Give me advice on selling used furniture on Craigslist.
July 16, 2010 1:43 PM   Subscribe

I have furniture. I would like to convert it into small amounts of money, with the assistance of some guy named Craig. What do I do?

I have some furniture. I don't want it any more, because I'm moving cross-country. Since I'm going to have to get some new (or at least new-to-me) furniture on the other end, it would be nice to build up a small fund that I could use to do so.

Some friends have offered to take some of it off my hands, in exchange for small amounts of money. But my friends keep changing their minds, and I'm moving in two weeks, so I'm starting to think that Craigslist is the way to go.

What should I know about selling furniture on Craigslist? I've never bought furniture from Craigslist; what I have now is a mixture of new from IKEA (well, five years old) and hand-me-downs from my parents.

In particular:
- any tips on pricing? I've browsed Craigslist trying to figure this out, thinking that I should price similarly to other people, but prices seem to vary widely for apparently similar items.
- do I give out a phone number, or just an e-mail address?
- one post for all the items, or individual posts for each item?
- are people going to say that they'll come to see the furniture and then change their minds?
- if someone buys something, how much "help" am I supposed to give them in getting it out of my apartment/into their car?
Any other advice would also be appreciated.

I'm in Philadelphia, if this makes a difference.
posted by madcaptenor to Work & Money (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I read this question, but I'm really interested in the specific concerns I enumerated, so I think this is a different question.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:43 PM on July 16, 2010

It's all up to you.


The only question you asked that isn't answered by your personal preference is:

are people going to say that they'll come to see the furniture and then change their minds?

The answer: yeah, maybe.
posted by General Tonic at 1:46 PM on July 16, 2010

Some thougths:

Most people will not show up, so make sure to give them an appointment time for when you are going to be home doing stuff anyway.

I give out my phone #. Sometimes you can tell if it is a sketchy person on the other side and you can put them off.

I ask for their # so I can call them if they don't show up.

Don't wait more than 30 minutes for a person to show up.
posted by Vaike at 1:46 PM on July 16, 2010

Here's what I've done with Craigslist in the past:

1. Price on what you think is fair. If you think the item is worth $100, price it as such. If you're willing to take offers, say so.

2. I always to the initial contact through email. Nothing worse than having your phone number out there for anyone to call. Then again, you could use a Google Voice number to forward to your real number... Anyway, I suggest just posting your email address and when you reply to interested parties, include your phone number

3. If you want to get rid of everything in one fell swoop, a single ad might work. Or you can do multiple ads for like items (1 for end tables, 1 for couch/love seat, 1 for whatever else goes together)

4. Sometimes people waffle about the price of an item or just straight up decide they don't want it. I've done it before, but its to be expected. You can always expect for people to change their minds.

5. In your post state how much help you're willing to do. For example, if you don't want to help move a couch, say that they need to move it. If you want to help, do it. It's up to you to decide.
posted by ganzhimself at 1:48 PM on July 16, 2010

Most people will not show up

I've heard this from other people, too.

Why is that? What's the motivation to make an appointment and then blow it off?
posted by timeistight at 1:51 PM on July 16, 2010

Response by poster: timeistight: since you're never going to see the other person again, blowing it off is easier than calling or emailing to cancel.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:53 PM on July 16, 2010

Be as specific as possible in your post - measurements, fabric, actual color, condition, etc. List each thing separately and in each listing mention your other listings and link to them. People do change their minds, yep. Go with what you think is a fair and reasonable price and then add another 10 % or so, so in case buyers try to get a deal (they often will) you still get a decent price. I'd weed out interested parties via email and give out # numbers in the emails.

When you take photos, don't include anything of value in the photo - a laptop or nice tv, for example.
posted by iconomy at 1:55 PM on July 16, 2010

are people going to say that they'll come to see the furniture and then change their minds?

absolutely, yes. they'll also show up and try to get you to cut the price in half of let them take it for free.
posted by nadawi at 1:59 PM on July 16, 2010

I just got doing some of this, so...

1) Take a look at what other people have been selling for. I set myself about the same range, sometimes a little higher if I thought the furniture was better quality, sometimes a little lower if I just wanted it gone.

2) I started by email, but after I got the email contact I insisted on a phone call when they were coming out to look at what I had to sell. When I went with just email I got too many people who basically were sending emails to keep me thinking they were coming out to buy the desk, bed, chairs, whatever, and would "have to reschedule" again and again. If they can't be bothered to call me, they probably don't really to buy anything from you.

3) I ran one big ad, at first, and after I had a few things that didn't move for a few weeks, I relisted them later. Most of the rest went on the second listing.

4) Most of the time they won't even do you the courtesy of telling you they changed their mind.

5) For anything big (bed frame, dining room table, large desk), I offered to help with getting things out of the house. Once it's on their truck it isn't my problem anymore. If they declined help, I just made sure they got in and out of the house without any problems.

In one case, I had someone buy a bunch of furniture at once, and she actually hired a moving company to come pick everything up after paying me for it, and I just stayed out of their way. That was neat, but it's not something to expect.

6) Yes, everyone will probably want to haggle. Some things I came down on, some things I stood firm until I got what I wanted, but I had plenty of time to sell them. If you're more concerned about things just getting gone, roll with it and take what you think is decent. After all, if you wanted $80 for the computer desk, and they offer $45, but it gets it out of the house, it's still $45 you didn't have when you woke up. :)
posted by BZArcher at 2:03 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

1st -- Pictures, Pictures, and More Pictures.

Now your questions.
1: Craigslist pricing is crazy, and some say that asking too little hurts because people assume it is junk and won't want it (though Free always goes). It is just a guess really, so ask for the minimum you would pay and expect to get 10% less than that.

2: The more contacts listed the better. Some people will only reply through the ad contact no matter what you say, some really only like to use phones no matter what you say.

3: List each thing separately, or only two or three things at a time; you can link different ads though.

4: All the bloody damn time.

5: Small items expect to have to help carry, big stuff you shouldn't. I know that's backwards, but it is fair to expect someone to bring their on crew when moving an appliance, but not when buying three lamps. You might mention it in the ad or (better) in the follow up if it will be a problem.

Also, remove the ad the minute the thing is outside your door. It's depressing when you get three calls the hour after you've sold the thing, plus just a big aggravation, but don't think it is sold until it is gone.

Did I tell you about pictures yet?
posted by Some1 at 2:05 PM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: - any tips on pricing? I've browsed Craigslist trying to figure this out, thinking that I should price similarly to other people, but prices seem to vary widely for apparently similar items.

The cheaper it is, the more responses you'll get. This is good if you want to get rid of it as soon as possible; bad if you don't have the time needed to manage 20+ email threads about a $5 chair. So price according to what you think you can manage.

- do I give out a phone number, or just an e-mail address?

Email only, since it helps you manage the requests you're going to get. It's easier to track agreements to meetup if you have them in writing. I suggest setting up a filter in your email client. If you think you're actually going to meet up, then exchange numbers.

- one post for all the items, or individual posts for each item?

More than 3 items, put them all in one post. If the same person replies to two separate ads about your items, it won't be hard to connect them together. Any more than that and it will be a pain.

- are people going to say that they'll come to see the furniture and then change their minds?

Yes. Many of them will not realize the furniture will not fit in their car until they arrive, and then change their minds about taking it with them. You can avoid this in part by giving very specific measurements.

- if someone buys something, how much "help" am I supposed to give them in getting it out of my apartment/into their car?

Up to you, really. Just warn them if it takes more than one person to lift if you don't have the time or inclination to do it yourself. Oh,
posted by millions of peaches at 2:08 PM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Um, please disregard the "Oh" at the end there.
posted by millions of peaches at 2:09 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Describe the hand-me-downs from your parents as best you can. "Early American Federal Bow Front Dresser w/Mirror" will get more responses than "Dresser With Mirror". You should state the type of wood and the measurements inside the ad.
posted by mlis at 2:18 PM on July 16, 2010

I list separately with 4 photos. Upload to photobucket because you'll probably relist.

post on Thursday. Most responses I've gotten want to do this on the weekend.

price what you think is fair and drop the price every 5 days (re-post).

CL furniture is overwhelmed with spam.

80% of people will not show.

I do all email and give phone number day before 'in ase they get lost.'

give yourself 3 weeks to sell.

You may save yourself some time by doing a small garage sale and listing the stuff as 'for sale this Saturday 8am-1pm' and then you don't have to pick up your place and wait around so much.
posted by k8t at 2:29 PM on July 16, 2010

Aside from all the no-shows, I've found an overwhelming amount of potential Craigslist buyers prefer to do all followups via phone instead of email. So, prepare to set aside extra time corresponding with people.
posted by Wossname at 2:41 PM on July 16, 2010

Figure out a fair price, but remember that you want to sell. I was pretty flexible about the price on crap I didn't want because, hey, I didn't want it.

I'd just do the email. Give a phone number once the person wants to come by to look so that they can contact you if they get lost. Phone numbers up front seem to attract every halfwit mouthbreather in a 50 mile radius.

I'd put everything on a different posting (put a common phrase/keyword in the title listing and suggest that people search on that for more awesome stuff).

People can and will flake in the most amazing ways. One person tried to negotiate a lower price when the item was already packed up and put in her car. I kid you not. If you are really lucky they will call to tell you they have changed their mind.

You can give people as much or as little help as you want, but make sure you say which in the posting. If you won't help move the couch then say "I will not deliver or help you move it. Non negotiable" or something like that. I did that when I sold a fridge and the person rented a couple of Big Dudes With a Truck to get it. Worked fine. Of course, some people asked me if I could deliver it because some people are frigging idiots (see: phone numbers).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:43 PM on July 16, 2010

Nthing pictures.

Also, be realistic about the price. Unless it's a (bona fide) antique, it is worth half or less what you originally paid for it. Especially if it's ersatz hand-me-downs or big box starter furniture. I see a lot of IKEA furniture on Craigslist where the seller wants basically the retail price of said piece of furniture. It's like, "Dude, I know where IKEA is..."

I sold some furniture on Craigslist recently and asked for 50% of what I paid for it brand new 2 years ago (since it was still in perfect condition). The seller talked me down an additional $50. I thought I did very well.
posted by Sara C. at 2:52 PM on July 16, 2010

This is a pet peeve but when it comes to pricing, people tend to do this annoying thing where they write that the thing is from Ikea and if you get it new, it's $300 but the seller will sell it for only $280. I'm of the opinion that your used Ikea furniture is worth about half of the store price for the item new, especially if the thing is more than a year old. I feel like it's like a car - even if you bought it new, once you take it home and put it together and have it in your apartment for more than a year, it loses about half of its value. Because I can go to Ikea and get the thing without dealing with you. But that's just me.
posted by kat518 at 3:02 PM on July 16, 2010

Take good clear pictures and host them on imageshack or tinypic or another hosting site. Nothing is more frustrating than the tiny pictures you get when uploading to craigslist.
posted by thylacine at 3:06 PM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: Haven't read the other responses, because I should be packing right now myself, but since I'm going through the same thing, I might as well share my experience.

I took pictures of all of my furniture and, first, offered it for really cheap to people I know. My furniture is crappy, so with the exception of a brand-new nice mattress and futon frame, I offered pretty much everything for less than $15 a piece. The starving graduate students I know snatched up almost all of my chairs and bookcases, instantly.

Then I hit up the local livejournal community. Does philly have one? I got rid of a few pieces this way, quickly, with no problems. In my experience, livejournal people tend to be less flaky than the group of people I will heretofore refer to as "Some Assholes at Craigslist."

After that, I was down to about four pieces of furniture--a desk, a dresser, a TV, and the aforementioned bed.

The only offer I had on either the desk or the dresser was Some Asshole who offered to take both if I "gave him to them for free." Are you effing kidding me? I offered him them for $5 each, but he didn't answer me.

For the TV, Some Asshole was interested and said she'd come by yesterday and take it for $5. I rushed home from my work exit interview to meet her. She didn't show, and when I called her she said she "forgot" and that she'd come get it today. I didn't hear from her until 10 minutes after she was supposed to show up, when she asked me for directions. Ok, sure. I give her directions, she says she'll be there in a half hour. Forty five minutes later, she calls, says that my house doesn't exist. I ask where she is and she's on the wrong side of town. I offer to give her directions, but she says she "doesn't even want a fucking TV" and hangs up on me.

Meanwhile, one of my coworkers offered to take all of the above for a reasonable flat rate. She should be here any minute to get them.

As for the mattress, we had plenty of people asking to "come see it," but no one who even implied they were seriously interested in buying it. We had a meeting with Some Asshole scheduled for tonight. In the interim, my husband and I decided it wasn't worth the trouble to sell it as it only cost $50 more to rent a truck than a trailer, and decided to take it with us. I emailed the Asshole who had an appointment to "come see it" five hours in advance, and she cursed me out for "screwing her over," because apparently she'd sold her old sofa, even though we didn't have an explicit agreement that she would purchase ours.

In short, I would not bother trying to sell on craigslist again. Major pain in the ass. Stick with people you know if you want the whole process to be relatively painless, even if it won't make you a ton of money.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:08 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and taking photos and giving my pictures cutesy descriptions seemed to help sell my furniture to even my friends. This chair, for example, was claimed and picked up about four hours after I emailed my friends about it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:14 PM on July 16, 2010

I've had good responses posting pics and my asking price - set reasonably with room to negotiate. My experience has been that they'll ask if they want a lower price.

I've used just the anonymous email to start with and if they sound trust-worthy given out further contact details. If not, just hit the delete button.
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:08 PM on July 16, 2010

Since I had this pulled on me this morning buying a fridge off c-list, I'll offer it up (not that I condone it, but, honestly I was simultaneously cursing and admiring the guy).

If you are not interested in haggling and arguing over the price, when the person shows up to view it, say that you are not the owner, just his/her roommate or relative or something. If they keep pushing to negotiate, you just say 'Hey man, not up to me, not my possession...' You could maybe say that they gave you a $20 haggling allowance, but the fact is if they drive over to your house to check it out, and they like it, they eventually will pay the original asking price.

Again, I don't encourage it, but it works, and can actually save you time.
posted by mannequito at 6:19 PM on July 16, 2010

If you opt to sell anything on Craigslist, be prepared for everyone who shows up to arrive with exactly half as much money as they said they'd pay for your item, and to try to bargain you down to half of that. I've only sold furniture on Craigslist and after having to deal with the sorts of people it attracts, I now think of the initials C L as standing for Cheapass Loser. One guy tried to bargain down a $5 end table and was so persistent I finally told him to fuck off. Another one (a woman this time) showed up with NO money and attempted to give me a sob story about how no one had ever given her anything in her entire life, and this was my big chance to make that right.
I'll never sell anything on Craigslist again. It sucks.
posted by motown missile at 2:39 AM on July 17, 2010

Response by poster: I'm starting to think that selling furniture this way isn't worth my trouble, and if my friends won't buy my stuff I'll just call up one of the local thrift stores that picks up donations.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:09 AM on July 17, 2010

Counterpoint: my wife and I gave dumped a lot of used stuff on Craigslist (baby items, not furniture). We have had no-shows and last-minute attempts to make deals, but we've also had great luck getting rid of items we didn't need and buyers who said "hey, are you by chance selling anything else?" upon arrival. It's worth a try, but as always YMMV.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:46 AM on July 17, 2010

All good advice above. You're right that it's a bit of a pain, but usually you get more money for your effort when you sell multiple items at once.

Just want to emphasize clear descriptions, as much detail as possible, and good pictures. Use Photobucket or another image hosting site, because CL's own photo hosting compresses your pix and makes them look horrible.
posted by radioamy at 10:04 AM on July 17, 2010

One thing you might do is find a local auction house. There's plenty of couches that move through the auction firm at my college town; we were always on the lookout for couches on discount, but they always closed for decent money. Could be worth the effort.
posted by pwnguin at 3:28 PM on July 17, 2010

madcaptenor: I'm starting to think that selling furniture this way isn't worth my trouble, and if my friends won't buy my stuff I'll just call up one of the local thrift stores that picks up donations.

Ehhh, don't give up yet. Like a lot of things, MeFites can over think this, and some of us are a bit futzy. It isn't really that hard, and someone who really wants it might end up with your junk -- I mean treasures. Believe me not everyone that shops craigslist is an asshole; I'm not (my friends almost always say I'm not), and I've bought and sold there.

Take the advice you need, just to the point you need it, and forget the rest. If, and when, it becomes a hassle, you can ignore the messages and dump the stuff elsewhere, or you might wind up with enough for a pizza -- or a three day vacation.
posted by Some1 at 7:12 PM on July 17, 2010

On the charities that pick aware that some will only do it on a particular day a week or every 2 weeks with no flexibility (learned the hard way).
posted by eleanna at 11:23 PM on July 17, 2010

Response by poster: Followup: I ended up selling two (larger) pieces of furniture on Craigslist; things went well except that in both cases the buyer showed up an hour late. I listed some small things on CL as well, but those just got put on the street on moving day (I wasn't going to get more than $20 each for these things, and that didn't seem worth the hassle). I also sold some things to my friends, who were better at showing up. It was a bit of a pain in the ass, but worth it because I had the time to kill.

Although there was an awkward point where I had no proper chairs. It's hard to time these things correctly.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:25 AM on July 27, 2010

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