  Categories = Suggestions

When I am hunting for a specific item, I tend to focus on the category that makes the most sense.  I cleverly look in “Furniture” for furniture, for instance.  But sometimes, expanding your search categories can be helpful. If you are looking for a specific piece of furniture, check Furniture, but also check Antiques.  Some things in Antiques are surprisingly affordable (and sometimes not really antiques!).  Garden items are often in Farm+Garden, but frequently show up in General or Household.

3.  Be Flexible But Firm

Most Craigslist posters are casual sellers with day jobs and other demands on their time.  Whenever I email about an item, I include at least one phone number to reach me at, and I say that I’d like to see the item at a convenient time for them.  What is good for them might not be a supremely convenient time for you, but if you can reasonably make it work, it’s worth making it easy on the seller.

On the selling side, we have a “no holds” rule.  When we gave away a pallet of high quality turf rolls, several people asked us to hold it for them, but we politely refused to do so.  We’ve had a bunch of no-shows, and it’s unfair to expect a seller to potentially turn down another buyer.  Having said that, we do otherwise strive to make the sale as easy as possible for the buyer.  We want whatever it is gone!

4.  Appreciate a Good Story

Other than killer deals, my favorite thing about Craigslist is the potential for meeting interesting people in unusual locations.  Craigslist as conversation fodder — who knew?!

Happy Craigslisting!

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