Need extra cash for the holidays? Consider cleaning out your closet, attic, or basement and selling some of your unused stuff on craigslist. The popular website allows you to post photos and descriptions of everything from dining room sets to designer jeans and provides an anonymous system for communicating with potential buyers in your area. Users post over 100 million classified ads each month including reposts and renewals, according to the site’s fact sheet.
I’ve sold the occasional piece of furniture or electronics on craigslist, but Ryan Finlay has been buying and selling appliances full time on craigslist for the past several years. He even launched the ReCraigslist blog to share his strategies. Here are five of Finlay’s tips.
- Research pricing.
Before you post an item for sale, study how to price it. Finlay says some sellers underprice an item to move it quickly but leave money on the table. “There’s a sweet spot in price that’s fair for the buyer and fair for the seller,” he says. For smaller items, you might get a feel for that sweet spot by checking recent sales on eBay. You can also check your local craigslist listings, but keep in mind that listings are removed once the item sells so scrolling through ads will only show you what’s still available—and potentially overpriced. To get a feel for the market, Finlay suggests pricing products on the high side, at least at first. “You can always repost your ad and adjust the price two days later if you’re not getting any phone calls or emails,” he says.
- Take clear, well-lit photos.
Photos of the actual product you’re selling (not a manufacturer’s image you found online) help build trust and create a first impression. When I buy something on craigslist, I don’t even look at listings without photos! “To present yourself as clean and organized, I encourage people to take pictures of their items in uncluttered areas,” Finlay says. “Far too many people taking a dingy picture of an item buried in their garage where it’s not well lit or there’s clutter all behind it.” Remove clutter and make sure there’s plenty of lighting. If necessary, move the item outside and photograph it there to avoid clutter and bad lighting.
- Keep your ad concise.
Don’t go overboard describing your vintage coffee table or last year’s Christmas sweater and why you’re selling it. Instead, keep your description short while addressing important points. “Make a list of the five biggest things that you think a prospective buyer would want to know and address those five things,” Finlay says. If you’re selling a coach or coat from a nonsmoking house with no pets, buyers will want to know that. If you’re selling electronics, buyers may want to know the model number so they can research features. Including this key information will reduce the number of questions you get from prospective buyers.
- List your phone number.
If you’re concerned about privacy, you can always communicate with buyers using craigslist’s anonymous email system. But if you want to move items quickly, include a phone number in your ad instead of exchanging a slew of emails can help. “Putting your phone number is going increase the number of buyers and how quickly it’s going to sell because people are impatient and they don’t want to email,” Finlay says. With craigslist transactions, it’s customary to sell the item to the person who can pick it up soonest, not the first person who responds but wants to schedule pick up in another week (and may flake out in the interim).
- Take safety precautions.
Plenty of craigslist transactions run smoothly but there’s no oversight when you meet a stranger to sell an old iPhone or DVD set, so be on your guard to prevent safety issues or fraud. For these reasons, Finlay suggests not conducting transactions late at night or accepting checks. “People try to buy things on stolen checks and even cashiers’ checks can be forged,” he explains. In this case, cash is king. “If you get a weird feeling,” Finlay adds, “just walk away and politely say ‘it’s not going to work out.'”
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