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A Few Quick Tips for Selling Items on Craigslist

by Ryan Guina

My wife and I recently accepted an offer on our home, and are in the process of getting ready to move. Once we started going through everything we realized we had a lot more STUFF than we thought we did – and a lot of it was stuff we don’t use anymore, and no longer need. Unfortunately, we can’t have a yard sale, so we have had to be a little creative to clear our basement and closets.

We’ve thrown out a ton of items, donated a few boxes of clothing and household items to Goodwill, and sold quite a bit more on Craigslist – almost $2,000 worth of stuff, to be exact. Unfortunately, we also had to do $1,000 in repairs before we sold the home, so half of the money is already accounted for! The other half of the money will go toward the rental truck, packing supplies, and other fun things. I’ll be sure to write more about that later.

Selling items on Craigslist has multiple bonuses as far as we are concerned – we are getting rid of items we no longer use or need, we are reducing the amount of items and bulk we have to move, and we are making some money on top of it. It’s a match made in heaven!

Tips for selling items on Craigslist

If you’ve never used Craigslist, then there are a few things you should know before you go listing everything you own. How to write a good listing is part of the battle, and so is knowing what to list. My basic rule of thumb is that if it isn’t worth $20 or more, then it probably isn’t worth my time to try and sell it. My other rule of thumb is to price things at such an attractive price that it gets people’s attention quickly (more on pricing in a moment). Finally, there is the emotional aspect to consider. Many people (myself included) tend to place an emotional value on belongings. This is something I’m working hard to get over as my wife and I work to reduce the amount of stuff we own. In the long run, things aren’t as important as we often think they are – so based on that reasoning, we have come to the conclusion that if we haven’t used it in a year, we probably don’t need to keep it (with a few exceptions, of course).

What is your motivation for selling? Is your primary motivation for selling your items on Craigslist to clear space or make money? If your primary goal is to make money, then you should price your item close to the listed price of similar items in your area. If your primary motivation is to clear space, then you should be more aggressive with your pricing. Since my wife are moving quickly, I made it a point to price everything aggressively – often at around 50-75% of the price for similar listings. The goal was to clear these items out as quickly as I could, not maximize our revenue.

Write a thorough description. I try to list as many details about the item as I can. If you are selling a batch of items, be sure to list everything and give a description of the quality, quantity, manufacturer, model number, or other details that could help someone make a decision. Another tip is to link to the manufacturer’s website or an online review. These listings often have the original manufacturer’s price, which can help you 1) determine the price you should sell the item for (more on this in a moment), and 2) show people a reference point for value. Thankfully, there are thousands of review sites out there which list model specifications for just about anything – even products that are a few years old. Here are tips for selling your car on Craigslist.

Take a lot of photos. Pictures often tell more than words. Craigslist allows you to publish up to 4 pictures with your listing. Sometimes these pictures are enough to generate interest in your listing. Other times you might need to have a few more pictures in reserve. Unfortunately, the pics aren’t the highest quality, but there are a few things you can do to get around that. The first, is to host them on Flickr or PhotoBucket, then host a link so others can view the pictures at their leisure. You can also keep some high resolution photos in reserve and offer to e-mail them to the potential buyer upon request.

Price your items reasonably. A reasonable price means different things to different people. I tend to price things to sell because I want to get them out of my house with as little hassle as possible. Almost no one haggled with me on price because the prices were already such a good value. There is no set rule of thumb for how much you should charge – for example, I sold one guitar for about 60% of what it would cost new, and another about 33% of what it would cost new. Both guitars were in excellent condition and were high quality – the difference, however, was the demand for each style and brand. We sold other items for much less than we could have gotten had we taken more time to sell them. But again, our motivation was clearing space and weight for our upcoming move.

Be flexible. As I mentioned, almost no one haggled on price – but I was willing to negotiate when necessary. One example was selling a batch of military gear. My wife and I both served several years in the military and we had a few bags full of old uniforms, boots, jackets, cold weather gear, and other miscellaneous uniform items and gear. I divided everything into a few lots, priced it reasonably, and within a day received an inquiry from someone who wanted to buy everything. I added up the cost of all the lots, knocked off about 20% on the price and met him about halfway between our homes (he lived a hour and a half away). He was planning on reselling everything on Ebay and mentioned he should be able to double his money. It was a perfect deal on both ends – I got rid of a ton of stuff in one transaction with little hassle, and he will probably double his money or possibly more. I could have made more money by piecing everything out, but my motivation was different than his.

Safety first. I gave out my home address to quite a few people over the last few days, which I realize isn’t something everyone would be willing to do. I normally recommend meeting someone in a public place if at all possible – however, sometimes that isn’t easily done, especially with large items like furniture, or items which require electricity (such as the electric guitars I sold). If you must invite someone into your home, then it’s best to have someone else be there. And if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t hesitate to cancel the meeting or ask someone to leave – you are under no obligation to sell something if you don’t want to.

Craigslist is my new best friend

I think many people tend to keep things in their closets, basement, attics, and other places because they just don’t know what to do with things. My goal now is to try and sell things on Craigslist before shoving it into a closet or other storage area where it will be forgotten and just take up space. Clear space, make money – it’s perfect. I also plan on scouting Craigslist when we need to buy something – there are always deals to be had. Selling these items on Craigslist opened my eyes to a new subset of our economy. And I like it.

Do you have any tips for selling items on Craigslist?


Published or updated March 30, 2011.
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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Money Beagle

When I sold some furniture last year, I had people come to my house, but I moved the items out to the garage first. For us, this worked because they were only tables and what not. It might not be such a hot idea if it’s couches or anything that could invite mildew or creatures to come live inside. But, if it’s possible, I’d try to do whatever I could to keep people out of the inside to limit temptation of some unscrupulous individual taking something or seeing something that they would like to come back and take, or even to scope out if you have an alarm system or the like.

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2 Ryan

Great tip, MB. We were already in the process of packing everything, so we had the items for sale in the living room, which is right in front of the entryway. So we didn’t take people through the house to get a good look at everything we have. You definitely want to protect yourself!

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3 LoveBeingRetired

Thanks for the pointers. I agree that taking good pictures is vital to selling your item. If I read an ad and there is no picture, I move on. Whereas a few pictures from different sides quickly helps me make up my mind one way or the other. Saves setting up an appointment to meet that wastes both my and the buyers time.

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4 Ryan

Agreed. I filter Craigslist results to exclude items that don’t have pictures. It’s not worth the hassle otherwise!

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5 Jeffrey

I’m surprised that no one haggled! I’ve sold a lot of stuff over the last year on Craigslist, and I would say more than half of buyers at least attempted to talk me down on price. Because of this, I typically price things a little higher than I hope to get for things and assume I will be offered less most of the time.
I like your tips, especially the first one about motivation for selling. If you need to get rid of things, definitely price them low and move them fast.

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6 Ryan

Jeffrey, some of the prices were so low, I think people didn’t want to let the items get away. I sold both of our TVs (25″ and 27″ tube for $20 each), we sold a solid oak entertainment center (over $500 new) for $50, a near mint Fender Telecaster for $600 (new is $1,000), and the list goes on. A couple people tried to talk me down on a keyboard and a bike, but I had several other interested parties who ended up paying full list price. My motivation was primarily to get rid of things with minimal hassle, vs. maximizing money (though I didn’t want to give them away for free either). Overall, it was successful and there were some very happy people. Win-win all around. :)

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7 krantcents

Interesting article. i have a couple antiques, I want to sell, but I need an appraisal first. Thanks for the information.

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8 Ryan

Craigslist is one of the places you can sell your antiques without an appraisal, depending on how much you want to sell the items for. Again, it comes down to motivation. If you want to maximize your revenue, then you can and should get an appraisal. But if you want to clear space and get a reasonable value for the items, then you should list them for what you would be happy to receive for them.

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