DIY Holland: Selling Furniture on Craigslist

Let’s be frank:  the thing that led me to learning how to sell furniture on Craigslist was a total First World Problem.  Simply put, after a cross country move from a large house to a small one, I had too much furniture.

Too. Much. Stuff.

Due to size constraints and room layouts, we had quite a few pieces of furniture that just wouldn’t work for us.  In the past, we’d sold random items on Craigslist, so we decided to go that route again.  I’ve learned a few things about how to get the most bang for your buck with a Craigslist sale, so I thought I’d share them with you.  I’ve got 5 Handy tips that I’ll break down into more detailed information.

Five P's graphic

1.  Prepare & Price

2.  Protect Your Privacy

3.  Post to Sell

4.  Patience

5.  Payoff

Here are the Details:

How to Sell Furniture on Craigslist by Windmill Words

1.  Prepare  & Price Before You List

Before you post your furniture ad on Craigslist, there are a few things you should take care of so that you can create the best possible listing and get the best possible price for your item.

  • Reality Check.  Take a hard look at what you want to sell.  Make note of the condition, checking carefully for flaws. Check out Ebay’s definitions of condition and decide in which category your furniture fits.   Also consider the quality of the piece.  Is it solid wood?  Particle board with a laminate veneer?  If you can, try to remember the brand.  If you can find evidence of the brand that is photographable (is that even a word?), even better.  Wear and tear on furniture
  • Measure it.  Measure it from every possible direction and write down those measurements.  This will come in handy when you are looking at comparisons and when you create your ad.
  • Take pictures of it.  I’ll go into more detail about this further down, but pictures are key.  Take the best photos you can of the furniture in the best light available.  (Move them outside if necessary.)  Make sure you have clear (not blurry!) shots from several angles.  Big Tip:  if you are currently storing the item in your garage, move it outside or–ideally–back into the house before you take the pictures, even if you move it right back in.  Garage photos are depressing and scream, “This couch is full of sawdust and spider eggs!”  Not the image you want to convey if you are hoping to make some moneyCraigslist good pic bad pic collage
  • Do your research. First, check online to see what similar items are selling for new.  Make sure you are comparing apples to apples, here.  If you own a laminate covered particle board shelf, don’t compare it to a shelf of the same size that is solid wood.  Next, check online to see what prices are being asked for similar used pieces.  Then, check a variety of sources (Ebay, local newspaper, etc.), but make sure you do a thorough search of your local Craigslist to see what the competition is asking.
  • Price it Right.  Doing your research to find out what similar pieces are going for both new and used is going to help a lot with determining a good price range for your furniture.  Obviously, you can’t expect to get the price of a new piece of furniture when you list something on Craigslist–even if it is in pristine condition.  Let’s be realistic:  if someone wants to pay the price of new furniture, they are going to go to a store and pick exactly what they want.  People shopping on Craigslist want to get a deal.  If you’ve noticed that there are very few items of furniture like yours listed on Craigslist, you have some wiggle room for pricing.  But if there are a dozen other patio sets just like yours for sale in your local Craigslist, then you will need to consider the competition when you price yours.

My best tip for pricing furniture is to take advantage of your local home consignment store.  Mine will let me email them pictures of what I’m interested in selling, and they will give me an estimate of what they think they could get for it.  Some places will come to your house to view it in person, depending on the furniture.  At the consignment store I’ve worked with, the deal is that you get 50% of whatever your item sells for.  So, if they tell me that they would price my bookshelf at $300, my take if it sells at that price would be $150.  This gives me some important guidelines for pricing.  First of all, I know that someone who sells furniture all the time thinks that my bookshelf is worth pricing at $300.  Second of all, it gives me a price limit when I am negotiating.  If the Consignment store thinks they can offer me a $150 profit, there’s no incentive to drop below that price when I negotiate with Craigslist customers.

Bookshelf Consignment Price

2. Protect Your Privacy

I’ve had pretty good experiences with doing business on Craigslist, but the possibility of things going awry or weirdos getting your address do exist.  So we’ve done two things to maintain as much privacy as we can with our Craigslist ads.

  • Email.  Craigslist requires an email address when you create your listings.  They have a nifty feature that protects that address during correspondence.  But we like the added assurance of having a separate email account just for our Craigslist postings.  It’s easy to set up a Gmail account just for that.  
  • Phone.  I like to list a phone number in my ads, in case someone wants to talk to me directly about the item.  There’s no way I’d post my home number or cell phone number on Craigslist, since there’s no way to monitor who gets that number and what they do with it.  Instead, we list a Google Voice number.  This has several advantages.  1) It’s not searchably connected with our home address.  2) We can set it up so that when the number is dialed, it rings any phone we want; we can receive Google Voice calls on both our land line and cell phones, meaning we’ll never miss a call about the bookshelf!
  • Rules about showings.  Eventually, you are going to have to meet with someone in person to sell your item.  Decide in advance what your rules are about showings.  If you want another adult present or you don’t want to have people come to your home to see things, then you’ll have to figure out how to do that.  You may even want to set up your ad to be conducive to following those rules, by stating, “We can show this to you any evening from 6-8” or “Come to Peterson Park Saturday morning from 9-noon to take a look at this sofa.”  I let potential customers know which town I live them, but tell them to call me when they are on the way to get my address.

3.  Post to Sell

With advanced preparations done, the next step is creating your ad.  Craigslist has a very user-friendly set up that totally walks you through creating a posting, so I’m not going to tell you how to do that.  What I will tell you is how you can create a post that will generate lots of interest, eliminate casual inquiries, and hopefully sell your furniture faster.

  • It’s all about the pictures.  Craigslist is searchable, and gives you the option to narrow your search by eliminating the ads that don’t have pictures.  Everyone wants to see a picture of what is being sold.  In fact, they’d really like to see pictures of what is being sold from different angles.  No one wants to waste a trip to see a piece of furniture and find out it’s not what they want.  So, posting great pictures that show of every side of your furniture piece and even point out a flaw here and there are the best way to ensure that someone who comes to see the item you’ve listed is actually going to leave with it.  The other advantage of posting lots of great pictures of your item is that it totally puts you ahead of the competition on Craigslist, who have posted dark, grainy photographs of a similar item.Good Pic Bad Pic Craigslist Collage 
  • Staged pictures sell faster than unstaged pictures.  I’ve definitely learned my lesson on this.  Earlier this spring, I posted an add for some gorgeous, solid maple bookshelves.  They were sitting in a room jam packed with furniture, and didn’t have any books on them.  They eventually sold, but it took over a month.  Recently, I posted an ad for a cabinet that wasn’t nearly as nice as those shelves.  This time, I staged the pictures, making the cabinet look like something useful and pretty.  It sold in 3 days.  I’m sure there were other factors involved, but the fact remains that I get way more interest in my postings when they are staged.  Below are two examples of Craigslist ads that I’ve posted.  Check out how quickly the staged one sold in comparison to the unstaged:Craigslist Ads staged vs. unstaged
  • Make the title of your ad count.  This is what people will see when they search listings, so try to offer the details you think people will be searching for.  “Table in excellent used condition seats 6” is going to generate more interest from the buyers you want than “Table” will.
  • Details, details, details.  Put as much detail in your listing as possible so that you won’t waste a bunch of time answering queries from people who really don’t need/want what you’ve got.  Describe the condition, the dimensions, the finish, the color, the fabric, the number of shelves, etc.  I’ve even started including links to DIY furniture makeovers that involved a piece similar to the one I’m advertising.  Here’s one of my adds:

We’re selling this Colonial style, solid pine toy chest for $40. It has a natural (light) finish. It is 43 inches wide, 16 inches deep, and 29 inches at it’s highest point. The seat is hinged, and opens to reveal a large toy storage area. This toy bench has sustained moderate wear and tear in our children’s bedrooms over the years, but it is still very sturdy. A do-it-yourselfer could easily transform it into something like this: or like this:

  •   The price is right.  If you’ve done your research and feel good about the price you’ve chosen, list it with pride.  If you’ve noted that there’s quite a bit of competition out there to sell similar items, make yours more attractive by stating “Price negotiable” or “Best offer accepted” or something similar.  On the other hand, if your item is unique, feel free to price it for 10-25% more than you hope to get for it.  People like to think they are getting a good deal, so give yourself some wiggle room to drop the price if someone wants to negotiate.

4.  Patience

One thing I’ve definitely learned about selling furniture on Craigslist is that it requires patience.  Initially, patience will be required as you field inquiries about what you are selling.  Idiots are out there, people.  No matter how detailed your ad is, you will still get calls from people who want to know how many people your table that seats six will really seat.  Or who will want to know which store they can go to to buy chairs like the ones you are selling.  Or they will ask for ridiculous favors.  Once, despite a detailed description of seating capacity and dimensions, I had a woman come look at the table I was selling only to complain, “This isn’t any bigger than the table I’ve already got!”  Here’s a sampling of some of the more bothersome inquiries I’ve received:

Now that you don’t have the chairs available with the table and I am going to have to spend time and money looking for matching chairs…..would you take $20 for the table, I will come get it ASAP.  Let me know.

I really want the bench, but I live in Fairfield, so its an hour drive each way for me and I have a 9 month old.  Do you by chance come into Sacramento or Vacaville for anything so we could meet??

We are a low income family looking for a table.  We would like to have a table like yours to sit around for family dinners, but we can’t afford it.  Would you give us this one for $5?

Yes, you can sell things on Craigslist, but it will quite possibly drive you nuts.

Patience is also required when it comes to negotiating a price.  Listing items on Craigslist is completely free, and you can list them over and over again if they don’t sell.  Recognize that it may take a while for the right buyer to come along–especially if the item you are selling is priced over $100.  If you are confident that you’ve priced an item fairly, don’t start dropping the price if it doesn’t sell right away.  Keep your posting active, refresh it as often as possible, and wait for the right buyer.  Case in point: I listed a pretty little colonial-style toy chest, recently.  For the first week, I only got casual inquiries and a few people that said they wanted to see it but never showed up.  Because I felt confident that my price was fair, I refreshed the ad and kept it at the same price.  Within 24 hours, I had three people who wanted to see it on the same day.  One of the callers beat the others by 15 minutes in coming to see it, and took it right away for my asking price.

5.  Payoff

Hopefully, if you’ve done the things I’ve suggested, you’ll soon have some cash in hand for the furniture you’ve listed on Craigslist.   Don’t let final negotiations throw you off.  Again, patience is key!  (See above.)  My gorgeous maple bookshelves were listed for at least 5 weeks before the right buyer came along.  And they sold for only $50 less than their original list price–a price drop of only 10%.  Knowing their value, I was willing to wait until someone else recognized it and forked out the money.  Along the way, I had plenty of offers to sell that were far below what I eventually got for them.  One person offered to trade a computer monitor for them–sad trombone music.  As lowball offers came in, it helped me to remember that Ikea offers plenty of new option for people who have a $100 shelving budget, so I just had to hold out for a buyer that didn’t want an Ikea bookshelf.

Making money from used furniture

I should mention that occasionally you will have people ask about delivering items or having you hold them until they come pick them up later.  Be careful with this.  If you agree to hold an item, print an agreement and have the buyer sign it.  Accept only a non-refundable, cash deposit from the buyer, and make sure there is a time limit for how long you will hold the item.  (You don’t want to be stuck indefinitely with an item you can’t sell–even if you got a deposit for it.)  I personally choose not to offer delivery, but if I did I would do it cautiously, as well, with a written agreement.  I would definitely require a delivery fee paid in cash up front, and I would definitely NOT offer delivery to someone who hadn’t taken the time to see the item in person, first.

One last thing:  be smart and avoid scams.  Don’t give out any more personal information than you have to, only deal in cash, and if someone’s inquiries make you feel at all uncomfortable, don’t feel like you need to give them your address.

Do you have any tips that you can add to these?  Share them in the comment section–I’d love to hear what works for you.

Sharing this at Not Just a Housewife, The 36th Avenue,  Somewhat Simple, House of Hepworths, and Whipperberry.


  1. This is really great advice. Thanks. I’ve been thinking about selling some furniture on craigslist, but was worried about the security of the site and did not want strange people coming to my house. I think that with your tips I could start selling on the site.

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  3. Great advice and from someone who has also done well with selling several items on Craigslist, I can add a couple more tips that work well for me:

    – re no-shows – when I finally make the phone contact to arrange a meeting place and time, I say OK in front of (store name) at 10am tomorrow and then add ‘since I’ve had problems with no shows, my policy is I only wait 15 minutes.. And when they’re serious, they’ll get it and say something like – Oh I really want it and I’ll be there.

    Another tip that drives me nuts and you might want to add to your tips is: when selling a specialty item like a sewing machine, or maybe an appliance, is to be sure to add brand/make, model number, features, functions, etc. As a serious sewer/quilter, I have responded to ads that simply say ‘sewing machine for sale’, with a blurry pic and tell them their lack of details to a sewer is like saying ‘car for sale’ to someone looking for a car!

    I also usually state in my ad – that I’ll meet at a public place within (5-10) miles of my town. This tend to weed out responses from too far away that are not willing to come get the item.

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