When I decided to move to Texas, I also decided to sell all of my furniture and just ship my belongings home. Most of my furniture was from either IKEA or Overstock – it was one of the ways I saved money when I first started working and had to set up a brand new apartment. While it wasn’t worth moving halfway across the country, it was still in (mostly) good shape – so I decided to try my hand at selling on Craigslist.
I personally had never sold items on Craigslist before, and I had bought only a few, mostly inexpensive items. I learned many lessons from selling about 8 pieces of furniture in just a few days, and hope you can benefit from them! These tips will help you maximize revenue while also making efficient use of your time.
10 Tips for Craigslist Sellers
- Start early: It takes a LOT of time to create good listings, respond to inquiries, set up viewing/pick-up times, and actually get the items out the door. The earlier you start, the more time you have to wait for the right buyer – if you are in a hurry, you will have to bend to negotiations! I was afraid to start too early, because I didn’t want to get rid of things I was still using, like my dresser. But towards the end, I ended up having to drastically reduce prices or just give things away in an effort to vacate my apartment by the deadline. If you are selling multiple items, identify those that you can do without, and list them immediately.
- Use separate listings: I initially just listed all my items under one big “moving sale” listing. It was fast, easy….and highly ineffective. Almost nobody inquired about my items, and the people who did were MUCH more interested in getting a deal than acquiring my stuff at fair prices. After a day or two of no luck, I took the time to list my big items separately. Almost immediately, I began fielding very serious inquiries about every single one of my listings – so skip the bulk listings.
- Research prices: I had no idea what to sell some of my items for. At a yard sale I participated in last fall, I was shocked at the prices that one of the other sellers was setting – I thought they were WAY too high, and yet she sold almost everything without lowering them! I was clearly lowballing the market for used items. Before I listed any items, I did my best to look up the price of the new item, and then look up similar items for sale on Craigslist. I tried to price competitively with the other used items and anywhere between 25% and 50% off of the new items, depending on the size and condition of the item. I purchased a daybed off Craigslist for a VERY good price last year – it was almost brand new, but the seller was moving out of the country unexpectedly and had to get rid of it. Before selling it, I researched similar items to confirm my suspicion that it was way underpriced when I bought it – and made sure to reflect that knowledge when I resold it for more than I purchased it for 9 months ago! Also, don’t undervalue how much people will pay for already-assembled items. I had an Ikea bookshelf that ended up selling for only $20 more than the new item – but it was already assembled, versus the new one coming flat-packed.
- Test the price waters and relist: Simply put, many inquiries in a short time might mean you’ve underpriced the item – and too few is an almost sure indicator that you have overpriced it. I ended up cancelling one listing and relisting the item for almost 50% more – and even at that price, I received over 10 inquiries in the first hour. I ended up selling a four-year-old leather ottoman for only $15 less than I purchased it for! If you have some time before you need the item out, err on the side of overpricing – you can always lower the price if you don’t sell it in a day or two.
- Include pictures: Some people won’t even look at a listing if pictures aren’t included. And others will look at the listing, but ask you for pictures before they even consider buying it. Save yourself time, and open yourself to more buyers, by just including pictures from the start. Like many of my tips, it will take a few extra minutes of work, but potentially result in extra money in your pocket.
- Use keywords: Craigslist buyers all work in different ways – some just browse by category. Others narrow by price or location. Others search for general terms (“table”) or specific items (“IKEA Leksvik table”). The more information you include, the more likely it is that some searcher will land on your listing. Also, make sure you post in the right category – furniture, household items, etc.
- Provide details: Provide as much information as you can up front – dimensions, color, condition, etc. This will save you from having to answer the same questions over and over, and help ensure that you only field emails from serious potential buyers. If you have other listings for matching items, mention them in each ad. This will help encourage buyers to purchase multiple items.
- Respond strategically: You will get lots of emails, especially if your items are competitively priced. Some will be obvious spam. Others will be people trying to negotiate with you. I ignored both of these types of emails. If anyone offered to pick up tomorrow, next week, or basically any time other than “today” or “ASAP,” I move them to the end of response list. I responded first to people who expressed clear interest and could come look in the next 12-24 hours. I usually told at least two people they could come take a look but I would sell it to the first person who arrived and was interested. I would then tell 3-5 more that I had other interested buyers but would let them know if the item was still available in 24 hours – I would then suggest a time for them to come take a look if the item was indeed still available. The rest of the inquiries only received a reply if the item was still available 2 or more days after listing and/or all of the initial buyers failed to pan out for some reason. I got burned early on by replying to only one buyer at a time, and going 3 or more days sending back-and-forth replies or having them cease communications with no warning. I later started replying to more people just to make sure that SOMEONE would ultimately take the item off my hands by the time my move-out date arrived.
- Be creative: One person came to look at an item, said she wanted it but didn’t have cash on her and would go to the ATM and come back. I was a little afraid that she wouldn’t come back, and wanted to close the deal. So I asked if she had a Paypal account she could use. 5 minutes later, I had brought her a computer and was $60 richer, without having to wait an extra 30 minutes to see if she would come back…or start over if she didn’t.
- Understand when to give up: At some point, it will become clear that an item will just not sell. You can lower the price and try again. If it is a smaller item (clothes, kitchen accessories, etc.), you might have better luck at a yard sale. Some items just can’t be sold – in that case, you can try Freecycle, donate to Goodwill or another charity (don’t forget to get a receipt for a tax deduction!), or just avail yourself of the trash.