How to remodel your house for free using Craigslist

November 3, 2011

General, How-to

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After spending this past year watching Craigslist every day, I’m now more convinced than ever that someone could remodel their entire house for free.  I’m not just speaking to those that are able to watch Craigslist all day.  Scanning the free sections on Saturday alone would be sufficient.

Appliances:  I’ve received every type of appliance for free at one point or another.  I’m not just talking about old worn out appliances.  I’ve received a like new washers and dryers, nice side by side refrigerators, a nice smooth top range, lots of dishwashers, working water heaters etc.  It might take a while to get really nice ones, but you would be surprised at how often people just give them away.  Why do they do this?  Usually they just don’t care, they don’t want to hassle with buyers or they don’t want the stress of thinking that something might go wrong and the buyer would want to return the appliance.  Tip: Often times when people are giving away appliances they will fail to mention any flaws that the appliance may have.  After you communicate your enthusiasm for the item, and your gratefulness, ask if there are any issues with the appliance.  This will save you from many a headache.

Bathroom cabinets and fixtures:  Just today I got an almost brand new Home Depot vanity, sink top and faucet for free.  I’m remodeling our upstairs bathroom and have been dragging my feet.  The vanity is pictured.  Bathroom vanities, sinks, toilets, tubs, enclosures, vent fans and anything else you could possibly need is given away on a regular basis.  Tile?  Get that for free too.  Other types of flooring?  Sometimes it takes longer, but eventually there will be a remnant big enough to cover a smaller bathroom.  Tip:  Look for water damage on any wood cabinets period.  Press-board and water don’t like each other.  You also tend to get mold with water damaged cabinets.

Windows:  Again this takes patience, but there are tons of windows that are given away for free.  If you are handy, you can alter the size of your window opening to accommodate larger or smaller windows.  Tip:  Measure all the windows you are looking to upgrade or replace so you know which sizes to look for.  Don’t want to re-size the opening?  Just resell the window, there is a good market for used vinyl double pane windows.

Carpet and other flooring:  Like I mentioned with the bathroom items, flooring is given away all the time.  When we were remodeling our basement, I got one piece that carpeted the entire living room, approx 12 ft wide by 24 feet long.  I also got for free some nice brand new carpet for one of the two bedrooms, and another piece for the other bedroom.  It’s mixed matched, but each room is just one color, and they are nice colors.  Linoleum is the hardest to find, basically because it really can’t be reused.  Remnants are given away pretty frequently, so if you just need to redo an entry way, closet or bathroom, you should be fine.  It’s going to be difficult to find larger unused pieces but not impossible.  Tip:  Ask if the owners of used carpet if they had cats or dogs, small children etc.  Carpet hides a lot and can be disgustingly filthy underneath.  Again, be picky and you will thank yourself.

Doors and trim:  Pick your style and wait.  The older the style the easier and quicker it will be before you have all the doors you could ever want.  Interior/exterior, solid core, hollow core, it doesn’t matter.  People are constantly remodeling their houses and often times they will give everything away rather than pay to take it to the dump.  I just picked up about 90 feet of brand new 3 ½ inch base trim a few weeks back.  Once you get a large quantity, if you want to really match, go buy the rest at the store.  Or, just make each room match, it could be years before someone actually knows that you have different kinds of trims.  Besides, who cares what other people think.  Rant:  Too many people spend their entire lives being enslaved to the opinions of others.  They are always paying more for everything they get to show they have the nicest of everything.  The cost of such behavior financially is enormous.  Save your money and spend it on things you really enjoy, or use it to make more money or retire early.

Kitchen Cabinets and fixtures: This is a massive money saver.  I’ve seen very, very nice sets of kitchen cabinets given away for free.  Uppers and lowers.  Sometimes even with salvageable counter-tops.  Double basin sinks?  All the time.  Many times they will include a nice kitchen faucet, which as you know are very expensive.  The counter-tops are about the hardest thing to get, unless you are tiling them.  You could furnish your kitchen with small kitchen appliances, bowls, plates silverware for free in a day no problem.

Here’s an idea for the highly motivated amongst you.  One item at a time, replace everything inside your house with items from the Craigslist free section.  Get nice things too. Be picky. Chronicle the entire thing and when you write your book, just mention me in the forward!

For the even more adventurous, especially if your bills were around 2-3k a month, I believe if you lived in a big enough Craigslist market, you could earn your entire living off of the free section alone.  I’ve had days of experimentation, where I made close to $300 exclusively reselling free items.  About a month ago I got this Rubbermaid storage shed for free.  They run about $500 new and we cleaned it up and resold it for $250.

Your going to have to be patient and your standards need to be adjusted slightly to accommodate lightly used, sometimes less than perfect items.  Also, don’t ever feel obligated to take something home with you when you find out some deal-killing surprise on a free item.  Don’t inherit another persons problem out of compulsion.   

Finally, if there are any topics you would like me to write on, I would love to hear from you.  It’s easy for me to forget what types of things would be really helpful for someone just starting off buying and selling on Craigslist.  I’d love to hear any stories of free items that you have landed over the years.

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2 Responses to “How to remodel your house for free using Craigslist”

  1. Matt Says:

    How do you manage to acquire all this stuff without letting it overflow into your entire house? Do you just have a really large storage area, or do you try hard to sell things you don’t need quickly so stuff doesn’t accumulate?

    I continually come across free things on CL I’d like to have for something (usually a project of some type) – but I don’t have space for all of them… and I’m trying to DE-clutter our house, so I really don’t want extra stuff just sitting around.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      When I had just started out, this was a problem. I would go around grabbing anything of value because I knew how much it cost new. It basically comes down to recognizing that which you can actually use and put to use, or sell relatively quickly. I try and sell things within a day or two max. So if someone is giving away something bigger, like a window air conditioner today, I would ask myself, “Do I want to store this until next June?” The answer might be yes if you have the right outdoor storage sheds, shops etc.

      Another thing that helps me is that I’m constantly getting rid of things, both when I don’t have much to sell and to make more room to store future items. You just have to war against the tendency to hoard and get good at recognizing higher demand/quicker turn around items.

      Reply

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