Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Craigslist Part One: Buying

Starting out on Craigslist can be overwhelming... How do you know if it's a nice piece? Is that a good deal? How much should I offer? How do I avoid being mugged by a total stranger over a dresser?

Fear not! I was once a newbie, and I have been a buyer and a seller on the site.  Here's what I've learned along the way.

A complete ironstone dish set: an $80 Craigslist find
1)  When searching through the furniture or antiques (where I've found most of my goodies), refine the search to "by owner."  The listings "by dealer" are often strange discount furniture stores.  These posts are sometimes titled "Furniture your whole house for $900!" and other things that seem too good to be true.  Also, by shopping from the "by owner" section, you can almost guarantee you'll be able to negotiate a lower price because you're dealing directly with the person who owns the piece.

2) Save time by perusing the listings in "thumb" setting.  The options are just under the search box at the upper left.  The default is "list" setting, so you can only see the seller-entered description.  In "thumb" setting, you can see a little picture of the item, so you can rule it out or in more quickly.

3) Follow the seller's directions for contacting them. Seriously, they might refuse to sell or not get back to you because you emailed them when they said, "no emails." It sounds ridiculous, but it's true.

4) When you contact the seller, have an amount in mind you want to offer. Do not say, "What's your bottom dollar? What's the least you'll take?" My response to that is always, "What's the most you'll pay?" (I get feisty when negotiating.)  To negotiate, you have to throw out a number.  I generally say, "I'm interested in the ______. Would $____ cash take it? I can meet any evening."  Emphasize that you'll pay in cash and that you can meet in person soon.  Sellers want it off their hands- the sooner the better.  For the rest of my negotiating tips (how much to offer, etc), see here.

5)  The early bird gets the worm! A lot of times, when a piece is first posted, the seller gets several people interested at once.   Whoever they negotiate a price with first is going to get the piece, so respond to their return emails/texts/calls quickly, if possible.

6) Agree to meet in a public place.  It's even better if you can take someone with you.  At least call someone to let them know where you're going, then call them back when you're done. I haven't ever encountered anyone too sketchy while purchasing clawfoot tables, but better safe than sorry.

7)  I've found some of my favorite pieces by searching for certain keywords.  This is like a trade secret, so get ready!  The words I use to search to find nice things are:

- Wood/ solid wood (Maybe that's kind of obvious? Oh well.): People selling solid wood furniture want you to know it's solid wood to entice you, so they'll likely put it in the listing.
1880's tiger oak table & chairs: $250 on Craigslist
 - French and/or provincial:  This is one of my favorite styles of furniture.  It was popular in the 1970's- when a lot of furniture were still solid wood- so you can find nice pieces that just need a little painting.  The hardware typical of this style is beautiful.

- Shaker: Another style of furniture I just so happen to like.  Shaker-style things are often wood, and many times are not painted, so you can re-finish them however you like.

-Colonial: Another style revived in the good-ole days when solid wood furniture was being made.
A colonial-style, solid wood coffee table: $15 on Craigslist
Some other search terms I use to find nice things (other than just entering the name of the piece you're looking for):

- Buffet
Dining set with buffet: a $300 find on Craigslist
- Sideboard
- Console
- Dresser
- Chest 
- Trunk
- Ironstone (obviously, not in the "furniture" or "antique" sections)
- Apothecary (shocking, I know)
- Jenny Lind
- Empire

Happy hunting!


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