HOW-TO: Sell Things On Craigslist (Without Getting Ax-Murdered)

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 15 or so, and my mother was trying to sell our china cabinet. She told me she’d decided to put it on Craigslist. I was appalled.

“MOM,” I said very dramatically, because I was, you know, 15. “Only prostitutes go on Craigslist.” (Did I mention I was also exceedingly judgmental? Sheesh.)

Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. She posted the cabinet for $200 or so and it sold in a couple of days. Sure, the Personals section on Craigslist can be a bit iffy, but for buying and selling furniture, clothes, electronics, etc., it can be the best and easiest option.

Recently I began cleaning out my life. I had this realization that I just had a ton of junk. I mean, junk everywhere. Stuff I haven’t used in I can’t remember how long. I’ve moved six times in the past five years, and it was a scary realization that this stuff I’d been carting around with me from place to place, carrying up flight after flight after flight of stairs, was useless to me. I wasn’t going to learn to play that guitar—my hands are too small to fit around the neck. That brown storage ottoman? I bought it on a whim at Target and never really used it. So, I signed up for a Craigslist account.

Craigslist is an interesting beast. It can be unendingly useful if you use it correctly, or you can get scammed out of all your money and have your email hacked wide open. It has to be said—Craigslist has gotten a bad rap, and not just with melodramatic 15-year-olds. So, here’s what I’ve learned about how to sell things on Craigslist.

 

How to Post Things So They Actually Sell

  • Register for a Craigslist account: Use the email you check the most and make sure you choose a secure password. It really is the best idea to have an account with the site, because it helps you keep everything in one place.

  • Post on a weekday morning: Preferably Monday. Don’t post on Saturdays or Sundays. People are more likely to be browsing Craigslist when they are procrastinating in the office; if you post on Saturday, your ad will get pushed down in the listings by the time people actually get to their computers to look for items to buy.

  • Post in the right section: If you’ve got at TV for sale, it goes in the “electronics” section. If you’ve got a bed frame for sale, it goes in the “furniture” section. However, if you have an item that could easily fit into multiple categories, feel free to cross-post it. It can’t hurt. But only do so if your item legitimately belongs in more than one category.

  • Use photos: It is pretty much impossible to find a legitimate buyer for your stuff if you don’t include photos. Craigslist has a function that lets you sort listings by whether they include photos, and serious buyers pretty much always use it. The site lets you add up to 24 images to each post, so take advantage. Take photos of your stuff against a plain background, like carpet or a bare wall, and try to do it in natural light. It makes them look clearer. An iPhone, or any smartphone, really, will take nice, clear photos in the right lighting.

  • Spell things correctly*: Seriously, you are not listing things “For sail,” unless it is a sailboat. You do not hope people will “by things” because that makes no sense. It is “armoire,” not “armor,” and “bookshelf,” not “bookchef.” That is all.

  • Be succinct and honest in your explanations: Less is more when it comes to Craigslist postings. There is no need for 30 exclamation points after you say that your couch really is in good condition, you swear. Just say it’s in good condition and leave it at that—the buyers will see for themselves when they come to look at it. List what the buyer needs to know about your item based on what you would want to know about your item: Are there any defects? How long have you had the item? What has been its primary use? Is your selling price firm or OBO (or best offer)? When including this info, list it rather than include it in one long paragraph. It makes it easier for potential buyers to digest.

  • Price your items reasonably: No one is going to buy your dinged-up, builder’s-grade oak end table for $150. They’re just not. But a furniture-rehab nut might want to scoop it up for, say, $45 or $50. No one is going to buy your big clunker TV for $200. Lol no. Be reasonable with buyers, or your post will get passed by in favor of posts from sellers who have manageable expectations for what their stuff is actually worth.

  • If you can deliver, offer: If you’re selling a big item, like a large piece of furniture, and you have (or a good friend has) a truck or large SUV, offer to deliver locally. You are much more likely to sell that big, honkin’ sectional sofa if you offer to drop it off at the buyer’s house.

  • “Renew” your posts: Craigslist has a feature that lets you renew your posts every few days, which will bump the listing back up to the top of the section that you’ve posted in. You can renew every 48 hours. If your item still hasn’t sold after the 30-day limit, Craigslist also gives you the option of “reposting” your ad, at which point your post’s lifespan will re-up.

  • Respond quickly to offers: Make sure you’re keeping a close eye on your emails/texts after posting on Craigslist, because if a buyer doesn’t hear back from you relatively quickly, they’re going to get irritated and be less likely to buy from you. Always respond politely, succinctly and with good grammar and spelling.

 *Grammar/spelling-snob alert.

 

What To Do Once You’ve (Eeek!) Found a Buyer

  • Offer to meet them ASAP: Once you’re sure they’re interested, offer to meet them at the time that is most convenient for you (without making it seem rushed or making them feel pressured). If you get off work at 5 p.m., tell them that, and offer to meet them at 5:30. Be flexible, though, because everyone’s schedules are different.

  • Meet in a public place: I cannot stress this enough. Don’t meet at someone’s house unless you can bring a friend or four. Always meet in the daylight, and try to push for high-traffic hours of the day. Good places to meet include well-lit, highly visited parking lots (my go-to is our local Starbucks parking lot). I’ve also met people in a Barnes & Noble parking lot, a Target parking lot, a Chick-fil-A parking lot… the key is to just pick a place where you feel comfortable and suggest that. If your buyer suggests somewhere you aren’t comfortable going, just politely decline and say you’d rather meet at your preferred location. Tell them what kind of car you will be driving and about where you’ll be parking.

  • Only accept cash and always bring change: Don’t take personal checks or money orders or any of that jazz. Cash is your best friend on Craigslist. Make sure you bring change just in case your buyer doesn’t have the exact amount—this is important if you are listing something for an odd dollar amount, or even if it’s in increments of $5. It makes everything easier and you don’t risk losing your buyer while you run to get change from the Rite-Aid.

  • Keep an eye out: If things start looking shady, get outta there. If you’re uncomfortable for any reason, you don’t have to stay. If it makes you feel better to bring a friend, then you should!

 

What To Do Once You’ve Sold Stuff

  • Remove your posting from Craigslist: Just go to your Craigslist account and delete the posting. It will still remain on your personal list of items uploaded to your account, but it won’t show up on the public listings anymore. This is really important, because a) people will be emailing you about something you’ve already sold and b) you’ll be getting people’s hopes up about an item that is no longer for sale.

  • Tell the person “thanks,” if you want: I usually text or email my buyers (however we were communicating before) and tell them thank you for purchasing from me, and that it was nice to meet them. People like it, I think.

 

Selling on Craigslist is really not as bad as you think it is. It’s a great way to get rid of stuff that is still useful, just not to you, and make some cash at the same time. Got questions? Tweet @litdarling or @haleywrotethis!

Haley

Haley is a writer and editor based in Birmingham, Alabama, who specializes in narrative nonfiction. She began writing at age 16 after enrolling in her North Alabama high school's newspaper class. She later studied journalism and history at the University of Alabama. In her spare time, she prepares for her eventual sorting into Slytherin House, has frequent chats with her bust of Abraham Lincoln, and feeds an inordinate amount of lettuce to her pet bunny, Ray Bradbury. To contact her, please shout into the nearest void or talk loudly about Jason Isbell’s discography.
Haley
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