Tips for Scoring a Great Deal on Craigslist

Vintage 1960's sofa listed for $450: Deal or no deal?
Craigslist Table and Chairs for $475?  Is it a deal or a dud?
A Table and 4 Chairs for $475: Is it a deal or something to pass up?

If you’ve been reading A Beautiful Abode for any period of time, you KNOW how much I love Craigslist!  My old Craigslist Monday posts are still some of the most popular ones on the blog.  Craigslist is hands down my absolute favorite place to find amazing deals on the furniture I need or want for our home.

Which is why I’m always amazed when people tell me they’re “nervous” about buying off Craigslist.  I mean, I can understand being wary about going to a stranger’s home, but this isn’t “stranger danger” kind of anxiety.  No, the worry I’m talking about is the kind that I see/hear after I tell someone about my latest great deal.

Like this weekend.  I was telling my cousin about the great sofa we bought for $150 and she gave me a look like… well… incredulous seems the best way to describe it.  I thought maybe she was grossed out because I bought a used sofa, but after talking a little bit, I realized the issue.

She didn’t feel confident that she knew how to spot a good bargain!

Which made me realize maybe she’s not the only one who feels that way.

So today, we’re talking Craigslist… all the tips you need to make your own Craigslist score.  Once you get started, I promise you, you’ll be addicted to finding awesome, way-less-than-retail deals.

Tip #1:  Know the Market

I believe being able to spot a great deal is an art and as with any art form, the only way to get good at it is to train your eye.  This means you need to spend time browsing catalogs and online retail sites for the types of items you want to buy in order to develop a sense of the general retail value of an item.  Once you know the going rate, so to speak, it’s easier to understand if the price a seller is asking is a good price.

 

Vintage 1960's sofa listed for $450
Vintage 1960's sofa listed for $450: Deal or no deal?

 

 

Tip #2:  Know Your Style

This tip is closely aligned to tip #1 and, to be honest, it was a toss-up between which one should have top priority.  I think you learn your style the same way you learn the retail value of an item–by browsing and developing your eye.  Knowing your style–really developing an eye for pieces that are “you” versus pieces that are trendy or popular for whatever reason–will help you purchase only those things you really love and that keeps you from wasting money on things that you’ll never use.

It’ll also help a lot with tip #3.

Trust me on this… I completely learned this lesson the hard way… purchasing several items because I had the money and the price seemed right… only to end up listing them on craigslist again because once they were in my home, I didn’t really like them and they didn’t really fit.

Tip #3:  Envision What Could Be

If you’ve developed a healthy sense of your style, it makes it easier to spot the diamond in the rough.  When you’re shopping Craigslist, it pays to not just see what’s in front of you, but also what could be with a little work. If you’ve spent time browsing and discovering your favorite stores and catalogs, you’ll have developed an eye for the lines and details that really create the look you want to achieve.  It’s understanding those things that will help you spot the diamonds in the rough.

 

$40 mid century modern chairs: diamond in the rough or waste of money?
$40 mid century modern chairs: diamond in the rough or waste of money?

There’s one caveat to this… keep in mind your ability and desire to DIY so you don’t bite off more than you can chew.  When I started Beautiful, my desire to DIY was a lot larger than my ability, and I ended up wasting money on pieces that I “thought” I’d refinish.  Again, this is a lesson learned the hard way; if you know the extent of your real desire to do-it-yourself is watching an HGTV show, skip buying diamonds-in-the-rough and pay a little more for a piece that you can use just the way it is today.

 

Tip #4:  Kick the Tires

If you were buying a used car, you wouldn’t just buy the first one that had a pretty paint job, would you?  (Okay, there was that one time… but once again… you don’t need to learn the hard way because I did!)  Being the smart, amazing person that you are, I’m sure you’d kick the tires, check under the hood, and maybe even take that care to your local mechanics for a once-over before you bought it.

You need to do the same thing when you shop for furniture on craigslist (or any thrift environment).  The practical things you should check out:

 

Lovely buffet for $125 as long as it's real wood.
Lovely buffet for $125 as long as it's real wood.

 

  • Is it real wood?  Often a listing will say “real wood” and “not laminate”  because the seller wants you to know that this is worth the money.  Despite that, you should examine the piece for yourself because not every seller is honest and sometimes even honest people just don’t know much about furniture.  Laminate is normally light-weight, often has an extra shiny surface, and, on older pieces, will probably have places where it’s peeling. The wood grain will also be uniform while real wood grain will have an irregular pattern.
  • How does it move?  If a piece has doors or drawers, you want to open and close them a few times to make sure they open and close smoothly.  Chairs should be stable and sit flat with no wobble. Sofas won’t sag when you sit on them.
  • Is it chipped, scratched, or other wise visually marred? Again, you need to consider how much DIY time and effort or money you’re willing to put into fixing it up.  Or if it’s even possible to really fix-up.

I know it’s hard to go into a friendly stranger’s home, inspect their stuff, and then tell them “no thank you” but that’s exactly what you need to be prepared to do if the piece doesn’t really work for you.  No feeling sorry or guilty, ok?  Just say “thanks for showing it to me but this doesn’t meet my needs” and then walk away!

Tip #5:  Ask for a better price

Let’s say you run across a great piece that you’d like, but you think the price is a little high– don’t be afraid to ask for a better price.  Often people will be happy to accept a little less, especially if you bring cash and pick up immediately.

Once again though, there is a caveat–you have to be ready to walk if you don’t get the price you want.  Don’t waste time bartering for $5 or $10 dollars (or even $25) if it’s a piece you know you love and truly want.  As long as it’s in an acceptable condition, you don’t want to barter yourself out of the deal, especially if you’re trying to wheel and deal via email.

I promise, if you follow these tips you’ll think twice about paying retail and end up with a home full of great craigslist deals!

’til next time, happy budget decorating!

xoxoShauntelle

OH– I almost forgot!!! I’m sponsoring my first giveaway this week!  If you have a room that you need help decorating, go visit Sally over at AlreadyPretty.com to sign up for a chance to win a free virtual room design package.  Good luck!

(Update: Giveaway is closed!  You can view the winner’s virtual design here)

 

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