How to Sell Your Stuff on Craigslist—and Actually Make Money
Take a stroll around the city on the first of the month and you’re likely to spot a familiar sight: clusters of perfectly good furniture and household goods left on the sidewalk like some kind of street-performance tableau…or, well, yesterday’s trash. But if you’re moving (or just upgrading your digs), you don’t have to resign your belongings to the same curbside fate. I recently got rid of a bunch of furniture and made almost 600 bucks (and no, my stuff wasn’t particularly high-end—most of it was from Ikea). Here’s what I learned.
This might seem obvious, but time is your best friend. The last thing you want is to sound desperate (“MOVING SUNDAY, EVERYTHING MUST GO!”). You’re just asking for people to lowball you or, worse, ask for your address, intentionally ghost you and then come back later to see what you left on the curb (yes, this actually happens). If you have a hard deadline (like a move-out date), give yourself at least a few weeks—you might end up eating dinner on the floor for a couple nights, but at least you’ll have money in your pocket.
Take Pictures That Are Actually Good
Yes, your iPhone/Pixel has an amazing camera, but you have to give it plenty to work with. Take photos during the day, with as much natural light as possible, to get the most accurate color read. Include at least two shots from different angles so people can picture the item in three dimensions. And this should go without saying, but tidy up before your photo shoot—nobody’s going to want to buy something buried under a pile of magazines or unfolded laundry.
Set the Right Price
You paid $299 for that West Elm side table and have had it for only two years—but while it may be in “like new” condition, you’re not going to get many bites with “like new” pricing. A good rule of thumb is to cut the retail price by at least half, more if the item shows some wear. (Think of it this way: If you’re offering only 25 percent off, potential buyers may as well just wait for the next promo email and get a new one.)
But Expect Some Haggling
It doesn’t matter how nice your things are—people are going to undercut you like you’re hawking knockoff handbags on Canal Street. This is where the extra time (see above) comes in. If you’re getting a lot of emails about an item, it’s totally kosher to say, “I have other potential buyers, so I’m not looking to budge, sorry.” And if you’re getting little interest overall, it might be worth reevaluating the price you set.
Supercharge Your Description
Make sure to include all possible words people might be searching, e.g., “couch / sofa / loveseat,” “bookcase / bookshelf” or “desk / side table / console,” and as many descriptors as you can (without sounding insane), like the brand, material and style. I’m no interior designer, but I rebranded a pair of what I considered fairly nondescript tables as “modern minimal metal nesting tables” and they sold like hotcakes—I mean “artisanal buckwheat crêpes.”
People are going to ask. Always. Just bust out the measuring tape and measure not just length, width and height but every conceivable dimension you can think of (clearance under a bed frame, for example). Craigslist provides a field where you can enter this, but it never hurts to add it in the main text, too.
Repost Every Day
This one is key: Every single day (until your item sells), delete and repost your ad. Don’t just click the “renew” button—actually delete it and submit a new posting. (Don’t use the “undelete” option, either.) Yes, it’s a bit of extra legwork, but most people don’t have the attention span to scroll through more than a page or two of listings, so the higher up yours appears, the better. Speaking from experience, I’d get a wave of responses after posting, which would then taper off throughout the day. Sure enough, after reposting, I’d get another set of inquiries in my inbox.
Someone loves your midcentury armchair but can’t pick it up until next week and would you be willing to save it until then? Hate to say it, but the rules of etiquette don’t apply in Craigslist-land. You have to expect that most responders are going to flake (because they will), so your best course of action is to string everyone along until someone actually shows up with cash in hand. Harsh, yes, but it’s business. (For the record, we don’t recommend applying this philosophy to, say, your social life.)