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So You Want to Buy a Sofa: Tips for Buying, Selling, and House Hunting on Craigslist

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On the outside, he’s not a lot to look at. He has no graphics, no pretty embellishments. Eight years after our first introduction, I can honestly say that Craig looks exactly the same, down to the blue font that I can only assume is Arial or some other equally non-descript sans serif type. (To be fair, the layout and design and font may in reality be different, but I am not always the most observant, so it all looks the same to me!)

I first met Craig when I moved to San Francisco. Eight years ago, I was a bright eyed law student looking for an apartment in the Big City. Up until that point, my housing searches had relied solely upon word of mouth, happenstance or pure luck. I turned to the only suggestion from Bay Area folks: Craigslist.

Craigslist Tips

Despite the no-frills appearance of my friend Craig, I still fell in love with him. He helped me find my first home out here, along with my second and third homes. I soon realized that housing wasn’t the only thing he had to offer. He has helped me find furniture, sell furniture, get free moving boxes and give moving boxes away.  People will post events, specifically garage sales and giveaways. His talents are innumerable, his treasures untold. Am I gushing? I’m gushing.

As much as I love Craig and his list, he can be daunting for the newcomer. I’ve learned a few things along the way that will help you get more out of your time searching for the treats he has in store. Here are some tips for buying and selling on Craigslist.

  1. Know what you want, but don’t search for what you want.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but let me explain. Individuals are posting things to Craigslist by what THEY call them, which may be different than what YOU call them. Looking for a loveseat? Don’t just search for “loveseat”. Plug in “loveseat” or “sofa” or “2-seater”. This will help you find more options than what you might otherwise see.
  1. Scroll, don’t just search. One of the great things about Craigslist is that they categorize everything for you. That annoying homepage that hasn’t changed in a million years? Its actually quite organized. If you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, it can really help to just browse by section to get a feel for what is out there.
  1. Troll the free stuff section. I can’t tell you how many fun things I’ve found in the free section. Sand for a sandbox? Done. Moving Boxes? Here’s a hundred. Firewood? There’s a free pile outside some dude’s house down the street. Empty picture frames for that art installation you’ve been planning for five years? Okay, I’m still working on that one. Keep an open mind in the free stuff section – you never know what you might find.
  1. Price to sell. Craigslist is nothing if not a glorified garage sale. It is not the place to post things if you want a profit. It is, however, a great place to post things you want to get rid of.  We had an entry table we needed to get rid of quickly that we probably spent a hundred bucks on.  We’d had it for several years and I tried to sell it for fifty dollars. The Craigslist buyers were too savvy for that – they knew an old Target table from a mile away. Once I downed it to twenty, I got lots of inquiries and sold it very quickly.
  1. Do preparation searches. Apartment and house hunting is very unique to each city. What works in the Bay Area may have no relation to looking for housing in Oklahoma City. Even so, I think some tips are universal.  I find it very useful to search for apartments and housing in phases. I like to get a feel for what is available and what the pricing is before I search in earnest. This can help you narrow your search by neighborhood and price range.
  1. Be Ready to Run! Housing and items for sale on Craigslist can often be a “rent/buy now or lose it” situation. I’ve had the most luck searching for apartments or items on Craigslist when 1) I was ready to go look at places or pick the item up that day and (for housing) 2) we were ready to move in about a month or so. This may not go for all areas of the country, but Craigslist has proven to be a great forum for finding housing when you are looking to move in the very  near future.
  1. Have Fun!! The best thing about Craigslist is that I can shop and search and dream and plan from the comfort of my jammies and my living room. It can be a lot of fun to see what treasures are out there for free or cheap, without the stress of going shopping and dragging husbands or children along for the ride.

Originally posted 12/14/2014

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