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How to Sell on Craigslist

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If you’re retired and moving from a large house to smaller quarters, or just want to simplify your life by sloughing off some accumulated possessions, there are many ways to downsize. Holding a yard sale or estate sale is a quick way to dispose of a large amount of material, but you’ll be paid rock-bottom prices. The online auction house eBay is a good way to sell high-value items and collector’s items, but is best for smaller pieces that you can mail across the country or overseas.

For reaching large numbers of customers locally, Craigslist has become the market of choice. Craigslist is like an expanded version of a newspaper’s classified ads; not only are there items offered for sale, but employment opportunities, housing rentals, services, community activities, even personals and discussion forums, are all advertised. There are separate Craigslist sites for virtually all metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada, as well as throughout Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand; most of the globe is covered.

How to Sell on Craigslist

Because it’s so localized, Craigslist is ideal for selling large items such as furniture, for which long-distance delivery charges would simply not be cost-effective. Your buyer will have to come pick up the piece in person, or you might arrange to delivery to your buyer’s location. In either case, you can specify a cash transaction, so the entire sale proceeds smoothly and transparently.

When you log onto Craigslist, you will choose your locality, and your items for sale will be listed at that locality’s website. If you seem to be in-between, choose the city that’s closest to you, or you might try listing at multiple localities.

How to Sell on Craigslist

You will need to categorize the items you’re selling; simply click on the appropriate categories until you get to a blank form, which is where you’ll enter specific information about your piece. At the top, there’s a space for the title. Make this as succinctly descriptive as possible, as it’s the only part of your ad that buyers will see unless they click on it to see your full ad. Don’t clutter your title with junk words; the title should state plainly what you have, possibly with information such as brand name, size, age, and so on, as appropriate. Look at other ads and see how the titles are worded; see what’s effective. If you use abbreviations, be sure that the abbreviations are readily familiar to anyone who might be interested in your item.

You’ll need to determine your own price. If there are similar items for sale, compare and see what these items are selling for. It’s hard to give broad pointers on how items should be priced, but one starting point, for common items in good condition, might be 50 percent of what the item would sell for new. For rare items and collectibles, you’ll have to do some research to determine an appropriate price. Many buyers will try to negotiate you down, so build in a little wiggle room if possible. And the specific location — a town, or a district of a city — will be important if your buyer will have to come pick up the piece from you.

The “posting description” box is where you describe your piece in detail. Be honest — be sure to point out any defects. You can elaborate on information already provided in the title, or provide additional information. Think: If you were interested in purchasing this item, what would you want to know about it? You might state the reason for the sale — “retirement downsizing” — so your buyer doesn’t suspect that you’re trying to unload something that is defective.

If you wish, you can also provide information about the form of payment you’ll accept. Most Craigslist buyers will expect to pay cash, so specifying cash only will not deter a sale. If you decide to accept checks, PayPal transfers, or some other form of payment, be sure that the funds have cleared into your account before releasing the item. (Unless, of course, you personally know the buyer!)

Finally, you can upload up to four photographs of your item. Use all four photo spaces; take photos of different aspects or angles, or close-up shots of nice details. Keep your photos clear of clutter — the piece for sale should be the only item visible in the photograph. And the background should be neutral. You can move a piece of furniture so that it’s positioned in front of a blank white wall, for instance. Use natural light (rather than flash) wherever possible, and, for most pieces, the maximum depth of field available to you will be most effective.

There are methods for posting more than four photos to your Craigslist ad, and for adding extra features to your ad. These methods usually involve using a third-party photograph hosting site (such as Flickr or Photobucket), and can require skills in web page design. Unless you have a truly special item for sale — in which case Craigslist might be too lowbrow a venue! — stick with the standard format.

Once you’re finished, your ad will be posted within 15 minutes. If you don’t have an account with Craigslist, you will need to acknowledge a confirmation email before your ad can be posted. The ad stays posted for seven days; if you want to run the ad for longer, you can simply continue to repost it every seven days. Be sure to save your confirmation email; you will need this to edit, delete, or renew your ad. Ads can be edited — and prices adjusted — at any time.

Although your ad will be posted to your local Craigslist site only, a special website — — allows customers to perform blanket searches of all Craigslist sites worldwide. If you have a rare or collectible item, you might receive enquiries from farther afield, even from overseas. Whether you want to ship your item across the country or overseas is up to you, but be careful of scams. And if you aim to reach the global market, eBay might be a better venue — eBay offers more protection for both sellers and buyers against fraud and abuse.

Craigslist is a resource that has grown tremendously over the past several years; posting an ad and completing a transaction has never been easier. Happy selling!

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