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This post will layout in detail how to make Craigslist your cash cow during the time leading up to your big trip or move, but it is also definitely relevant if you are just on a serious decluttering mission.
Hands down, when it came to getting rid of our stuff, our biggest, most successful moneymaker was Craigslist. With 127 individual sales through the online classifieds monster, we were able to pull in $7,642 of the $15,000 we earned through selling our household items on Craigslist alone. That is just more than half of our total sales!
Craigslist is user friendly and very popular, and there are tens of thousands of listings posted every day to prove it. Most anything can be sold on Craigslist through the “For Sale” section. To give you an idea, here is a list of things we sold:
- Furniture, anywhere from excellent to poor condition. There is some college student who will buy it for cheap and get it off your hands
- Large home décor (curtains, shelves, large vases, wall paintings)
- Electronics (speakers, TVs, routers)
- Expensive kitchen tools (kitchen aid, knife sets, wine cooler)
- Workout equipment (bikes, weights, yoga equipment)
Particularly large items (both physically large and somewhat expensive) are great to sell on Craigslist or similar online cash-and-carry sites. However, what things can make your listing stand out against others and attract potential buyers? Here are some tips to help you compete against other Craigslist sellers for better results!
Pictures, pictures, pictures!
The right picture will sell your item. Post several pictures that are well lit and with clutter-free backgrounds. In fact, we recommend staging an area that has a light and neutral background that is free of other objects. This helps focus the potential buyers attention on your to-be-sold object and not that distracting mess of tangled wires, audio equipment, and that Thai language book collecting dust.
A simple dusting or wipe down of your item with a damp cloth goes a long way. Not only will your item have a nice gleam to it, but any dark colors will seem much richer. Dirt and dust have a way of easily showing up in pictures. Also, a clean item sells faster and for more cash than a dirty or dusty one!
Write a concise but accurate description of your item. Include details such as how old the item is, what condition it is in (i.e, brand new, like new, very good, fair, etc). We often included the original purchase price and why we were selling it. Include a link to an online version when possible so that potential buyers can read up on specs. A list is good; there is no need for a long winded paragraph, but with that said don’t be vague either.
It is courteous, as the seller, to mention upfront anything that may be wrong about an item so that potential buyers know exactly what they are getting. Dresser in great condition but has a nick or a dent on a drawer? Mention it in the description and take a close-up picture. Buyers are usually thankful that you’ve included this information instead of being sneaky about it. Also, advertise any perks about the item. Include key words like “from pet-free, smoke-free home, like-new condition, never worn,” etc. This can help close the deal with someone that may otherwise be on the fence.
- Always say that you are moving and need to sell the item by a specific date. Every time we posted an item we said we were moving by the end of the upcoming weekend, even if we weren’t moving for another six months. This is something you can fib about. It will push people that are serious about the item to act fast, and deter those that are just casually browsing from wasting your time!
- Another thing that worked for us toward the end of our selling spree was listing items under a title like “Moving Sale” and then listing everything we had left with individual prices within the ad. This drove in many buyers, and it was so successful that we decided to set our spare bedroom up as an indoor yard sale complete with price stickers and all.
- Let people responding to your separate single item Craigslist ads know that you have other items for sale upon their arrival. If you live with a friend or partner and are comfortable with having people in you home we highly recommend going this route as we were able to sell a ton of additional items this way. Here is a panoramic picture of our very simple but effective indoor setup.
Research what the going price is of a similar item on Craiglist, since those will be your direct competitors. Second, research what the same or similar item is going for on Amazon. If someone can buy it new, online, with free shipping, at a lesser price than for your used item that they have to drive 20 miles to pick up … you see where we’re am going with this?
Post a price (some people forget!) and make it clear that the buyer must pay cash only. The seller should never accept checks, money orders, or electronic funds transfers because of the risk of fraud. If the you are willing to negotiate a price, post OBO (aka “or best offer”); if you are not willing to negotiate price, make that clear, write “Price firm.”
Additionally, the buyer should bring the exact amount in cash originally agreed upon, but just in case, the seller should have some change on themselves. This prevents any excuses for getting short-changed at the last second.
- Sign up for a free Square account or similar credit card accepting account. Most will include a free credit card reader upon setup! The reader plugs into the headphone jack of most smartphones and tablets and the money will be electronically deposited into a checking account of your choosing the following business day. These will work as long as you have a WiFi or cellular connection and even gives you the option to send your buyer a receipt.
- List in your Craigslist ads that you can accept credit and debit cards, and be sure to explain how you are able to do this.
- If a buyer shows up with the incorrect amount of money or is interested in another item and doesn’t have enough cash, having a credit card reader can save the day. There is typically a 1.7% charge associated with this type of transaction, but it is often worth it (you can always adjust your price to compensate for that charge).
Whether you prefer to be contacted via phone or email, make sure you respond to your potential buyer’s voice mail or message at regular intervals. In other words, check your phone and email often. A potential buyer can be permanently lost if it takes the seller a day or two to respond back to the request.
Better yet, post the same listings approximately 12 hours apart through several different email accounts (Keep from being flagged by making each post unique). This is because Craigslist posts your listing at the top of it’s feed, but it quickly moves down in ranks as more people post items to sell. Your posting can only be renewed every three days, so having multiple accounts can give you an edge.
Beware of scams. If you receive a email with any of the following, please ignore:
- If the email has one line “Is this item still available?” without specifying what the item is, (just “this item” or “it”).
- If you receive a reply that has a sentence that have been copied word-for-word and then followed by a question mark (?), with no other writing in the email
- If you email back a potential buyer and almost immediately receive respond back with a story of how said-buyer is out of the country and they will send you a certified check paid for more that what your item is worth and will have a friend there to make the transaction, etc, etc, etc.
Be prepared to forfeit most evenings to Craigslist sales. If you are on a tight schedule, make it clear in your post from the beginning; “Available for pickup on weekends only.” We noticed that most people browse Craigslist and make offers during the weekdays. However, the best time to expect to sell an item are Friday evenings and the weekends.
There is also the unspoken etiquette that the buyer is responsible for transportation unless there is mutual agreement to meet at a halfway point. Also, buyer has first dibs on time and day.
You Can’t Argue with Results
But I can argue against stashing all your Craigslist cash in a safe at home. That is what we did, and of course it was amazing to shuffle over $14,500 in cash, but it is not worth the risk in the end. It was kind of a celebratory thing, but it was pretty scary feeling having that much cash on me in my car as I made my way to the bank. The look on the bank tellers face was utterly priceless. We were both obviously nervous to the point of it being comedic.
It wasn’t like I had all one hundred dollar bills. I had plenty of fives, tens, twenties, fifties, and even a handful of two dollar bills. I have to say I have never felt like more of a suspect for doing something completely innocent. Looking back on it maybe we shouldn’t have separated the cash into rolls of $1000 with small purple rubber bands.
All in all we are very proud of our success, and we look forward to hearing about your experience with Craigslist. Remember, start selling today if you plan to move within the next six months, and if you’re not it doesn’t hurt to get the ball rolling early! We will also address the ins and outs of selling stuff through yard sales, consignment shops, and eBay.