updated tips for shopping craigslist

Marian ParsonsAntiques, Secret Weapons, Shopping Tips15 Comments

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.


(pink wardrobe makeover)



  • 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.


(cleaning cart turned kitchen cart)



  • 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.


(hemp oil dresser makeover)



  • 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.


(landscape dresser)



  • 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.


(the hutch wearing an unfortunate shade of brown)


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!

Happy hunting!

updated tips for shopping craigslist

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15 Comments on “updated tips for shopping craigslist”

  1. I love Craigslist! I browse every single night before bed, my husband thinks I’m addicted, but it’s just so much fun. I love buying and selling, I’ve had great experiences. I’ve found some amazing things on there for steals. Great tips!

  2. Lol, I do the same thing, Ariel! But I go on Craigslist every morning, while I’m drinking my coffee.
    I’m not having very good luck with people responding to my emails, when I inquire about an item. I’ve had so many not responding to me, I’m starting to think the emails are going into their junk mail. Thanks for the great tips!

    1. In my area, people are using email less and less and text (or phone) more and more. I have bought and sold quite a bit over the years, but mainly through email, because I live in a place with no cell phone reception. Now, like you, I find that few people respond to me unless I text when I go into town.

      I have also had to do searches on commonly misspelled words. When I was looking for one of those large jewelry cases, I actually found the one I eventually bought by searching under ‘jewlry’. That is a tip I rarely see in CL tip blogs.

  3. I love CL and have been shopping on it for many years. I have found some amazing deals but one really has to search often and be patient. If there is something specific you really are looking for just be patient and eventually it will show up. Sometimes those great deals might require a 2 hour drive or so but will be worth it. The main thing is safety first always. There is nothing worth getting into a dangerous situation. I have never had any problems but never go alone and always make sure someone knows where you are going and about what time to expect you back home.

  4. Great tips! Thank you for this. We aren’t lucky enough to have CL in Australia, but we have a similar (kinda!) site called Gumtree and these tips are perfect!


  5. I find CL to be very expensive these days.
    More & more people in our area are selling off the Facebook
    buy/sell groups….i.e. Lodiville or Lodi on-line garage sales. Every town has them now. I find much better deals & it’s also nice to see a persons profile (not so anonymous).

  6. Thanks for the tips, Marian. Craig’s List seems to be getting more expensive here in mid-Michigan, too. A lot of mid-century furniture at astronomical prices–for me, at least. Not that I’m that interested in the mid-century style at all. Once in a while I’ll see a piece that I like, but I am much more drawn to things much older than mid-century.

    I had forgotten about the dresser with the pastoral scene and seeing it again I just tho’t how darling it is. Did you sell it, Marian? You must have, it’s so darn sweet. Do another one in a similar design, okay? I might even buy one from you!

  7. I sat down after reading this post and used several of the terms you suggested, Marian, and found
    baby chicks for sale………French something or other. lol

  8. Thank you for these tips. I get frustrated just in the search and quit. I’ll keep this post on what terms to use for sure. You have found some great deals.

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