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5 Craigslist Tips

We aren’t moving into our new house for a few months but I’ve already been trolling Craigslist every evening looking for new furniture. Moving from 500 square feet to 1700 square feet is a big jump. There are a lot more rooms to furnish than before. I mean, we are going to actually have a dining room! I love Craigslist and when I’m looking for specific furniture nothing is more time and cost efficient for me than Craigslist. Most of the furniture from my house is from Craigslist and I definitely have my bag of tricks to get people to answer my emails. I swear I already wrote a post like this but I couldn’t find one in my archives so here are all my Craigslist tips and tricks in one place. (The pieces below are some I want for my new house, no one in the Bay Area is allowed to search for these the next few months, deal?)

Craigslist Search Tips

Tip #1. It Takes Time | The number one thing you can do to find amazing things on Craigslist is spend a lot of time looking. I know this sounds obvious but I used to wonder how people always found such amazing pieces for cheap and my friend explained how she spent 1-2 hours every evening looking on Craigslist. (And this was even before they had the picture feature when you had to click through and it took twice as long.) I really started having success when I adjusted my expectations for how long it was going to take. I go through phases but when I’m redecorating I will spend a few evenings a week searching and emailing.

Tip #2. Search Tricks | Everyone has their favorite search terms but depending on what I’m looking for I try to get very specific or very broad. For example if I am looking for a farm table (which I am) I will search specifically like: “french farm table” or “vintage pine table” after that I search with broad search terms like: “vintage table” or “old dining table.” Sometimes I’ll get really broad and just type in the word “vintage” and spend and hour looking. I’ve found some really great pieces that way. Another search trick I have is to use 1st Dibs. 1st Dibs is kind of like Craigslist for Rich People. Because I’m not a furniture expert it helps to go look at the amazing selection of sofas or dressers. When I find one I like that has a brand I’ve never heard of I do a search for that on Craigslist. For example I found that great dresser above by American of Martinsville, a brand I’d never heard of, and when I searched on Craigslist for “American of Martinsville” I found some beautiful dressers for 1/10 the price of 1st Dibs.

click through for the full story

Tip #3. Take a Screen Grab | Usually if I am searching for pieces I’ll open up an email window and then just put the different Craigslist links in the body of the email. Once I’ve spent some time “adding them to my cart” I go back to the email and look at each post to decide if I’m going to contact the seller. I take a screengrab of all the listings I’m going to pursue. This is especially helpful if sellers put their numbers in the ad. I’ve had a few incidents where either the ad expired or I lost the email address and I was able to contact the owner after the ad was removed from Craigslist.

Tip #4. Getting the Seller to Respond | There is a secret to this that works for me 95% of the time. My epiphany for working with sellers happened when I was trying to sell my own furniture on Craigslist several years ago. I realized that i just wanted the furniture out of my house as soon as possible. So when I was choosing between all the people who emailed there was one that said “I’m very interested, I have cash and can pick up the piece tonight.” I immediately emailed the guy who made me feel the most confident in his intent to buy. The key is to sound extremely interested and like you are ready to take it off their hands ASAP. If you have more questions or want to bargain don’t include that in the initial email. Once they respond to you and you are making plans to go see it you can kindly ask if it smells like smoke or if they have a pet or if they are willing to bargain a bit. I personally don’t bargain unless I get there and it has stains or something that wasn’t pictured.

Tip #5. Set up an RSS Feed for your Favorite Items | My friend Brooke taught me this trick a few years ago, you can have your favorite searches show up in your feed (like Google Reader RIP). The only problem is people use so many search terms that you still have to weed through a lot of stuff. I’ve found the trick is to get super specific. For example if you search for “Saarinen Table” it is going to be a waste of time, you aren’t going to want to search through all those spammy posts. But if you search “Vintage Authentic Saarinen Table Marble” then when the table of your dreams comes onto Craigslist you’ll be the first to know.

Ps: Emily Henderson did a really great post about this right here.

What are your favorite Craigslist tricks? I’d love to hear them!

  1. Ros

    July 31, 2013

    Tip #4 is particularly helpful. I’ve been having horrible luck on having people getting back to me. But I: 1) always try to bargain (eek), and 2) always have a question to ask (doh).

  2. bri

    July 31, 2013

    oh craigslist. we found the rocker for our nursery there, my last jeep (may she rest in peace), and so so many others. my husband is on there every day looking for a replacement jeep for me and we’re totally stalking it checking for a deal on my dream double stroller to push around once this second baby comes 🙂

  3. Jessica

    July 31, 2013

    This is awesome! I missed out on six old Louis dining chairs yesterday by just a few hours even though I’ve been searching for weeks. I had been using the search term “Louis chairs” and the sellers were just selling as “dining table and chairs-vintage”. It was a sad day when I got the response that they were already sold, but lesson learned. Some people have no idea what “Louis chairs” are.

  4. daisy

    July 31, 2013

    I love the tip about showing how interested you are in the item and can pay cash. Great idea!

    My tip comes from my brother who uses this when searching e-bay: he looks for his specific search term but misspelled…. that way if he’s looking for a “Saarinen”..he might search for Sarinen or Saarinan . He then catches listings others miss if they only look for The Proper Spelling of the item. 🙂

  5. Becky Loose From The Zoo

    July 31, 2013

    This post is WONDERFUL. I often find myself caught in the crossfire between tips 1 and 4 because I begin hunting too early and then have to pass up things that I can’t buy right away. But Craigslist is such a furniture goldmine.


  6. Sarah

    July 31, 2013

    I agree with putting in have cash can come asap! I have gotten many, many things this way. I got a vintage record console in perfect condition and in working order for $25 that way! It is now my favorite piece!


  7. Malori

    July 31, 2013

    I always search for misspellings of common brands and styles that I like. For example, I’ll search “Anthropolgy”. I also like to break it down to a super basic version of how someone might describe something. If I’m looking for a chesterfiled sofa I might just search “tufted couch”. I’ve had pretty great luck with both of those tricks!

  8. CT

    July 31, 2013

    I haven’t been craigslisting as much lately (basement is full!) but in the past, if it’s something I’ve been searching for and really want, I’ll offer ten dollars or so more in my initial email just to try and get my name on the top of the heap. Can’t hurt, right? Thanks for the tips and tricks though, I might have to go troll the old ‘list right now. Cheers – CT

  9. Jami

    July 31, 2013

    This is great! Do you ever get concerned about bed bugs? If so, do you treat your furniture before bringing it in? If you do, do you have tips of what you do to treat it?
    I work at a camp and we got them pretty bad a couple of years ago. We had to heat treat several times to get rid of them and several campers brought them home. It got very expensive for them and so now I’m freaked out to buy anything. So I was hoping you had suggestions so I can work through my fears! 🙂

  10. Brooke

    July 31, 2013

    Another tip that Christian has taught me is to always ask if they have anything else they are wanting to get rid of. Our first couch was a craiglist find and the guy threw in his awesome butcher block dining table for $10. The couch is long gone but that $10 table lives on.

  11. Mary M

    July 31, 2013

    I always search in either grid view or map view. Map view is my favorite especially if I can only travel so far to get the items. If it’s something I really, really want I don’t worry too much about the map view. I also love Emily Henderson’s tips as well. Happy thrifting!

  12. Lauren

    July 31, 2013

    I’ve been listing some furniture on Craigslist recently, and I can’t believe the some responses I’ve gotten. I’ll literally get emails that say things like: “i will come get. tell address.” Just using proper grammar and saying “hi” at the start of your email is enough to get you bumped to the top of my list. It’s also nice when people say things like “My husband and I can come get the table today” or “I am a student living in the next town over.” Saying even a little about yourself makes me less worried that the person is a serial killer!

  13. Lisa Taylor Whitley

    July 31, 2013

    Whenever I sell on Craigslist, I always give the first responders first dibs. I always thought this was the proper etiquette until one time when I was told by a seller that I could pick up a dresser only to find she sold it to someone else because they got to her house faster. I didn’t care for that too much so I try to keep my word when I’m dealing with Craigslist buyers. Unfortunately, there are those who say they want something and then don’t follow up but I just move to the next buyer in that case. Lastly, when the item I’m selling has been sold, I always respond with a message to every inquiry that the item has been sold and I remove the ad as soon as possible. Most people are very appreciative of being informed.

  14. maggie

    July 31, 2013

    Good tips! Sometimes I just don’t have enough patience to sift through Craigslist…there are some weird people on there! But these tips are great – good luck!

  15. kate, jetkat photo

    July 31, 2013

    i’ve been scouring craigslist for outdoor stuff. i’ve found some great things, but my husband vetoes

    any tips for that? 😉

    can’t wait to see your new place!

  16. Jen from insideways

    July 31, 2013

    I like to search for materials or finishes I particularly like for example “wicker | rattan”, “brass”, or “bentwood”. I always find super neat stuff that way!

    Also, definitely familiarize yourself with the Advanced Searching parameters on CList. Using ( ) , and | to combine search terms saves LOADS of time

  17. jen

    July 31, 2013

    i’ve bought and sold a load of stuff on craigslist and your tips are great. i’ve also used a craigslist app to immediately notify me when a posting comes up with my specific search criteria. i needed a lot of moving boxes for free and i was always too late in replying. the app worked immediately. craigslist does not have an official app but you can do a search.

  18. Sadie

    July 31, 2013

    I find nextdoor and freecycle also really useful for finds!

  19. giselle taminez

    July 31, 2013

    My 2 pieces of advice is #1. Be Patient #2. Search everyday

    All the furniture I’ve gotten for my home has come from Craigslist in the last couple of years and I’ve gotten amazing deals. I got a $1300 West Elm couch for $300, my dining room set for $200 and recently my baby girls Pottery Barn $500 for $0. It was being sold for $100 but when I went to pick it up, the seller was so happy to get rid of it that they gifted us the crib and included a new mattress.

    Part of the thrill is the money savings and the searching I actually find very fun. Friends and family are always surprised at what I find!

  20. jensen

    July 31, 2013

    These are all such great tips.

    I’ve had quite great luck finding things in decent condition on the street (I’m always so amazed by what the people in this city just leave on the street!), so I have no tried and true tips to add to the mix, but you definitely have me wanting to just troll craigslist for the rest of the day. Woo!

  21. Krista

    July 31, 2013 – we got nearly all of our nursery furniture and baby gear this way and not a single piece looks used. The key is being the first responder and with this tool it’s easy!

  22. christine

    July 31, 2013

    you can also set up email alerts. i just used

  23. Amanda

    July 31, 2013

    Great tips! I live in Fresno, where the selection is much smaller, so I usually spend 20 or so minutes in the morning looking at all the new postings. One thing that helps me tremendously is using “Craig Easy” which puts it all in a format that is easy to scroll through quickly. My best find was an entire mid-century American of Martinsville bedroom set in great shape for a song.

  24. Amanda Risius

    July 31, 2013

    Great ideas! It’s funny- I have been searching for apartment furniture/decor for the past 4 months and I don’t move in until a couple more weeks!

  25. Isadora

    July 31, 2013

    I downloaded a app called Craigslist Pro, it allows for easy searching, but also resolves the dilemma of how to view all your favorites. There’s a little button to add items to your favorites. So convenient! I’ve also found it a useful app when posting items to sell. You can take pics, write a description etc, all from your phone. If you’re on the hunt, it’s practical. You can look things up while waiting for your dentist appointment.

  26. Paulette Leto

    July 31, 2013

    Great tips! I think #4 about making yourself sound as interested as possible in order to get a response is the most useful tip for me. I’ve looked for things on Craigslist in the past, and getting people to respond can be tricky indeed. Since I’ve never been a “seller” on there, I hadn’t really thought about what would make them respond to certain people over others. That helps a lot, and I will definitely be referring back to this list next time I decide to give Craigslist another try!

  27. James Harrison

    July 31, 2013

    Nice tips!! I think like you there are many people who are always searching for such firnitures. And, your tips are fantastic & these are definitely help to us.

  28. Katy @ All Sorts of Pretty

    August 1, 2013

    Ah, once again, I’m so inspired! I get so frustrated with Craigslist, but I’m feeling more hopeful now that you say it takes lots and lots of time and attention to find the best deals. We’re looking to buy our first home and the down payment will make it necessary for me to search for good craigslist finds.

  29. emily

    August 1, 2013

    Always Bargain! I’ve gotten a couple of people to give me more than 50% off the asking price. On awesome pieces. It’s always, always worth asking. Just not in the first e-mail.

  30. jess

    August 1, 2013

    Ugh. I have to stop looking at craiglist because there is ALWAYS stuff I want and I have NO WAY TO MOVE IT. So frustrating, because you’re right – the person who can take it fastest wins. Why must you have such horrible gas mileage, trucks!?

  31. Amy

    August 1, 2013

    LOVE your blog! Have you ever looked into Great stuff at great discounts and a lot of it seems to come from the West coast…good luck in your new home!

  32. caitlin

    August 1, 2013

    Jordan – this isn’t much help on the Craigslist front, but about 2 years ago, when I was also on a mad search for a vintage farm table without 1st Dibs prices, we ended up having one made. It was exactly to our specifications for much less than the PotteryBarn-type alternative, although more than CL, I’m sure. We picked out the wood at Heritage Salvage in Petaluma and then they made and delivered it to order. Highly recommend!

  33. Romy

    August 1, 2013

    Hello! I just received an email of an estate sale you may be interested in tomorrow in Sunnyvale. Some mid century furniture. You can email me and I’ll forward you the email if you’d like. 🙂

  34. Bails

    August 1, 2013

    So, my family and myself have bought other things off of Craigslist (i.e. cars, motorcycles, campers), but I’ve never had a reason to look at furniture. This will be great to remember when moving from undergrad to grad school.

    And, side note, finding stuff from American of Martinsville made me laugh, mainly because it’s literally just up the road.

  35. carly tati

    August 5, 2013

    Craigslist can be the best! I found a really cool mid century modern desk on there, but you have to spend a lot of time looking. Happy hunting!

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