Tuesday, August 16, 2011

selling pieces on craigslist

I've gotten a BUNCH of questions about selling pieces of furniture on Craigslist lately, so I thought I'd do a whole post on it.  There are probably a million other tips & tricks, so feel free to share yours & I'll edit the post to add them!

I'm a huge fan of Craigslist.  I know some of you aren't, but the market here in Atlanta is thriving.  If something is listed for too-good of a price, you can bet it'll be a race to get there & claim it.  I had an old dresser once that I just wanted to get rid of, so I posted it at $40.  You would have thought I was selling a car for $40, the way people reacted.  I think it was sold, out the door, in under 30 minutes.  I must have gotten 25 (not exaggerating) inquiries about it in those short 30 minutes.

Here are my thoughts on Craigslist selling ~ successfully!

  • Start with a good piece ~ if you're going to take the time to aggressively market something, make it something that you're proud of.  I'm not saying you can't sell your 'misfits' (that's what we call them at my house, the pieces that I am just never happy with.  You know ~ like the island of misfit toys from rudolph the red-nosed reindeer?!)  But if you're trying to get top dollar for your work, start with the good stuff!
  • Take good photos and use all 4 available photo spaces.  Photos should be well-lit, in a nice setting.  Avoid at all costs photos taken in your garage or storage space.  Take the time to set up the piece, make it look as if you're using it ~ even if you're not.
  • Price your piece reasonably.  Call me crazy, but when I see a so-so bedroom set listed for $4,000 on CL, it makes me giggle.  Sure, there are people out there that might buy that.  But for the most part, people shop on CL because they want something unique, they want it today (or yesterday, in some cases :) ) and they want to pay less for it.  This is not to say people will only buy things that are 'cheap', but they're not going to pay top dollar for the most part.  {more about pricing & haggling below}
  • Write a thorough description of the item, including ALL dimensions.  Make sure to mention if a piece is solid wood, has dovetailed drawer construction, any maker that is marked on the piece, the age of the piece if it's relevant, etc.  This will save you the time of answering inquiries about those details.
  • Mention the hardware, if it bears mentioning.  Sometimes people will search for "iron pulls" or "federal style".  Make sure your post will pop up when they search!
  • Also include in your ad anything that the piece could function as.  For instance, if someone is looking for a buffet, they probably will just search for buffets.  But if you have a dresser that would make a great buffet, say that in your ad, and then your ad will pop up under buffets as well.  I'll say things like "This dresser would function beautifully as a buffet or sideboard in your dining room, as well as… "
  • Be ready to get back to people promptly.  If you don't answer quickly, most CL shoppers will find another piece & pursue it.  By the time you get back to someone hours or days later, your sale opportunity is lost.  I find that, for the most part, if a buyer inquires about something on a Saturday, he wants to buy it that Saturday.  NOT a few days later.
  • Be prepared to haggle.  For whatever reason, most CL shoppers expect to negotiate.  So even if you have your piece listed at a great price to begin with, if you won't budge on the price, you will lose potential buyers.  Silly, but true.  I always 'pad' my sale price so that I can haggle down to a price that I was comfortable with from the get-go.  The silver lining is that if the buyer doesn't haggle, you're getting more than you expected to get for the piece!
  • If you're not prepared to haggle at all, make that clear in your listing.  Write "price is firm" or "no negotiating on price".
  • I've never had an issue with people asking me to deliver things, but apparently some people have because lots of folks put 'no delivery' in their ads.  Something to consider.
  • NEVER meet a potential buyer alone.  Not in a public place, not in your driveway, especially never in your home.  Just don't do it.  Never.
  • Really, don't ever meet someone alone.  That needs repeating.  I have done sales when my husband is out of the house, but I ALWAYS have my neighbors, my parents or a friend come over.  Make it a dinner party ~ feed your friends, whatever you have to do… just so you're not alone.
  • Don't ever 'hold' a piece for a potential buyer on Craigslist.  I know this sounds unkind, but if you get another offer and they can come today (vs. an offer you had for the piece who can come tomorrow) take the offer today.  For all you know, the offer for tomorrow won't even show, and you will have lost that sale.  It took me a LONG time to get used to this!  But I am upfront with all potential buyers ~ I'm happy to share with them that they are welcome to plan to come in a few days, but if I get an offer between now & then, I'm going to take it.
  • Some people negotiate up front, which to me is easy.  The hard ones, in my opinion, are the ones that show up with a strong friend, in a big truck, and act like they're ready to take the piece… and THEN start to haggle.  I've even had people haggle AFTER the piece was in their truck!  I usually play my 'sweet self' in those situations.  I say "you know, we agreed on a price already.  I feel like you're trying to take advantage of my good nature now, and I really wish you wouldn't do that".  I've never had a time where this didn't shame them into giving me the agreed-upon price.  Seriously, people do dumb things sometimes.
  • Take the ad down immediately after the piece is SOLD.  NOT after you get an offer for the piece.  Some offers will never pan out, and CL doesn't like sellers re-listing all over the place.  But at the same time, when something leaves your driveway, take it off CL.  It makes people very upset when they take the time to write an offer, only to hear that the piece sold yesterday.  Not that this has happened to me a time or two, or anything :)  It is very easy to hit the 'delete' button, so save browsers the heartache of inquiring about a piece that is already gone.
Phew!  I think that is all I've got at the moment.  What have YOU got?!

I haven't got much in the way of furniture this week ~ my kiddos started school today (both happy & sad!) and there is tons going on, but I'll be back in the swing of things soon.

thanks!  have a great day!


  1. Thank you! I have never sold on Craig's List and am interested in doing that...Thank you SOOO much- xo Diana

  2. Great tips Kathie! I really wish Craigslist was more popular in our area. I check for furniture from time to time, but there are few choices and they are way over priced!

  3. I sell on CL all the time as well, though we have a much slower market on the Cape.

    Make sure you have an anonymous email for replying to inquiries and if necessary use a couple's name [I am single but will write "Ann and Bill" in the signature]. In my area it's necessary to write "cash only please" in one of the communications about money, lest they arrive with a check. Allow or encourage the folks to see other pieces you have if they ask - I've sold pieces I hadn't gotten good pictures of yet when someone came to pick up a different piece and caught sight of another. And one last thing I do though I'm not sure why - just to keep my own hometown CL fun and interesting I will occasionally offer a 'misfit' on the free list and scan through the replies for someone who sounds as if they are thrilled to get something pretty cool for a gift for a loved one or a child's room, rather than just a shrewd bargain hunter looking for a resale [like me!]. I've met so many nice people that way. Times are hard here and it's nice to feel like someone got something beautiful if slightly imperfect unexpectedly for free.

  4. those are great tips kat. we have a pretty high priced CL but 2 hours south you can find unbelievable prices! basically good to sell here good to buy there.

  5. I sell a lot on Craigslist here in Montreal Quebec but only in late Fall, Winter and early spring. Summer time is too busy with garage sales so people don't really seem to purchase as much. Most of my sales are from items that I have picked up from the curb and revamped. Your advice is great and I especially love how you deal with aggressive hagglers.