Once upon a time, I had to move unexpectedly with short notice, due to a ridiculous increase in my rent. Aside from the stress of apartment hunting and moving, I also had to sell some appliances I wouldn’t be able to use in the new place – mainly a washer and dryer, because the former apartment had hookups, but the new one didn’t. Items like mine weren’t selling on eBay, which has never been a great resource for selling stuff that needs to be picked up by someone locally. Craigslist had helped me find a new apartment in just one day in a landlord’s market – could they sell my appliances before I had to move?
I shouldn’t have worried. It turned out everything I learned while making eBay ads a few years ago to declutter my home applies to Craigslist, only it’s even easier. I placed my ad and had three bids – including one for my full asking price from someone equipped to pick it up himself – within hours. That was one more stressful item off my to do list!
Pricing your item
Possibly the most important part of selling appliances on Craigslist is asking the right price and indicating clearly whether you will accept a “best offer.” I browsed similar items to mine on Craigslist and eBay and found my appliances were nicer than 90% of the stuff being offered, but the highest asking price for items like mine was $X. I asked for about $20 more than $X, which was not enough to push me over the next hundred dollar mark. I didn’t want to price my items in a category all to themselves!
You don’t want to ask too much, obviously. But it’s also important not to go too low, or it can make people suspicious. Pick a fair price, no more, no less.
Specify your location
If your items need to be picked up locally, make it clear where they should be picked up from. Don’t try to make it sound like you’re in the more affluent neighborhood next door, or the suburb you think more people will find convenient. Look at what other people on Craigslist call your town, suburb or neighborhood and call it that. The more specific you are (“West Podunk” or “Soulless Suburb, Podunk” rather than just “Podunk”), the more people will want to click your ad and read it – and that’s the first hurdle you have to overcome. While you may think your location may put off some people, it will encourage many more.
The title is important because people see it first, and you’re expected to pack a lot into it. There are a lot of descriptive elements you might want to include, and obviously they won’t all fit. This is a list of possibilities, and my suggestion is to answer them all, then pick the most impressive 3-5 items and make those your title.
- What your item is. (Obviously.)
- The brand.
- Outstanding features. Does it do anything special? Does it somehow save money or time compared to other appliances in its class?
- Specifics that can’t be altered. If it’s gas or electric and can’t be converted, just say so. For everyone who passes on by because they can’t use it, there will be lots of people who click it because that’s exactly what they need.
- Age of the item.
- Condition of the item, i.e. “good” or “like new.” Again, be honest. This person is going to be in your home picking up the item when they notice anything you’ve neglected to mention. They can walk right back out again.
I personally would leave the model number out of the title because it always looks like gibberish. Save technical stuff for the ad and keep the title in language you’d use if you were telling a friend about your item.
Writing the ad
- Remember the suggestions for the title that you didn’t use? Your ad should immediately jump into those. Tell the color, if you didn’t put it in the title. List other features. Talk about your own experiences with those features. Did they save you time or money? Give you an advantage other appliances don’t? Was the motor especially quiet? If the special features the manufacturer lists didn’t impress you, I wouldn’t mention them (unless you’re sure they’d be of interest to someone else).
- Tell how old the item is, and how heavily it’s been used. If it’s had 11 years of heavy use in a seven person household, you might as well address that in your ad and turn it into a positive because people are going to ask before they bid. Tell them, “It’s stood up to 11 years of heavy use with us and the five kids, and the only thing to need repairs was this part, which was replaced just a year ago.” Assuming you haven’t priced your item too high for what it is, people will be impressed with your honesty and full disclosure and want to deal with you. If your item is just plain broken or damaged, be honest and say so – there are lots of DIY people who will take them off your hands at a fair price.
- Give the dimensions of your items so people know whether they’ll fit in the space they have. This is essential with furniture and appliances.
- Tell them you’re willing to demonstrate the item works by letting them see it in action when they come to pick it up or have a look at it. (In my case, no one asked for such a demonstration – the offer was convincing enough.)
- If your items are in perfect working condition (as mine are), mention why you’re selling them so people don’t suspect the appliances are lemons you’re trying to ditch.
- Provide links to specs on the item, or online reviews from third parties. I think this really helped sell my items quickly. Even if people don’t click the links, they’ll be impressed you were confident and thorough enough to refer them to reviews or specs.
- Your contact info. Craigslist automatically generates a temporary email address which people can use (it forwards emails to the address you provide Craigslist). This is the most anonymous way to go, and it’s what I chose because no way am I posting my home number on the net for every telemarketing bottom feeder to find. The emails started within an hour, so you really don’t need to include a phone number. You can give that to your buyer later. It’s a good idea to include a short paragraph telling people to use the above email address to contact you, because first time Craigslist users may only look inside the ad for contact information. If you don’t want to expose your email address to your potential buyers ever, create a disposable Gmail account (or some other free provider) to use strictly for your Craigslist transactions, because once you reply to an email from them they’ll see your real email address.
- Don’t make it sound difficult! Most people will assume you can only accommodate their pickup of the item on an evening or weekend. There’s no need to include a lot of off-putting details about this in your ad. You can discuss those specifics with them later.
- Don’t sound superior! I have no idea why some people put “Serious inquiries only, please” and similar phrases in their ads. I didn’t get a bunch of prank emails from clowns! In fact, I only got about 6 emails altogether, and they were all polite and obviously serious about negotiating a deal with me.
HTML in your ad?
I don’t recommend using bold or italics in your ad – or any HTML at all. It’s just not necessary and may turn people off by looking flashy. Put a space between paragraphs so the whole ad isn’t one big block of text. If you want to include links, there are two ways to do it. If the link is fairly short, you can just cut and paste the link into the text like this:
“Read some reviews here: http://snappyliving.com”
If the link is as long as your browser is wide (as links to review pages sometimes are), you can get fancy and make a link that looks like this…
Read some reviews here.
…by typing this into the box:
Read some reviews <a href=”http://snappyliving.com/blahdeblahdeblah/blither/blither/bunchofrandomnumbershere1238239872435/“>here</a>.
Just replace my link (the green portion) with your own.
If you can include at least one photo in your ad, you’ll get so much more interest. People want to see what they’re buying. Don’t settle for a photo from the website of the company that makes it. Get a photo of your specific item that they’re purchasing. Once the photo is saved on your hard drive, it’s very simple to upload to Craigslist (the instructions are with their form).
If you have more tips for selling appliances on Craigslist, put them in the comments!
UPDATE: Please see comments for more good tips (including personal safety).