If you need proof that great furniture can be found on Craigslist, look no further than The Everygirl’s home tours. So many of the chic, well-appointed apartments and houses we’ve featured have been furnished (at least in part) by the online yard sale site. However, even if you know there are some hidden treasures on Craigslist, you may not look for them yourself — whether it be because of a healthy dose of cautionary fear, a lack of understanding of the process, or simply because when you have looked all you’ve found is junk. These are all solid reasons to avoid Craigslist, but in doing so you’re missing out on some potentially incredible deals on high-quality furniture.
People who score a $300 Restoration Hardware dining table or an impeccable mid-century sideboard for $85 on Craigslist don’t stumble upon those pieces by luck. It takes a little know-how, a lot of patience, and the right availability — but if you’re willing to put in the time, you could furnish your home for a literal fraction of the cost of buying all new pieces. To help you master the art (and science) of shopping Craigslist for furniture, we’ve listed five of the best tips for getting started below.
1. Use Filters to Your Advantage
The first step to successfully shopping on Craigslist is searching with a mission in mind. If you browse just for the sake of browsing, you’ll quickly get overwhelmed by how much you hate everything you’re looking at.
Filter by For Sale, and then select either the Furniture or Antiques category (even if you don’t think you’re looking for an antique — your definition of antique and someone else’s may not be the same). We also recommend checking the Has Image box, because anything posted without photos is not worth even considering. If someone has something great to sell, they’ll have photos of it. You can assume anything else is a scam.
You can also check the Bundle Duplicates box so you don’t see the same piece listed multiple times (a tactic some sellers use) to pare down your search results. Finally, if you’re in a smaller city (or are willing to travel), you can include results from nearby areas or set a wider mileage limit.
2. Be Smart With Keywords
In addition to the filters you set, the quality of your search results is all about the keywords you use. If you have a particular item in mind, start with a super specific search (like West Elm blue velvet couch or 7-foot dining table) and then get more generic with each subsequent search.
It’s pretty common for people to sell off all their furniture before a big move, so you can easily find like-new items from brand-name stores like West Elm, Crate and Barrel, or Pottery Barn at a fraction of the cost. However, beware that some sellers will use “like Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, etc.” in their product description to surface in those search results, despite not having a matching item.
Not only will some sellers try to up-sell their furniture as something nicer than it is, but other sellers will list an item that has a recognizable name with a title and description that’s way more generic — often because they don’t know any better. For example, a chic Louis Ghost Chair could be hiding under “plastic dining chair,” so it pays to always check more generic searches as well, even though that means sifting through more unappealing items. Also, don’t forget to check common misspellings or synonyms for any popular names or phrases (for example, “midcentury” and “mid-century” have completely different results).
Bonus tip: You can always save or set alerts for certain searches with a Craigslist account so you can keep up with new additions if you’re on the hunt for something specific.
3. Check Often and Be Ready to Buy
Folks selling furniture on Craigslist often expect their items to sell within a week or two, so if you aren’t checking frequently, you might miss out on something good, which is why alerts can be helpful.
Once you are ready to buy, you also should be ready to arrange pick-up as soon as possible. Sellers can make a deal with whichever buyer they choose, so if you offer a fair price but aren’t able to pick up the piece for two weeks, they’ll likely go with another buyer.
On the flip side, it can pay to be patient: if you see something you like, but think the price is too high, keep an eye on the listing. If it’s still live after a week, you can justifiably come in with a much lower offer. By then, the seller is probably more than ready to make the sale at any price.
4. Make the Seller Like You
Again, there are no rules about who the seller chooses to make a deal with, so try to make this process as easy for them as possible so they want to sell their item to you. When you’re ready to reach out about a piece, be cool (even if you’ve just found your dream item for 90 percent off retail price) and courteous, and start brief by simply asking if the item is still available. Mention early-on that you’d be willing to bring cash to pick it up in the next few days.
Once you do hear back that the item is still available, then you can ask any follow-up questions you have — for dimensions, more close-up photos, whether the item has lived alongside pets or smokers (crucial for any upholstered pieces), or any other concerns you have.
5. Wheel and Deal Like a Pro
Any shopping experience where there’s haggling involved can scare a lot of people off — but that fear is purely based on inexperience (but fixing that is why you’re here, right?). That said, Craigslist sellers expect buyers to make an offer, and the worst they can say is no, so you’ve got little to lose. If the piece you’re interested in is fairly common and there are others for sale on the site, you can use those comparative prices to bolster your argument.
Whether you negotiate beforehand or wait until you’ve seen the item in person is up to you, but coming to an agreement ahead of time can make the whole in-person process less stressful. Don’t make any promises you aren’t expecting to keep, but if something looks much different than what you were expecting or the seller hid scratches or stains in the photos, you can always reevaluate once you’re in front of the piece. Explain your change of opinion, offer less than you had previously discussed, and be prepared to walk away if the seller isn’t willing to budge or you simply have changed your mind.
Last but not least, be super cautious when purchasing anything off of Craigslist, as there always is a risk involved when dealing with strangers. Take a buddy with you (preferably one with a big car), and try to meet the seller somewhere public (like a shopping center parking lot) or at the least, request they bring the piece to their garage or driveway so you don’t have to go inside their house (they probably don’t want you in there either). Better safe than sorry.