By Emily Clark
If redecorating is on your to-do list but not necessarily in your budget, there may be an easy solution. Through persistence, and with a little patience, I’ve been able to furnish the majority of our home by using Craigslist. Although often overlooked, it’s a golden resource for good, and inexpensive, design.
One of the advantages of living near a metro area is the abundance of great stuff out there for sale. If you’re willing to drive a little, look a lot and sometimes apply a new coat (or two) of paint, you may be able to find some unbelievable deals.
Take my bookcases, for example. At first glance, they were a brown mess, with many layers of neon paint underneath. However, the carved detailing on the doors intrigued me, they fit the space underneath our stairs perfectly, and the price was right–$20 each. So, I took a chance and spent the good part of a Saturday sanding and repainting them. The end result was worth the elbow grease and my $40.
I’ve had several friends tell me, however, that they rarely have luck while shopping on the site. Although I don’t have any magic formula, these are my best tips for finding–and getting–great deals on Craigslist:
· Search the site often. If you’re looking for a specific item (or even if you’re just browsing), look several times a day–or more. New listings are added all the time, and if there’s something really great, you want to be the first to know about it. Sometimes I type in keywords, but usually, I just keep refreshing the page to scour new listings.
· Don’t use keywords that are too specific in your search. If you are looking for a tufted chair, for example, just type in the word “chair.” In many cases, sellers may not know the correct term for tufting, upholstered, etc. If you search using broader terms, you’ll come up with more results and hopefully find a gem that other buyers have missed.
· Be decisive, and act fast. Craigslist is not the place to spend two weeks deciding if the $25 coffee table you found is the perfect fit for your living room. Good items go fast. So, if you find it, like it and feel that it’s a fair price, go for it, and don’t look back.
· Always offer less than the asking price. I always email with a lower offer (still within reason) or to ask if they’re willing to negotiate. Why not? Nine times out of ten, I get a better deal. Craigslist is made for negotiation. I just try to keep my offers fair so that the seller will take me seriously and hopefully respond.
· If you can’t afford the item, email the seller with your budget. I know I just said to email the seller with a reasonable offer. That being said, if you’re looking at a bigger ticket item and can’t necessarily pay what they’re asking, it doesn’t hurt to email the seller and tell them what you can pay, in case the item doesn’t sell.
· Look past the pictures. I always try to look closely at the (very often terrible) photographs on Craigslist to find the potential of a piece of furniture. Think about what changes you can make with fresh paint, new fabric, etc. I look for the small details that may set the piece apart after a makeover.
· Take a friend. And, lastly, be careful. This may go without saying, but any time you’re dealing with online transactions, it’s a good idea to take a friend for safety—and heavy lifting.
To find listings in our area, go to charlotte.craigslist.org. Good luck with your searches and happy shopping!