Green Idea: Tips for Buying Used Furniture on Craigslist and Ebay
Jan 11, 2011
I can understand why people have begun to see anything labeled "green" as a trendy way to generate more profits. It's true. Set foot in any home goods store and you'll see loads of stuff labeled "green" or "sustainable" or "eco-friendly." But just because something is made from bamboo or cork doesn't make it green… especially if you didn't need it in the first place. Often the greenest goods are those that are already taking up space on this planet: used stuff.
Because I'm a different sort of interior decorator— selling only my services and not "stuff"— I'm keen on designs that include used pieces or things clients already own. Same goes for my own house, and I've learned a thing or two about procuring the good finds from that online bastion of used furniture: Craigslist. Here's my most recent CL purchase, a 1960s dresser I got for $30 from a lady who was clearing out her mother's house. I got exactly what I wanted, for even less than I was willing to pay. My office is so much more organized!
PHOTO: Diane Kolak, Dwelement Home Design
I'd been combing the listings since summer, looking for a low dresser or buffet to store a wide assortment of things in my home office. I don't like office furniture in a house, and I figured if my needs change later a piece like this would be more adaptable to a new location. My requirements: clean lines, solid construction, large drawers and/or shelves with doors, 60–72 inches wide, elevated on legs to keep a heating vent clear. After about two months of looking, I jumped right on this listing and beat several other people to it according to the seller. I passed up many "almost" options along the way, and it paid off. So here are my tips for finding just what you want on Craigslist. Happy hunting!
How to find and buy what you want on craigslist
Dwelement's Top Eleven Tips (for 1/11/11!)
- Clearly define what you need. Imagine the perfect piece and figure out its qualities that are important.
- Take measurements of your space and set an acceptable range for the piece. Then stick to it.
- Forget about finishes and fabrics. These are easy to change, and sometimes you'll score a good deal because of ugly upholstery or a marred finish.
- Learn to identify quality furniture. Print my handy Dwelement Furniture Quality Checklist and carry it with you. Download the checklist here.
- Frequent your local site as well as others nearby. Try using a third-party site like Search Tempest to search multiple Craigslist sites at once.
- Check multiple categories, misspellings, and as many terms as you can think of. When I was looking for my storage piece, I searched for the following terms: dresser, bureau, chest, buffet, sideboard, credenza, cradenza, crudenza, cabinet. I checked under the categories of Furniture, Antiques, and Household Items. Even then, some sellers write useless titles such as "Furniture for Sale" with minimal or no description, in which case you'll have to browse to find them.
- Act quickly. If an item is priced right, others will beat you to it. For sure.
- Be courteous and communicative. I don't know why, but Craigslist buyers have a reputation for being flaky and rude, so don't do that. Sellers will appreciate it and be more likely to work with you on pricing and logistics.
- Carry cash. It gives you more bargaining power, and no one wants to trust a check from a stranger.
- Be impulsive. Don't hem and haw wondering if it's the right piece, especially if it's dirt cheap. Just buy it. If it doesn't work out, you can always relist it.
- Taking a road trip? Check out local Craigslist sites along your route.
Need some help envisioning a bright new future for a used piece of furniture? Send me a photo and 3-4 sentences about how you want the piece to work, and I may feature it on the blog, Room for Inspiration! —Diane
TAGS: tips how to search find buy on craigslist used furniture revamping vintage old antique dresser bureau chest sideboard buffet credenza tips advice how to identify quality used furniture
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