Thursday, April 16, 2015

11 Secrets to Successful Vintage Shopping on Craigslist

 Confession: I adore Craigslist.
Perhaps its the hunt, or the challenge of finding an incredible piece for an amazing price...
Whatever it is, I just can't get enough.

On several occasions, friends have taken note of new furniture or décor in my home and have eagerly solicited the name of the retailer that sold me my latest and greatest finds;
without fail, upon happily declaring that I found a piece on Craigslist,
I'm always met with a similar reaction: a frown and a look of sheer disappointment,
accompanied by the inevitable statement,
"Oh. That never works for me."
Further, I'm always shocked when design shows and magazines seek to "challenge" seasoned designers to craft beautiful spaces from items found on Craigslist, alone. 
 How is this so?!
Honestly folks, at the very least, 50% of my home is adorned with Craigslist buys!

So, at the risk of creating a greater pool of competition for myself,
I've decided its time to share my secrets for success on Craigslist. 
I'll help you crack the code to the single most plentiful and untapped resource for INCREDIBLE vintage finds. 

Here's how its done...
1) Search for EVERYTHING through the general search bar
 By searching through the general search bar
vs. specific categories in the "For Sale" section
(i.e. Antiques/Furniture/Appliances)
you expand your search to include all sections where items might be posted
(thus, saving you time and futile searching), while also increasing the likelihood of finding possible items that may have been mis-categorized by sellers that are new or unfamiliar with Craigslist

2) Use Gallery View Mode

vs. List View Mode

Again, this is a major time-saving measure and can help you sift through junkier options quickly without having to click on every listing, which can prove discouraging.
Also note, that Gallery View provides a fairly comprehensive picture
of what you're getting
(i.e. photos, price, location, and brief description)

Additionally, Craigslist has included a new feature which allows you to view multiple photos of items (assuming the seller has included several),
by simply floating your mouse over the photos of the posted item, then using the left/right arrows to see all photos--not unlike a quick shopping feature.

Side note: CL has also just added a new map feature, which helps you search for specific items in your general vicinity. A real plus in Texas, where its not uncommon to travel 25-50 miles to pick up the perfect piece.

3) Save money by searching for items sold by "owner" vs "dealer"
Craigslist offers three options in the sidebar when searching for items, "all," "owner," and "dealer."
I frequently select "all" so I can get a more comprehensive idea of what's being sold and because sometimes the most quality items come from dealers willing to cut you a really great deal.
However, if you're looking to get the best deal on unique pieces, while also filtering out the annoying ads from your local furniture store, select "owner," and you'll narrow your search down to the brave, lone souls looking to sell their gently used chest of drawers inherited from Grandma.
4) Simplify, Simplify, Simplify AND Specify!
A. Simplify: Through lots of experience and trial and error, I have found that the best way to score steals on CL is to dumb down your search by avoiding style/design specific search terms and instead using more direct, simplistic search terms. 
Example: searching "old chairs" vs. "bergere chairs"
Often, as mentioned before, sellers just don't know what they have on their hands...
Warning: you may have to click through pages and pages of junky old chairs, but when you come upon a set like this (apologies for the grainy photo, but you get the idea):
Listed as "old faux wooden chairs" by the seller,
and being sold for a whopping $75,
and in your head you instead envision something like this:
There's truly no better feeling than finding you've scored a pair of antique wooden bergere chairs for an incredible price, that you can have reupholstered, and know you'll use for years to come...and for $75, no less!!! 
B. Specify: Both the beauty and frustration in using a resource like Craigslist is understanding the infinite possibilities that exist for finding wonderful furniture, collectables, and home goods. 
While many have no idea what they're selling, others know exactly what they're selling, and label their items very specifically; to the detriment of the seller, as few people are searching things like, "distressed kitchen island" (few people, other than me, that is).
If you have a very specific item in mind (brand, style, or retail store),
be sure to search for that exact item via brand, style, retail store
("Breville", "distressed/chipped", "Anthropologie"),
and you may just come across an exceptional deal! 
Much like I did when I found this piece
(again apologies for somewhat grainy pics via Instagram):
(sadly relegated to a life in the seller's garage)
Listed as "distressed kitchen island" by the seller,
and being sold for $425
(happily showcased, front and center, in my kitchen)
5) It Pays to Misspell
Craigslist offers no spell check feature when sellers are listing items,
resulting in literally thousands of Craigslist listings going unnoticed/unfound
as misspellings don't allow for sellers to find items.
This is great news for buyers like you and me,
who are savvy enough to check around,
just in case. 
I frequently use different variations on several words just to check.
Example: Mantel vs. Mantle
Now we all know the correct spelling for Mantel (as is fireplace) is "mantel"
but it isn't to say that in a frenzy of posting ads, a seller won't slip and
instead list a Mantel as a "Mantle"
Please see the simple equation below for further explanation.
Incorrect Spelling + No Contact from Buyers= Old Listings= Opportunity to Haggle= A Total Steal!
6) Don't Be Afraid to Haggle
My general rule of thumb is that if a posting has been listed for 5 days or longer, I always offer a lower price, whether the listing specifies the price is "firm" or not. 
After a business week's worth of little to no action, I'm always confident that a seller is probably more eager to move a piece for a lower price than they originally request.
When haggling, I've found the best course of action is one in which you do your best not to insult the seller by relaying an offer this way:
"would you be willing to take ___$'s for the piece?..."
"I'm willing to pay ___$'s for the piece..."
Soften the blow of a lesser offer by wording your offer in the most polite terms possible. 

7) Negotiate Before You Meet
Its just as simple as that. 
Its the courteous, polite way to do things. 
Nothing is more insulting than agreeing on a price with a seller,
then arriving and offering something lower. 
In all dealings on CL, the basic principles of being polite and courteous apply
8) Don't Overpay
Much to the chagrin of many-a-Craigslist-shopper,
many-a-Craigslist-seller sincerely believes that he/she is in possession of the greatest piece of furniture ever crafted and fully expects that you share the same sentiment for the piece,
 by way of a needlessly hefty price tag.
In this scenario I always ask myself a couple of questions...
a. How much do you like/need the piece?  How much money do you have to put into the piece?  These questions speak for themselves, if your responses to the questions aren't resounding,
its probably best to skip the piece.
b. Is the piece exceptional?
Try to look past the name brands
(i.e. Pottery Barn, West Elm, Restoration Hardware, etc.)
that is unless the price is a steal, as in 1/2 or  more off of than the original retail price.
But really what makes CL awesome is finding pieces that aren't average or common at all,
rather, really eclectic/unique finds that no one else has!
Soapbox Moment: what really gets my goat, is when sellers try to sell 4 year old, name brand pieces, at name brand prices.  Unless the items are completely unused or in perfect condition, under no circumstances is it reasonable or fair to ask high prices based on the a name brand.
Don't compromise your gut feeling for the sake of a deal that will afford you a 4 year old chair from Pottery Barn, if you can instead just spring for something brand new from Cost Plus World Market.

9) Carefully examine your goods before forking over the cash
Is there a crack in the arm of that chair?  An unsightly scuff along the edge of the sofa? 
Some other serious imperfection that was conveniently left out of photos? 
This is undoubtedly one of the most uncomfortable scenarios I've ever been met with,
in my dealings on Craigslist. 
If you're met with an item that simply doesn't represent what you saw in the photograph (within reason), or fit the description provided in the original listing, in no way are you obligated to spend your hard-earned money on something you didn't agree to purchase.
I'm ashamed to admit this happened just once to me...
And after inevitably having to discard the very chair I'd resolved I'd just get fixed,
 after reluctantly purchasing it from a college student, despite my better judgment
and her omission regarding the poorly adhered chair leg.... 
I vowed never to succumb to feelings of guilt again. 
Your money is your money,
and fair and honest, should be just that.
10) Email Alerts
 One of my very favorite new features is the "email alert" option, which affords buyers to create an account with CL and receive periodic alerts for favorite searches.
  As many incredible deals are posted and purchased immediately, this option really gives you the edge if you're on the hunt for a farmhouse kitchen table or oversized glass lanterns, as you'll have first dibs thanks to the alert.
Please note that alerts can be turned on/off as needed, so if they become too numerous, they can certainly be quieted simply by altering your settings.

11) Safety is key, bring a friend along for the ride
While I certainly don't want to scare anyone,
with so many stories hitting the news about CL exchanges gone wrong,
one can never underestimate the need to be extra cautious.
I've never experienced anything other than seamless transactions with delightful sellers,
but that isn't to say it isn't possible or likely. 
One of the most sound pieces of advice I can offer,
is that you suggest a police station or very public place
to conduct your exchange of goods/money.
If a seller is honest and reasonable,
it should be of no consequence to the seller where the meeting takes place,
and you'll certainly be afforded a greater sense of security with loads of cameras present to document license plates/photos of the seller,
just in case. 
In terms of suggesting such a meeting place, I always like to advise that my suggested meeting place is nothing personal, rather a precaution I must take as a single girl who's shopping smart.
Lastly, please remember, dear friends, that Craigslist is a veritable cacophony of junk,  it takes some practice to peruse the site and find gems amidst the rubble--and just remember sometimes you'll walk away with nothing at all!
But for folks like me, who enjoy the delight of finding wonderful pieces at incredible prices, its all in good fun and the rewards certainly outweigh the efforts. 
Use Craigslist to your advantage, have fun, and happy shopping!

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