How To Make A Great Craigslist Ad

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sampleadA well produced Craigslist ad will help sell your item faster and at a higher price. It should also make the entire process more pleasant for you and the buyer. In this post I share some of the biggest tips I’ve learned over the course of thousands of successful Craigslist transactions.

1. Great Titles

“Nice Whirlpool Washing machine, super capacity, Free Delivery – $170”

Make your title clean and to the point. Put what the item is, the brand (if it’s recognizable) and a few details. If you deliver, put that in the title also, as that’s a huge value to many buyers. Put the real price, don’t try to bait people into looking at your ad with a lower price. You will lose their trust immediately.

Don’t overload it with details. Like I said in a past post, if you mention that it’s “older”, there isn’t enough space to explain anything about the age. Someone might read that and not even look at your ad. Same for anything else that could drive someone away without further explanation. If there is a dent somewhere on the item, mention it in the description of the ad, not in the title. Give your item a chance to be sold.

Make the title accurate. If a person even smells a whiff of deceit in your title you will lose potential buyers. Inaccurate titles weigh heavily for me when I’m deciding whether or not to make a trip to see an item. If a person is willing to fudge the title, why should they be trusted on the condition of the rest of the item?

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2. Great pictures

Pictures really can be worth a thousand words. It’s especially the case when someone doesn’t know who you are and are looking closely at a picture to sway them one way or the other. Make your pictures leave a positive impression or a person will click back and not give your item the time of day.

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Clean background and clear the clutter

Buyers don’t know anything about you, and though it might not be fair, will assume the worst when looking at your pictures. Have a bunch of clutter around an item in a picture? A buyer will think you are a hoarder with a house packed full of garbage. Is there a mess in the background? They will think your entire house is a mess and that you don’t take care of your possessions.

It’s alright to stage the item. Try to look at the picture you are taking from someone else’s perspective. Does the picture make the person want to buy the item or does it leave them with questions?


Take pictures in a good lighting

I almost always take my pictures outside where it’s very well lit. It leaves nothing to the imagination. What the prospective buyer sees they are going to get. Taking pictures in dark areas that aren’t well lit leaves too many questions about the items condition. Is the picture so dark that they can’t tell if something is wrong? Don’t give people a reason to keep looking at other people’s appliances because you didn’t want to put in a little extra effort to take a good picture.

High resolution pictures aren’t necessarily helpful

Some new cameras take such high resolution pictures that they can catch the slightest of scuffs and bring attention to very minor flaws that the human eye wouldn’t even notice. This is especially the case if the high resolution pictures are taken up close. I’m not recommending that you try to hide defects, but rather that you take average pictures that accurately represent the condition of the item.

3. Great descriptions

“This is a very nice Whirlpool washing machine. Heavy duty, super capacity plus. Everything works great. You can see it work before you purchase. Very clean inside and out. ”

And that’s it. Clean and concise. Don’t try to oversell your item, but rather let your item speak for itself.

I try to ask myself what a normal, reasonable person would want to know about the item I’m trying to sell, and then answer those questions. Here are a few common questions I answer in most of my ads.

Does it work as it should without any problems? Then say it works great or very well or excellent.

Is it not working as it should? Then mention what the item is, and then write out specifically what isn’t working as it should. Don’t hide anything. It will only cause you and the buyer grief and wasted time.

Does it need to be cleaned? Either tell them it’s clean or tell them that it needs to be cleaned. People like buying things that are clean and it communicates that care has been put into the item.

Can they see it work before they purchase? If they can, tell them so in the ad. This earns a lot of trust.

What I don’t put in the description

Model #’s for appliances. If someone wants a model #, and 1 in 50 will, they will ask for it. In those situations, go out and look at the appliance and give them the model number. There is no reason to encourage the other 49 people to go off and do a bunch of research when what they will find is just going to confuse them even more. Model numbers for other types of items can be helpful, like for computers, tv’s, cell phones and other electronics.

How long I’ve owned an item unless it’s almost new. If people really want to know they will ask, but stating how long you’ve owned an item usually won’t help sell it. People don’t know what to do with that number. Don’t needlessly draw attention to an items age when performance and functionality matter more.

Don’t put your email address in the listing. There’s no point putting your email address in the listing unless you want to be signed up to a hundred spam email lists.

Don’t put that you need to sell it quickly. This is just instructing the prospective buyers that you are not firm on your price and they can work you down easily.

Don’t put your address in the listing. Nothing good can come from putting your address in a listing and many bad things could happen. Just don’t do it.

Don’t give personal information. People don’t need to know that this was your daughter received the keyboard from her grandma Laverne. They don’t need to know when you are going to be home.

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4. Phone Number

I put my Google Voice phone number in all my Craigslist ads EXCEPT when I’m selling a car. When you are selling a car, it’s better to let people email you. If you put your number in the ad you will get hammered by 20 used car dealers that will just beat you down over price until you explode. Let them email, and you can just delete their half price offers with one click.

People are impatient. When they want something, they want it pretty quickly. Unless your item is very unique and somewhat rare, leaving your phone number out of your ad will greatly reduce the amount of responses you will get. It will probably take longer to sell as well. If you are ok with that, then leave your number out.

In summary, try to help people find what they are trying to buy. Whether someone is reading your ad or talking to you on the phone, they can tell when someone is trying to help them. That is going to cause you and your item to stick out amongst the crowd more than anything else, and in a good way.

Have any  questions,tips or ideas that I’ve left out? I’d love to hear them! I will also add a Q/A section to the bottom of this post for commonly asked questions. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Those are great tips, Ryan. Since I sell bicycles on CL I make sure that I have a minimum of five photos in each ad. I also include the frame size as folks think that a bike with 26″ wheels will fit any adult. Since I do many repairs I mention improvements that have been made. If some are too much trouble or too costly to have a bike shop fix then I price the bike accordingly so buyers know up front before they contact me. I laugh when I see some folks’ ads that have one blurry picture of a bike that was taken in their garage with it hanging upside down from the ceiling. Their description of it is simply “nice bike.” The ad doesn’t state the brand, condition, size or anything that a buyer would want to know. Including a phone number can’t be emphasized enough. I always include my phone number when emailing about buying a bike from a seller or for prospective buyers of my bikes. Waiting on emails only takes longer and discourages both parties.

  2. Do you have any advice for picture taking if you’re selling furniture out of a storage unit? I take pics of the furniture outside in the sunlight but it’s obvious from the picture that the furniture is being stored in a storage unit.

    • I would just try not to get the orange roll up doors in the background 🙂 Or try taking angled pictures. If you can get just the concrete that would be much better. That’s the hard part about selling out of a storage unit, people aren’t big fans of buying in those situations.

  3. Great post Ryan. I learned many of the same principles while going through trial and error at the beginning. One thing I do that is a little different, but has brought me success, is to not worry about length in the description. I experimented early on with being concise, and it did lead to more phone calls, but I was getting better qualified callers by being more descriptive all-the-while still selling units within hours of posting. The secret is to not be ‘salesy’ but more informative. I include size, modes, warranty info (from our previous convo), information about inspecting the units thoroughly, and extra benefits such as changing cords for free and duct/water line cost if needed. In the end, the ad is fairly long, but those that call are serious buyers that are less interested in price and more interested in a valuable unit being sold by a knowledgeable person. It changed the demo of my clients substantially. Again, market differences determine strategy so my formula might not work in other areas. I sell in a heavily active/retired military city and it seems that plays a role in how I need to communicate. You are 100% correct on the quality of pictures. That, to me, is the biggest differential advantage one can master. Thanks again for the post.

    • Thanks for sharing, and a good example that each person is going to have to slightly alter the way they communicate depending on the audience of buyers in their area.

  4. I took your advice about opening a Google Talk account before posting my first Craigslist listing, and it was great advice! I also agree with you and the other posters that good pictures go a long way toward a successful sale. I had two posts up for about three hours, and just completed the sale! Wow!

    Thanks for your help, and good luck to you – although from the looks of it, you are making your own luck!

  5. 2 questions

    1) about google voice, that service doesn’t seem to be all the reliable…i mean if someone calls google voice i won’t know about it unless i’m singed in on gmail and at my computer…so should i just put my phone number up?

    2) about price charming, or price ending, or physcological pricing…should i list my item as $99 or $100?

    if i list it as 99 people might be annoyed at me for not listing it at 100, but if i list it for 100 someone might skim past it because it’s not under $100…to me it seems like a dilemma

    • 1. The calls will be forwarded to your cell phone that you have connected with your google voice account, or unless you use google voice with Google’s new project fi cell phone service. So you will get all the calls.

      2. I would list it at $100 because I don’t think it matters to people as much as you think, plus people like that the Craigslist atmosphere has less of a stuffy, business like front. I would go with the even numbers, and always have myself.

  6. The CL ads specify not to add your phone number to the body of the ad.

    If you put it there rather than to make it show in the reply box, will this make CL spam filters go off?

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