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Saturday, March 2, 2013

How to Sell on Craigslist

How to Sell on Craigslist

Selling on craigslist is much like placing a classified ad in a newspaper.  You create an ad that describes your item for sale and how to contact you to view or purchase the item for sale.

Placing ads on craigslist is free.  All you need is an e-mail address.  If you don't have an e-mail address, you can get a gmail or outlook (formerly hotmail) e-mail address for free.  You can also include photos with your ad.  This will help your item sell.

Anyone with Internet access can look at ads on craigslist.  Some people check listings on craigslist every day (or even more often) looking for bargains.  For example, people interested in antiques may frequently check for new items for sale in the antiques category on craigslist.

I have used craigslist to sell items ranging from recreational vehicles to household items to collectibles and antiques.  Here is how to sell on craigslist:

How to Post an Ad to sell on craigslist

It only takes a few minutes to post an ad on craigslist.

  1. Go to
  2. Select the city nearest you.  One of the rules of craigslist is that you can only post your ad in one city at a time.
  3. Navigate to the best category for your item.  Look under the "for sale" banner and select the best category from the list, for example "antiques"
  4. Click "Post" to start the process of placing an ad on craigslist
  5. When prompted, choose a category for your ad, for example "antiques- by owner".  You may also see categories for sales by dealer, etc.  Just pick the one that most closely matches your situation.
  6. Fill out a description of your item for sale.  On this screen, you'll enter the Posting Title, Price, Specific Location, your e-mail address, and description of your item.  See below for tips to describe your item go get responses from buyers.

Screen to enter posting title, price, location, and posting description for craigslist ad
Place your ad to sell an item on craigslist
Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

7. Upload pictures.  This screen allows you to select image files on your computer to upload to your craigslist ad.  You'll need to take digital pictures of your item for sale.  Using a computer or smart phone, you can upload these to be included in your ad.  Pictures are not required, but are helpful to get buyers interested in your item.  

Shows how to upload images for craigslist ad
Upload images to your craigslist ad to sell your item
Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

8. Publish your ad.  You'll have a chance to preview your ad as it will appear on the internet and you can click a button to publish it.  If you spot any mistakes in your ad, you can go back and make changes before publishing it.

Shows preview of craigslist ad before publishing
Preview your ad, click publish to place your ad on craigslist
Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

9.  You will see a message that you have been sent an e-mail that you will need to open and click a link to activate your craigslist ad.  This e-mail contains instructions on how to:
Save this e-mail for future reference so that you can edit your ad as needed and delete your ad after your item is sold.

Tips to describe your item to sell on craigslist

Your item will sell faster if you can provide a detailed description.  Include the make, model, age, and condition of your item.  There are lots of items for sale, so potential buyers will skip over your listing if they cannot easily understand what you are selling.

Clear pictures help.  Craigslist allows up to 8 pictures, so try to get photos from multiple angles.  The first picture you upload is the one that will be featured and shown first when someone opens your ad.

I like to include measurements in the description when selling items such as furniture- if you don't include measurements, you may get lots of questions asking for the measurements.  It's easier to provide this in the description.

It is helpful to provide a specific asking price as well.  Make sure the price you enter in the listing description matches any price you may mention in the item description.  If buyers see two prices, they will automatically go for the lowest one- or even worse see room to negotiate down from the lowest price.  So make sure you only have one price listed anywhere in your ad.  It is a good idea to specify "cash only- no checks" to avoid misunderstandings later.

Avoid scams on craigslist

Some of the biggest risks on craigslist are scams where people will try to get money from you for a product they don't actually have.  Car selling scams are an example of this.  Someone will try to get you to send them money for a product they will send you later- then they disappear with your money.  When buying, always see the item for sale in person.

When selling, always get cash from the buyer.  This avoids any problems with bad checks.  For larger purchases, a cashier's check from a local bank is much better than accepting a personal check.

e-mail Trolling on craigslist

When you have an item listed on craigslist, you may get inquiries about your item that simply ask, "Is your item still available?"  Generic inquiries like this are likely sent by robots trying to harvest your e-mail address so it can be sold to spam mailing lists.  I don't respond to inquiries unless they mention something about the item for sale, or the buyer's location relative to mine.  What I am looking for is evidence that the e-mail was sent by a human interested in my item rather than a robot trying to get my e-mail address.

I am happy to reply to messages asking a specific question about my item for sale, or how far it is from the buyer's location to mine, etc.  But consider it a red flag when you get inquires that are so generic they could be sent to anyone selling something on craigslist.  I ignore these.  If you are concerned about missing a sale from someone who may really not know if your item is still available, you can add text in your ad on Craigslist that states that the item is available as long as the ad is posted.  With craigslist, it is easy to take down your ad when your item sells, or add a note that says "sale pending" if you have accepted an offer but not yet received payment.

Here are some examples of actual e-mails I received responding to craigslist ads.  If I had replied to these, my e-mail address would have been captured and sold to spam e-mail lists:
  • "Do you still have the item forsale?. Hit me back with an email if its available. My email is connected to my android phone and i can respond immediately. Thanks. Philip"
  • "Still avaliable? Contract me at [address-deleted]"
  • "Amount??? get back to me at  [address-deleted]"
  • "Do you still have the items for sale, get back to me with your phone # and email to contact you with asap."
Notice how none of these messages refer to the specific item for sale.  These messages could apply to any item for sale on craigslist.  Also, notice the incorrect grammar and misspelled words.    My advice is to simply delete this type of generic inquiry to a craigslist ad to avoid providing your e-mail for spam mailing lists.

How much information to share on craigslist? 

When you create your ad on craigslist, you will need to provide some contact information so sellers can contact you to ask questions and arrange to purchase your item for sale.  Craigslist can turn your e-mail address into an anonymous e-mail, so your real e-mail address is not posted on craigslist.  This will reduce the amount of spam e-mail you receive.  You will need to decide how much additional information to reveal to strangers on the internet.  I keep it to a minimum.  Potential buyers contact me through e-mail.  I can then decide whether to respond or not.  Once you respond, your e-mail is no longer anonymous- the buyer gets your real e-mail address at that point.

Selling safely on craigslist

I will typically arrange to meet the potential buyer in a public place to look at the item for sale if it is transportable.  This may be a parking lot or coffee shop.  I will share my cell phone number with a potential buyer to make coordinating the meeting easier.  If the item is not transportable, you may decide to share your address with the potential buyer.  I would recommend talking to the buyer on the phone first to decide whether to share your address or not.  If you have any concern for your safety, simply say you have another call coming in and end the call without sharing your address.

Avoid sharing too much information in your ad since you have no idea who will end up with that information. Buyers on craigslist are fully capable of using craigslist anonymous e-mail to make initial contact if they are interested in your item- they don't need your phone number and address to do this.

Dealing with Buyers- Closing the Deal

Don't be surprised if you get an offer for less than asking price when you meet with the potential buyer.  Another situation that may occur is that the buyer offers you a personal check, even though you specified cash only.  If your item is in high demand, I would recommend holding out for your terms- full asking price and cash only.  However, if you think you might have trouble find another buyer you may decide to compromise a bit.  

I have had great success selling items on craigslist- the best part:  it's free and you can change your ad whenever you want!

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