26th May
2011
written by Randy

On my minimalist path to owning 100 items or less this year, I have sold a lot of things on Craigslist — a lot! — and I’m starting to get kind of good at it. I’ve figured out a few tricks to getting good results, quickly.

The most important thing to do when selling something on Craigslist is to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Ask yourself “would this ad interest me?” If you were looking for this item, would this price interest you? Would these details interest you?

Often when people list an item on Craigslist, they write a simple title, and an uninformative one-sentence description of the item. Many times they don’t even include a photo. I don’t know about you, but I want to know about an item before I buy it.

Photos are a must. There is a box on the search that lets people see only the results with photos. Don’t let your ad be filtered out before it ever has a chance. It takes a few minutes to snap a photo and attach it to your ad. Do it.

Use a descriptive title. List important details: manufacturer, model number, color, size. You’ll get more people to look at an add for “Apple iPad 16gb WiFi only” than you’ll get for “ipad wifi”, just like an ad for a “Canon EOS Rebel XSi digital SLR camera” will attract more attention than an ad for “Canon Rebel dSLR”.

Give a detailed description of the item for sale. Far too often I see people write a short, one-sentence description of the item for sale. Ads like that scare me off. Knowledge is power, give people knowledge and let them feel powerful.

When I list an item on Craigslist, I begin with a descriptive sentence, usually formed by copying the title I used, and adding “in excellent condition” to the end. Then, I add a bullet-list of information about the item, telling the important features and what is included with it. Details like “in original box”, and “includes original manual” do a lot to attract responses.

Check your spelling. Read, re-read, proofread your ad. Make sure you’ve spelled everything correctly, especially the important details like brand name and model number. These are details that people are searching on, if you misspell them, you may never show up in a search. But even if you do, spelling is still very important. People feel safer buying from someone who writes properly.

Set a reasonable price. Let’s be realistic. This is Craigslist. You’re probably not going to sell a used item and get back what you paid for it. If there’s not much difference between your price and the brand new cost, people will prefer to buy new and get the warranty.

As I said above, put yourself in your buyer’s shoes. Would that price attract you? If a new camera is $250, I probably won’t buy a used one for $200, but at $175 it might be a good deal. A new iPad at $500 (plus tax) doesn’t cost significantly more than the used one at $450, and it’s guaranteed to have never been dropped, but I might take the chance on a used one for $375.

Expect attempts to negotiate. People want to feel like they got a bargain. Whatever price you set, make sure you’ve left room for the buyer to try to talk you down. If you’re willing to take $375 for that iPad, list it for $400. If you’re willing to take $175 for that camera, list it for $190.

Use the rule of give-and-take. Most people play their cards too soon. They will try to get you to reduce the price during the email or phone call. When they do this, they give you the upper hand! You’ve already priced the item with room to come down, so you’re not losing anything. When they ask you to take a reduced price, tell them “I can do that if you come today. If I have to wait, I know I’ll get what I’m asking.” Now this person will feel the pressure to come right away lest they risk losing a great deal.

Never deal with someone you don’t like. You don’t have to respond to every email you get. If you get offers you don’t like, just ignore them. If you don’t like the way someone writes, or you think they seem rude, don’t respond. Don’t worry… if you’ve written a descriptive ad, used a photo, and set an attractive price, you’ll get another response soon enough.

When I sold my iMac, it was more than three years old, yet I sold it in one day and got more than 70% of what I had paid for it. When I listed my original 16gb iPad for $375 (price firm), I got more than 25 responses to the ad in just the first hour!

Over the past few months, I’ve sold furniture, lamps, tools, DVDs, video games, cameras, film, lighting gear, darkroom equipment, video gear, and computer equipment… and I’ve continued to pay my rent every month, without a job, while I traveled all over the world. When you know what you’re doing, you can get a lot on Craigslist.