When buying furniture on Craigslist, you must be committed, resourceful, and prepared for the unexpected. I’ve carried a five-drawer dresser down four flights of stairs with a Broadway star, I’ve walked into strangers apartments late at night and helped them dismantle bed frames, and I’ve even carried an 8-foot by 5-foot rug five blocks, into the subway, out of the subway, and then another seven blocks in the sweltering August heat.
Looking for furniture and home décor on Craigslist is not for the faint of heart. But if you want fun, quirky additions to your home, then you should give it a try. Here are some tips and tricks to help you find what you’re looking for on Craigslist while keeping things safe and simple.
1. Start Your Search With A Specific List Of Items
Don’t do that thing you do in the shoe store where you kind of need one specific thing but instead you try on that neon pair of running shoes with glow-in-the-dark laces that you definitely don’t need because you got distracted. Avoid that. Instead, make a specific list of items, and stay away from anything that’s not on the list. For people who enjoy cheap home decorating, Craigslist is like a treasure trove, so it’s important to stay focused.
2. Never, Ever Inquire About Items Without Photos
These “items” can often be a scam. You email the person, ask for photos, they say they don’t have any but that you can come see the item, or they ask you for money over the internet before they will come to meet you to give you the item — just don’t do it. If the item does actually exist, and for whatever reason the person did not add photos of it to the ad, then it probably isn’t in the greatest condition, and in that case you don’t want to waste your time or money.
3. Try To Only Look At Items From Buyers Who Live Relatively Close To You
This will save you a lot of time. No matter how much you want some small decorative item, it probably isn’t worth traveling 45 minutes to pick it up. This is also very important if you live in a city where you rely on public transportation. You don’t want to have to carry a large item back a long way, and using cabs can make the item $15 to $35 more expensive depending on how far away the seller is.
4. Ask The Seller If They Had Any Pets
Regardless of whether you’re allergic to them or not, it’s important to know whether a seller had pets. This is more vital if the item can absorb scents through the upholstery or fabric, like with a rug, chair, couch, or blanket. That rug I talked about lugging through the subway—when I got to the seller’s apartment, they gave me the rug and it was covered in white cat hair. The rug was lavender and white, so I couldn’t see the hairs in the online photo. I traveled about half an hour to pick it up, and it was still a bargain, so I bought it. But I spent three hours and the last 10 months trying to get it cat-hair free and it still hasn’t happened.
5. Text Someone Close To You When You’re Going To Meet A Seller
Safety first! If you’re going into someone’s house alone, and you’ve never met them before, it’s better to be overly cautious than to find yourself in the first two minutes of an episode Criminal Minds. (People always die in the first two minutes.) Just let a friend know what you’re doing, and ask if you can shoot them a text once you’re finished picking up the item.
6. Still Look For High Quality Cheap Items
I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but I mean it. People sell good items on Craigslist, so why pay $100 for an Ikea dresser that isn’t even made with real wood if you can pay the same amount or a little bit more for a well-made, beautifully-stained antique? Searching for individual items on Craigslist takes time and patience, so make it worth it by purchasing items you’ll really love.
Image: Wicker Paradise/Flickr