January 31, 2011
Are you a novice when it comes to using Craigslist? Whether you're trying to sell your couch or find a roommate, there are good ways and bad ways to navigate your way through this online community. TribU wants to help you feel like a pro.
"I've seen plenty of people have great success with selling furniture," says Margaret Hazlett, a Chicago area real estate agent who helps her clients offload excess items on Craigslist. "You may have an occasional no-show, but that is rare."
Hazlett says the first step to a successful posting on Craigslist is making sure you have several angles of photographs and all the necessary statistics.
"You have to remember to measure," she says. "People want to know how tall, how deep, how wide. And if there's any detailing in the furniture, take a close-up [photo].
"If you have an item that is wood, say what kind. People want it to match what they already have, and you'd be amazed at how much back-and-forth I'll get on emails asking about the color and quality of wood items."
Price to sell and you'll have more traffic.
"This isn't an antique forum. You're trying to sell things below their value to get rid of them, so hoping to get full price or more is unrealistic," she says.
Craigslist enthusiast Laura Rusche learned that lesson the hard way.
"I was the person who sold everyone's clutter for a profit," admits Rusche. "I'd sent out an e-mail to a few close friends and family asking them to drop off baby items or unused housewares so I could list them on Craigslist. I'd had such luck, I felt like a pro."
When someone offered to pay above asking price for a stainless steel cooktop, Rusche thought she'd hit the jackpot.
"He said, 'I'm willing to pay an extra $50 by [cashier's check],'" Rusche says. "The next e-mail I got from him was totally strange, and he insisted I send him back the $50 overpayment via Western Union. He said his secretary had fallen on hard times and he couldn't overpay me."
Rusche did some research and found out the "fake cashier's check" scam was a rampant problem on Craigslist.
"If you get an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is," says Rusche. "Never sell anything for a money order or cashier's check. And be wary of any awkward language in the e-mail. This guy used phrases that we don't usually use. That was a red flag."
Hazlett says something else to be aware of is people agreeing to a price, and then trying to wiggle out of it on site.
"I've seen people come for a pick-up and try to low ball," she says. "Another guy wanted to trade an item for an old Fender guitar. This isn't a swap! You have to stick to your guns. If they drove all the way to you to get something, chances are they really want it."
But is it safe to have strangers come to your house to pick up items?
"Always make sure you have at least one other person with you so you aren't alone, and get their phone number and e-mail address before you commit to a sale," suggests Hazlett. "You also don't want to give out too much information about when you will be home once you've given out your address."
And be careful if someone wants to come and see the item ahead of time.
"You don't usually want to commit to someone coming into your home and looking at your things unless they've agreed to buy what you are selling," she adds.
Hazlett says people often don't realize that Craigslist is more than just a place to sell things.
"I'm a realtor and I suggest people look there for apartments before going to a broker," she says. "Some people I know have made life-long friends from doing a roommate search with Craigslist. And there are jobs and even medical studies to make extra cash.
"There is so much on there. But you might have to do some digging to make contact with an actual person sometimes."
Do you have any Craigslist success stories or horror stories? We'd like to know!
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