Peddling Your Wares- A Craigslist Tutorial

craigslist

At work yesterday, Steve the Hipster Electrician asked me, “Do you use Craigslist?” Do I use Craigslist?? I’m ALL OVER Craigslist like a cheap suit (which you can buy on Craigslist.) I told him so, and he launched into his frustration at trying to buy a tent trailer, finding suitable trailers on CL, emailing trailer-listers with his intentions to PURCHASE SAID TRAILERS WITH HIS AMERICAN CASH MONEY, and getting no response. Yep, it’s Craigslist, it’s not for the squeamish.

We are currently trying to purchase a budget work truck, and much like Steve, emailed buyers requesting to please look at their truck, only to be met with internet silence. Made phone calls to truck-lister, voicemail purgatory. Two days later, truck-lister LOWERS the price of his vehicle… because..because no one wants it??

I’m not going to say there are rules on Craigslist..but let’s face it, there are. My husband and I have bought and sold hundreds of vehicles, housewares, furniture items, recreational vehicles, musical instruments, tires, wheels, and other sundries on CL. So if you’re new to it, or just fed up with your unsatisfactory experiences, I have some tips.

SELLING

A Vehicle

  • Post a picture of your item. I’m telling you now, no pic and I’m not even clicking on your post. You will be FILTERED.
    • DO NOT take a picture with your 1997 Nokia phone.
    • DO NOT take a picture in the dark, on a random street where it looks like you might not actually the own the car, or inside your garage where you are 3 feet away and can only get closeups of the door handles.
    • DO NOT post a blurry picture. Why are you wasting my time?
    • DO post several good, well-lit pictures of the things people actually want to see: front view, side view, interior front, interior back, engine (if it’s special), trunk (maybe), dash, tires, interior of RV, etc.
  • Use a descriptive title. Examples of good titles are “2002 GMC Yukon, low miles”, “Class A 27 Foot Motorhome”. Examples of bad titles are, “truck”, “Chevy camero” (or other misspellings), “I’ve got this trailer…”
  • Include all pertinent info in your post– year, make, model, miles, features, accessories, clean title (the first thing buyers ask is “is it branded?”) but don’t write a novel. You can say, “selling because I bought a bigger car” but no one cares about your LIFE STORY. Save that for a blog.
  • Don’t start your post with “Hey!” or refer to your potential buyers as “Bro”, or tell people to “hit me up if u wanna see it”.
  • Give buyers several way to contact you and then CHECK YOUR PHONE AND EMAIL.
  • Respond to everyone (except obvious scammers “I am be interested your item, I am be purchasing your item with CASH today. What is your address?” ). But your response should fit the inquiry. You will get a lot of “is your car still for sale?” and the answer is “Yes. Yes it is.”
  • Don’t significantly alter your schedule to accommodate someone who wants to view your goods. They may not show up, and if it’s the first week or so of your post, they will likely be a looky-loo. That’s the CL timeline- first you’ll get 2 or 3 looky-loos who have either just started their search and will use a “grass may be greener approach”, or don’t actually have any money.
  • Set your price slightly higher than the price you want to get. Craigslisters are notorious (I’m one of them) for wanting to haggle. When I see you list prices that’s just a starting negotiation point for me and not what I’m going to pay for your product. Writing FIRM on your post — even if your item is priced correctly– will just drive away buyers and make you seem difficult to deal with. Which brings me to…
  • Don’t be difficult to deal with. I know it’s tempting to splash NO LOW BALL OFFERS!! on your post, but it really makes you sound like a jerk. “Reasonable offers will be considered” is what I like to say.
  • Don’t accept any reduction in price over the phone or in email— buyers are just feeling you out to see how low you’ll go– and that information is a secret! We had a few “I’ll bring you $8000 in cash today!” from people who had never seen our RV. Our response, “don’t you want to see it first? what if it smells?” Later I decided that if happened again I would reply in email: I ACCEPT YOUR OFFER. THIS IS A FORMALLY BINDING CONTRACT. YOU HAVE 48 HOURS TO ARRIVE WITH THE MONEY OR YOU WILL FORFEIT HALF OF IT.” Until someone shows up on your doorstep with money in their hand, there is no offer.
  • Don’t offer anyone “dibs” because they contacted you first, don’t “hold” the vehicle because a buyer has made you an offer but can’t come until Saturday. I made this mistake after having a conversation with someone who sounded really nice and wanted to buy my mini-van, because I wanted the van to “go to nice home”. I held the car for a few days then she texted me back to say it was all good as long as the check engine light wasn’t on- it was, no sale. Tell buyers, “If it’s still here Saturday, you can come out and make an offer.” Again, no cash in your face, no offer.
  • Don’t be intimidated by the buyer who immediately launches into a tirade about the Kelly Blue Book price, or the NADA price for RVs. The only thing that matters here is MARKET VALUE, on other words, what is it going for on CL?
  • Ride with any potential car/rv buyer. It’s not likely they will try to steal it but someone CL buyers like to REV THE HELL out of your engine or they may be really bad drivers. I have several stories about this including my friend who’s CL buyer burned out her clutch on his joyride.
  • Never let someone take your car to their “mechanic”, or (this actually happened to us) bring their OWN TOOLS to wrench on it. They can check the oil, pop the hood while the engine is running, try the radio, A/C, windows, door locks, etc. You can offer them your own mechanical records, and obviously they can drive it. But until they own it, it needs to stay intact.
  • Be courteous and on-time for your appointments.
  • Offer your vehicle AS IS. Write that on the bill of sale…
  • Print a bill of sale (normally available from your DMV’s website). Print two copies, one for you and one for them, both of them should be signed and filled out. This is important for your records (as it turns out) if you sell a few cars then apply for a home loan and cannot account for where the $10000 came from. Also, if the new owners fail to register the car in their name and then have an accident or rack up parking tickets you will need proof that you are no longer the owner.
  • Sign your title in the correct location. The seller of my daughter’s car accidentally re-assigned it to herself and the DMV would not let us register it until we went back to her (thank goodness she hadn’t moved out of town yet) and asked her to sign an ‘error form’.

Furniture or Housewares

  • Don’t let people come your house and just to look at your $200 couch. They either want it or they don’t, you are not Ethan Allen, there is no browsing. If they saw an antique table on ebay they would just buy it based on the pictures, this is no different.
  • Take good, clear, well-lit pictures of the item so there is no question about it’s condition/appearance.
  • Make sure you let buyers know how the item can be hauled so they show up with the appropriate vehicle or trailer.
  • If you are selling an instrument, you are going to have to let buyers play it. But don’t let them abuse it. And if they suck, just smile. And offer them paid lessons.

BUYING

  • Thoroughly scour CL to get an idea of what similar items are listed for. Pay attention to outliers, such as an item that has been listed for a long time- it may be priced too high. Decide on what you want to pay.
  • Set your price filter slightly above what you want to pay, remember the price is just a negotiation starting point.
  • Make multiple attempts to contact. If there is a phone number and a text and email, use all three. Some people won’t answer their phones but will be on top of a text.
  • Jump on something that (assuming it IS what it claims to be) is a good deal. Some people vastly undervalue perfectly good stuff and it will be GONE TOMORROW.
  • Don’t deal with anyone who starts arguing with you on the phone (this goes for selling on CL too). If they’re difficult on the phone they will difficult to deal with in person.
  • Show up on time for your appointment.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell someone if you are absolutely not interested, it’s not going to hurt to do them the courtesy, just be an adult.
  • Start with an offer below what you want to pay. The idea here is to get sellers to meet you halfway at your price point. That may not happen but there is more room to haggle if you start low. If you have brought your top offer with you and it’s not that far off from their price, you can make the offer and the seller may decide that cash in the hand is better than two future buyers in the bush. Can’t hurt. All they can say is no.
  • Don’t insult someone’s item as a tactic to get them to lower their price. You can certainly point out the issues in your negotiations, but no need to get ugly. And for crying out loud, none of that Bluebook crap, it’s just tedious.
  • Be prepared to walk away if the seller won’t budge and you don’t think there is enough value in the price he demands. You may fall in love with something and buy it anyway, but you have to really think it’s worth it. Sometimes, the seller will call you back a day or two later having received even lower offers or none.
  • Very closely inspect whatever you’re buying- it’s AS IS. If it’s a car, TRY EVERYTHING. A/C, heater, stereo, power windows, power locks, power seats, heated seats. If the back seat is supposed to fold down, make sure it does. Some things may not be a big deal, but if you roll the window down and it doesn’t come back up (this happened to us) its a big deal. Drive the car in town and on the freeway if possible, listening closely to the way the engine sounds, “feeling” for any shaking, shimmying, bumps, thumps and shudders. Make sure the brakes work properly, check the parking break. If it’s an appliance, make sure it’s running when you get there (such as a refrigerator) or have them plug it in (e.g. a vacuum, power tool, etc.)

I hope this inspires you to get out there in CL marketplace. Happy commerce!

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