If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably caught on that craigslist is one of my favorite places to shop for furniture. I’m often asked about it, so I thought I would share some updated tips along with my craigslist strategy and how I sort through the trash and treasures.
First of all, I know I’m in a “good area” for finding furniture and antiques. I live in south central PA and it’s not a very transient area. Families live here for generations. They don’t move, they add on. We’ve lived in our town for almost ten years and I still feel like we’re relatively new.
This is also a rural area and an old one, which means lots of old houses and barns. All of those things combined means that there are attics, basements, spare rooms, and outbuildings filled with old things that eventually end up in a yard sale, on craigslist, at a flea market, in an auction, etc.
While there is good stuff to be found on our local craigslist, it does take some hunting. There’s lots of junk, overpriced good stuff, overpriced junk, etc. on ours just like there is in the rest of the country. I can look through 100 listings or more before I find one I think is worth pursuing.
HOW I SEARCH CRAIGSLIST
- I search all “for sale” categories. You can often find furniture, antiques and cool pieces with lots of potential that are listed in the wrong category. Outdoor furniture can be listed in the “farm + garden” section. Antiques can be listed in “furniture” or “household”.
- I use search terms that will hopefully pull up listings that would interest me. Here are some of my favorite searches – antique, industrial, French, pine, old, wood, chair, dresser, farm, cart, and vintage. I try to keep searches general, because the average lister might not know the difference between French provincial and Victorian or empire and eastlake or even what any of those things are.
- I keep an open mind when I’m searching. I try to look at pieces for what they can be, not just for what they are. It can be comical how long I’ll sit and stare at a piece before I decide to go for it.
WHAT I LOOK FOR IN LISTINGS
- Beyond just the piece I’m buying, I look for buyers who, based on the language of their post, want to just get rid of something and are flexible on their price. Phrases like OBO (or best offer), “need it out by the weekend”, etc. can tip you off to that.
- I do buy from some dealers, but I try to focus on the listings by owners. Dealers are trying to make money on a sale whereas most owners are just trying to unload something and maybe make a bit of cash out of it.
- While it’s helpful to have lots of pictures and detailed descriptions, sometimes it’s the listings with just one grainy picture and a description like “old dresser, needs some work” that gets overlooked by others and I take a gamble.
WHAT I GENERALLY GO FOR
- Furniture that has cosmetic issues, so the price is lower. Things like chipping veneer, watermarks, wonky drawers, marred finishes, missing hardware, are all things that don’t bother me one bit, but they can greatly reduce the price of a piece. Just make sure you’re buying a piece that is within your ability to fix.
- Furniture that has good lines, but is ugly. This is especially true for upholstery, but it can apply to pieces with really bad paint jobs or not-so-pretty colors, as well or ones that have been neglected.
- There are specific styles I gravitate towards, but I try to keep an open mind with that, too. I click on a lot of listings that aren’t my typical thing, so I can give myself some time to imagine the possibilities.
- Act fast. If you want something, contact the seller immediately and pick it up as soon as you can.
- Be reasonable with your offers, if you’re going to negotiate.
- Ask the seller if there is anything else they are planning to list or sell. I have gotten a lot of good stuff by just asking.
- If you go to pick something up and you don’t like it, don’t feel pressure to by it. Just say thank you and be on your way.
- Remember to be safe and smart. You are going to a stranger’s home with cash in hand. While most people are just normal people wanting to sell something, it’s a good idea to go with a buddy and, if at any time it feels “sketchy”, it’s okay to back out.
Also, I want to share that I sometimes get ridiculous deals, but there are times when I splurge on craigslist, like the $400 hutch that’s in my living room and the $300 pair of bergere chairs. Those were still good deals, but I just don’t want you to think everything is $20. Some pieces are, but not everything.
I hope these tips help you find some craigslist/classified ad treasures of your own!