Craigslist.org Tips From a Pro, Part 2: Top 10 Tips for Buying on Craigslist

The long-promised follow up to Part 1: Top 10 Tips for Selling on Craigslist.

Everything in this collage was free!

Again, I can't give away all my secrets (especially how I get so much good stuff for free!), but these tips will help you find that must-have item and pay the right-price for it.

1. Search for all applicable keywords. If you're looking for the perfect coffee table, also search for "table" and "stand." What is clearly a coffee table to you and probably to most people, might just be a table to the seller.

Some people refer to dressers simply as "drawers." Why? Who knows, but as you become familiar with the numerous terms sellers use, you will find the gems hidden from everyone else.

Keep typos in mind, as well. Every day there's a "coach" on Craigslist, and I'm not talking about the designer handbag.

2. Narrow your results, unless you like scrolling for days.

Personally, I like to start my minimum amount at $2 because it weeds out everyone who will only put $1 when they are asking $200. I cap my search a little higher than I'm willing to pay because everything is negotiable.

Note: You might miss a good deal if someone is selling multiple items in one ad and your search parameters bypass it. I use my narrowed search results as a starting point, and then if I have the time, I go back and quickly scan the ads that were listed below the $2 mark.

3. Open those moving sale ads. You might find that perfect piece buried within the ad. And the seller moving works to your bargaining advantage because you know the seller does not want to pack up that extra item.

I often hit the motherload with moving sales. People just start giving me stuff or offering good pieces of furniture for ridiculously low prices.

4. Search outside of the designated category. While logically a sectional sofa belongs in the "furniture" section, some idiots will place it in the "household" section. And since "antiques" is at the top of the alphabetical list, new furniture gets posted there, too.

Whether you use the "all for sale" search or jump from category to category is a personal preference.

5. Know the value of what you're buying and understand how much furniture and household items depreciate once they're used.

Many people try to pull the "I paid $100 at Target eight months ago and now I'm only asking $80." Don't bother.

Make Google your friend. Do a little comparative research.

6. Act quickly and follow through. Once you find it, don't delay. Even if you're not available to see it until later in the day, make the call to get the dialogue going and an appointment set up.

If someone is ahead of you in line, ask the seller to keep your info on hand and promise to show up. People flake. Even when you think "OMG! How are they giving that item worth hundreds away for free? No one would flake on that!" They do.

7. Ask all of your questions before you go. Don't waste your gas until you know the condition, approximate age, measurements and any moving details.

If not specified, I always ask if the item is from a smoke-free home, and if it's a heavy item, whether it's upstairs. And please don't assume the seller will help you move. So rude.

8. Inspect the item closely in person. Turn cushions over. Turn on electronics. Ask to see the back of a couch if it's against the wall. Inspect the legs of the chair. Search for holes on the dress. Some people are very honest about condition, and some people will try to pull one over on you.

9. Offer a lower price -- within reason -- if the ad did not state the price was firm. If the item is not in the condition advertised, if the seller is obviously desperate to sell, or if the item has sat awhile on Craigslist, you may have more wiggle room. Just be tactful about it.

10. Bring exact change. It's not the seller's responsibility to have change for you. Many times I've been paid more than asking price because the buyer forget to get change. Rookie mistake.

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