Last week I posted (Almost) Everything I've Ever Bought or Sold on Craig's List and How to Buy with Confidence on Craig's List. In today's post I'm sharing some tips that I hope will give you the confidence to try selling a used item on Craig's List. I've heard people say buying and selling on Craig's List seems creepy. Maybe you heard a sketchy story on the local news involving Craig's List once. Having sold tons of items on Craig's List, I can tell you that almost everyone buying something that you would sell on Craig's List is just an ordinary person like you. Take a few precautions, and you should never find yourself in an iffy situation.
Note that Craig's List is used for other things besides buying and selling (personals, services like tutoring and child care, job postings, rental housing). This post is about selling an item in the "For Sale" section. Go to the Craig's List site page, click on your nearest metropolitan area, then click on "my account" where you will be prompted to sign in or create an account. Once signed in and on your account page, click on the "New Posting" tab at the top of the page. You can also click on the "For Sale" heading and then "Post" in the top right corner.
A few tips for selling safely and successfully on Craig's List
Deal locally with people you can meet in person, and you will avoid 99% of all scams according to Craig's List. As a general rule, you should hand over your item only when the payment is in your hand.
Always ask to be paid in cash. Put it right in your post: "CASH ONLY." I've had a few people want to pay me by check, especially for larger amounts, but I always insist on cash. I let them know where the nearest ATM is and wait for them to make a withdrawal.
Meet in a public place whenever possible, especially if you are female. If this is impractical because you are selling a heavy item of furniture, for example, consider scheduling appointments at your home only if another adult will also be present. I usually make appointments when my husband will be home too. Easier in terms of dealing with my little ones too. I do sometimes let other women whom I've spoken with on the phone (especially those purchasing baby and kid items) come to my house during the day even when my husband is gone. Just depends on your comfort level. For more tips about staying safe, check out Craig's List own page on Personal Safety.
Do not put your address in your ad. If buyers will be coming to my home, I only give out my address to folks I have spoken to on the telephone right before an appointment, to limit the number that have it. I usually include my approximate location in my listing and then tell buyers who have an appointment with me to call me when they are leaving work/ home so I can give them my exact address. You can include a map with approximate street coordinates (I use the nearest large intersection) in your listing. For large objects that will be shown at my home, I also usually put "You pick up" in the listing, and let them know if they will need a friend to help move the object.
Expect flakes and no-shows. There will be many of them. For this reason, unless I am really desperate to get rid of something, I do not rearrange my schedule to meet a buyer. If you are meeting buyers away from your home, make the meeting in conjunction with an errand you already need to make (for example, a trip to the library or grocery store) rather than make a special trip, or choose a location on the way home from picking up your child from an activity. I often ask potential buyers to call me when they are leaving.
Price to sell. Check what price other sellers are selling similar products for. I see a lot of unrealistic pricing on Craig's List. In such cases I'm guessing that people are choosing their prices in an attempt to recover their loss instead of considering what anyone is actually willing to pay. I mean, go ahead and ask for how much you want, but you might have to let your ad sit there for several weeks and lower the price multiple times to actually sell it.
Be willing to bargain. This is part of the Craig's List culture. I usually build a bit of bargaining into my price (e.g., ask for $275 when I'm hoping for $250). But if I've had tons of interest, I often tell sellers, "Nope, I'm not going to sell for less, because I'm sure I can get my asking price."
Include multiple decent-quality photos in your listing! I often don't even bother checking listings without photos, especially now that Craig's List finally has the photo preview option for looking at listings (I like the Grid View best for browsing search results). Any photo is better than no photo, but of course it's best to avoid blurry photos in poor lighting. Out of laziness, I sometimes pull a product photo off an online retailer's page, but many buyers want to see a photo of your actual item so they can see the condition it is in.
Include lots and lots of details. And please put a modicum of effort into formatting. You can usually pull many details right off an online product page (I often use Amazon). Put any information that you would find useful: dimensions, age, condition, why you are selling, what you liked about it, etc. The ideal Craig's List listing, in my humble opinion, is like a detailed product page combined with a personal review. A little advertising goes a long way on Craig's List. Of course the amount of effort you want to put into this will depend on how much your item is worth.
Include every word or phrase that a person might search for in shopping for your item in your listing. You want to make sure your listing shows up in buyers' searches. I often just include a list of words at the very end. For example, if selling a bookshelf the bottom of your listing might say "book, shelf, shelves, bookshelf, bookshelves, bookcase, storage, wood, wooden." You get the idea.
Make it easy to find other items you are selling. A buyer in the market for a high chair is also often in the market for other baby items. I tend to sell in batches, just because posting on Craig's List and fielding texts and emails does require some time, and I'd rather do that for a number of items at once. When I'm selling many items, I usually put multiple items on the same listing, as long as they all fit under the same category ("Toys + Games," for example). If you have multiple listings, make it easy for buyers to find your other listings. You can add links to your other listings at the bottom of each of your listings (a little bit time-consuming). If you are including your phone number so buyers can text you, make sure to write your phone number the same way in each post (with periods, dashes or spaces), and then state in each listing: Search for "555-555-5555" to see my other listings. If you aren't including a phone number, you can come up with a unique phrase (I might use "Betsy2013"), and then include in each post the following: Search for "Betsy2013" to find my other listings.
Consider carefully whether you want to "hold" an item for a buyer. As stated above, plan on flakes and no shows. Most sellers operate on a first come, first sell basis. Once I've made an appointment with someone who wants my next available time, I honor that and will not sandwich a person in front of him no matter how pushy the other buyer may be. But if a buyer or buyers can't meet for several days, I'll let others come see the item too, and then let the other buyers know whether I've sold the item or not.
Set up a free Google Voice account to use for texting with prospective sellers/ buyers. I have a Go Phone and I pay per text so this is a must for me (with Google Voice I can type and receive texts on my laptop). Even if you use a Smartphone, you might prefer to keep your regular phone number private by using Google Voice (you can have it forward to any number you want). You can also use email (which Craig's List anonymizes for you), but I got tired of the spam from fake buyers.
If you have a ton of things to sell and are having a garage sale, consider selling the most valuable items on Craig's List before your garage sale. You will generally fetch a higher price on Craig's List than at a garage sale.
Renew your listing every couple days. You can move your listing to the top of the search results by "renewing" (new Craig's List feature!) your post as often as every 48 hours. Reposting your exact same post as a separate listing (which some folks do to move themselves up in the search listings) is a Craig's List no-no. Friday or early Saturday morning is an especially fruitful time to "renew" because that's when many folks are looking. If your post expires (after one week), you can also repost it from your account page. To find your account page, go to the home page for your metropolitan area, and click on "my account" (top left on my homepage).
Delete your listing as soon as it is sold. This is just good Craig's List etiquette. It also means you will no longer be bothered by phone calls, emails and texts from interested buyers.
What are your best tips for selling on Craig's List?