Secrets to Shopping Craigslist

By Vanessa Brunner | Houzz.com

I've been searching for a midcentury credenza for weeks on Craigslist. For anyone who's looked for something specific on the black hole that is Craigslist's furniture listings, you know how frustrated I feel. Every good item is snatched up in a second, and I'm stuck mining through the leftovers.

It turns out there's a technique to digging through this virtual pile. The next time you're looking for some affordable or vintage household goods, save yourself the headache and try a few of the tricks described here. Some are self-explanatory, but it's always good to have a refresher. If you're persistent, you'll be able to find the treasure you've been hunting for.

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Photo by Jenn Hannotte / Russet and Empire InteriorsPhoto by Jenn Hannotte / Russet and Empire InteriorsSearching
• Unless you want to spend years filtering through search results, check off that little box at the top of the search bar to view only listings with photos.
• Search "by owner" rather than "by dealer." Avoid anything with tons of asterisks, smiley faces or hearts in the title, or anything with weird phrasing or grammar in the copy - most likely, it's spam coming from a bot.
• Check the listings multiple times a day: parked in your car waiting for someone, when you're bored at work or while you're sitting in front of the TV. The good items go quickly, so you're going to have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. Be persistent and don't give up.
• Set the maximum price range at $100 over your target budget. A lot of people are willing to come down on price if it's been up for a while, so it's worth perusing objects that are a little more expensive.

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Photo by Emily A. ClarkPhoto by Emily A. Clark
• Search for terms in the home page search bar before going into furniture or collectible pages. This is particularly handy if you're just browsing for a particular style rather than a specific object. Going into the individual pages may mean you'll miss out on some things - there are plenty of great items that people have listed in the "Garden," "General" and "Free" sections.
• Don't necessarily dismiss items because of bad photos - it doesn't mean the item isn't awesome.
• Try several different words to find what your looking for. Many people use different descriptions. Your dream sideboard could also be a credenza or a buffet.
• Try several variations of the words you're searching with. Include and exclude spaces, dashes and other punctuation marks. For example: "midcentury," "mid-century" and "mid century."


Photo by South Social & Home / Dean FisherPhoto by South Social & Home / Dean Fisher
Advanced Search Tips
• Use quotation marks to search for a phrase: "yellow pitcher"
• To specify words you'd like to exclude, use a minus sign: "plywood Eames -era" finds postings that include "plywood" and "Eames," but not "era."
• When you enter more than one word in the Craigslist search bar, it automatically searches for posts with all of those words. To specify a listing that includes one or more of your search terms, use the pipe character: "midcentury | Eames" will search all posts that contain "midcentury," "Eames," or both.

Photo by Nicole LanteriPhoto by Nicole Lanteri
Contacting the Seller
• If you see an item you're interested in, email the seller immediately to try and snag it. If there's a phone number listed, call instead.
• When you email or call the seller, tell them that you can come right away (or that evening) with cash in hand. Most sellers want to get rid of the item quickly, and mentioning that you'll pay in cash could seal the deal. Make sure you have your own way to pick it up - often, that can help you negotiate cost.
• Always negotiate. Most people are willing to knock off a few bucks here and there to get something off their hands. Always be extra polite in your negotiations - most of the time people will accept your lower price.

Photo by Domicile Interior DesignPhoto by Domicile Interior Design
Buying

• Always see an item in person before buying. There's no return policy on Craigslist. Once you pay for it, you're stuck with it.
• Never use a wire transfer or escrow service to pay. It goes without saying, but don't pay until you have your furniture in hand.
• Never feel pressured to buy something you're not sure about, even if you trekked out to see it. If you don't like it, simply thank the seller and leave.
• Be cautious - it's always better to be safe than sorry, particularly with Internet transactions. Meet the person in a public place and/or take a friend with you. Always have your cell phone on hand and never give out your home address.

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