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Craigslist Shopping Tips

Finding "The One": 10 Tips For Safe, Savvy, and Successful Furniture Shopping on Craigslist

See this little desk? It's the desk of my dreams. Granted, it may not be the desk of your dreams, but it's "the one" for me. This little oak arts and crafts-era slant-top desk is in nearly perfect condition and is petite and perfect for our bedroom — which means I officially have an office space to decorate after our toddler kicked me out of my old office. I couldn't be more pleased.

However, this little gem didn't just land in my lap. I spent a month combing the pages of Craigslist to find it and actually rejected half a dozen desks in person on my journey to find it. Although, I've shopped on Craigslist before, this time really taught me some great lessons that I thought were worth sharing. I also asked Twitter and Facebook friends to share some of their tips as well, which I've included in the post.

  • Don't be afraid to walk away. Even if it took you a half-hour to drive to the location of an item you're interested in or three subway changes. If it's not your ideal find, don't buy it. You will find that beloved object, but it may not be until after several more attempts.
  • Try shopping locally. For me, this meant limiting my searches to neighborhoods that were within 10 minutes driving range. I instituted this rule after two fruitless journeys that took me an hour round trip.
  • Try a variety of search terms. I used "secretary," "antique desk," "solid wood desk," "slant top desk," "wooden desk," and a few other terms, too. Sometimes people list items under odd search terms, so it helps to try to get creative!
  • If you're going to look at an item by yourself, tell a friend. Leave the address you're at and the time you should be leaving that location. If you don't text or call your friend by that time, have her call you, and if she can't get ahold of you, call the authorities. This is very, very cautious behavior in my book, but as women going solo into a stranger's home, it's better to be safe than sorry. There's rarely an incident with a potential seller, but I'm always more cautious than need be when dealing with a transaction with a stranger. And if you don't feel safe going by yourself, by all means bring a friend!
  • Be realistic about how much effort you're willing to put into a secondhand piece. I fell in total love with an arts and crafts-era secretary I saw a month ago and desperately wanted to buy it. The price was right, but the desk needed a leg repair and had a crack along one side. These were definitely doable repairs, but I knew myself well enough to know that I wouldn't get these repairs finished in a timely manner and I let the desk go.

Find more Craigslist shopping tips from fellow readers when you keep reading!

  • On Facebook, Wendy notes, "having larger items moved using Craigslist's "services" section was sort of a revelation, especially when I was carless. Especially because it usually came with an extra pair of hands."
  • Sierra adds on Facebook, "I would just add that there is a certain protocol to buying anything off Craigslist. Please be respectful of both sellers and buyers' time. Sellers should remove postings as soon as the item sells, and buyers should only inquire if they're serious. And if you make a plan to meet, keep it or call the person to cancel."
  • On Twitter, @waterstudio writes, "Photos = #1! Whether browsing for studio or home, we filter for listings w pics! Delivery/pick-up cost/details good to know, too!"
  • On Facebook, Timothy directs us to this post on Charles and Hudson for more Craigslist tips. My favorite? Shop at different times of the day: "If you're in the market for a particular item — say a nightstand or a great vintage wing chair — search constantly. There's no rhyme or reason to when things are added to Craigslist, often it's about being in the right place at the right time. Try and do a search a few times throughout the day to get the newest updates in your area."
  • Elly suggests on Facebook, "My guidelines with buying furniture on Craigslist are similar to those I hold when I buy anything second-hand: make sure the piece is made from good materials (wood, metal, leather), and that any worn or damaged parts can be replaced, spruced up, or otherwise repaired. And this probably goes without saying, but never buy anything made from particle board second-hand."

Have any other tips? Share them in the comments!

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