Treasure Hunting: Tips for Shopping on Craigslist and Scoring Good Deals

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In case you were blissfully unaware, rattan is having a major moment right now.

Case in point: The rattan lounge chair in Sarah Sherman Samuel’s stunning studio, below.

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Another fabulous example is Kyla from House of Hipster’s iconic rattan ottoman.

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If you want an even bigger example, how about Alexandra from AVE Styles’ dreamy rattan bed?

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Every retailer from One Kings Lane to Anthropologie to IKEA is selling rattan lamps, rattan ottomans, rattan dressers, rattan chairs – pretty much any piece of furniture you can dream of likely has a rattan alternative.

Whether you follow decor trends or you abhor them (I personally fall somewhere in between, if you’re curious), I think we can all agree that getting a good deal on furniture and home decor is something everyone enjoys.

Enter Craigslist. I have found some of my very favorite decor items on Craigslist – and at a total steal, too! Take the Pier1 Imports rattan chest of drawers, at the very beginning of this post. Got that baby for a whopping $75! Can’t wait to finally paint the entryway, hang a round, brass mirror above the chest, lots of plants, and a few geometric, black and white accessories, like so:

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Maybe you’re more advanced than me and already know everything there is to know about this massive classifieds website, but in the event that you’re not, keep reading. I only recently discovered a few of its best features – and I’ve been an avid Craigslist shopper for many, many years.

So whether you’re remodeling your entire house like we are, or you just want that one statement piece to refresh one room, I’ve gathered some of my best advice on shopping on Craigslist and scoring good deals.

Let’s get started, shall we?

1. Know the terms. For example, say you’re looking for a gray sofa – but not just any sofa. You want it to have those little pins and cushions, as well as round, rolled arms. Well, that description fits a Chesterfield-style sofa, so I’d start my search with that term. But not everyone is going to know the technical term for that style of a couch, so be creative when thinking of the keywords. For example: tufted sofa, tufted couch, mid-century modern couch, mid-century modern sofa, etc.

Speaking of mid-century, not everyone spells they way you do. A great example is “mid-century.” Some may write “midcentury” – others “mid century.” Another great example is “night stands” versus “nightstands.” Both keywords yield different results.

Furthermore, I may be the world’s biggest grammar nazi, but when it comes to Craigslist, sometimes I have to force myself to misspell words if I know that it’s a common misspelling. For example, “armoire” is a commonly misspelled word; when searching on Craigslist, I’d suggest trying armor, armour, armiore, armwore, etc.

If you’re not looking for a particular style of furniture, i.e. mid-century, try searching for synonyms of the term. For example, if looking for a dresser, you may want to try buffet, sideboard, cabinet, cupboard, console, table, chest, chest of drawers, etc.
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2. Set up the correct perimeters:

  1. First, make sure you’re searching items for sale by owner – not dealers. Doing so gives you a better chance of the owner coming down on the price, since business establishments are unlikely to bargain with you.
  2. Choose to display only items with images. Nowadays everyone and their mother has a phone, so taking a photo of the item you are selling is not rocket science. I always think that if the seller can’t take a minute to do that, then the item can’t be of much value or they aren’t very eager to sell. Sure, there are exceptions, but in general, that’s how the cookie crumbles.
  3. Turn off search categories that aren’t of interest to you. For example, when you search for “console” thinking you’ll find tables, typically lots of gaming consoles pop up. You can easily turn off that search category, which eliminates all gaming devices from your search. Simple, right?
  4. You also have the option to hide items by clicking the trash can at the end of the listing title and to favorite items by clicking the star at the beginning of the listing title. Both categories of items are displayed in the top right corner of your screen, in case you’d like to refer to them later.

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3. Set up alerts. 

To set up alerts, you’ll need make a Craigslist account – which is super easy. Just click on “My Account” and use an email address that you actually check, as you’ll have to confirm your setup through email.

Craigslist alerts function much in the same way as flight alerts, for example. You set up the criteria for your search from step 2, then click on any listing, and click on “Save Search” to the right of the search bar. Now, every time a new item fitting your criteria is listed, you’ll receive an email notification.

This tip has saved me so much time, it’s unbelievable! Whereas before I would spend hours upon hours scrolling through Craigslist in search of that perfect treasure, now I just check my inbox when something new is listed, and that’s it!

Granted, an alert works well with a specific item; if you set up an alert for “dresser,” you’re guaranteed to receive hundreds – if not thousands – of emails every day. So save yourself the trouble, and narrow down your criteria following the advice in steps 1 and 2.

I currently have alerts set up for mid-century modern, tufted, rattan, lucite, West Elm, Anthropologie, CB2 and natural brass. All of these styles fit my decorating preferences, so I’m always open to finding a treasure.

4. Don’t be afraid to bargain on the price. There is nothing rude about asking, “What’s your best price?” – as long as the seller didn’t specify “firm price” on their listing. Chances are, if it’s a “for sale by owner” listing, the seller just wan’t to get rid of his or her unwanted items; they aren’t out to make a profit by selling second-hand. If the item has been listed for over a week, then there’s definitely room to bargain.

Have you ever bought something off of Craigslist? Any advice you’d like to add? I’d love to hear your treasure hunting stories!

Photos via Sarah Sherman Samuel, House of Hipsters, AVE Styles

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