Many times in life, the difference between success and failure is just a few details. This is especially the case when it comes to negotiating with people in the wilderness of Craigslist. Whether you are negotiating as a buyer or seller, the following 11 tips will help you get the price you want.
Negotiating tips when buying items on Craigslist
1. Be kind. When you are communicating with the seller of an item, treat them like a person. Be kind and courteous. Say hi at the beginning of the email, it’s like smiling. Thank the person for their time at the end of the email, because you took up a small portion of the person’s life, and gratitude is appropriate. People are much more likely to be flexible on the price if you treat them like they are more valuable (which they are) than the item you are interested in.
2. Ask questions. Ask if there are any issues with the item. I purposely ask this vague question as it’s kind of all encompassing. If you ask specific questions, you will get specific answers. Asking if there are any scratches will get a yes or no, but they might not mention a dent. When you ask if there are any issues, it brings to mind every little flaw or defect in the item, and with these flaws in mind, a person is often more likely to bring down the price.
If you are in person, let them talk for a bit after you ask. Let there be a little silence so they have time to volunteer a good bit of information about the items.
3. Avoid Confrontation. I’ve greatly reduced the number of sellers I call on the phone. My reason for this is that many people get offended at lower offers and tend to overreact. Once an offense has been taken, they dig their heels in and won’t budge. This same person, given a few minutes to think about an offer, will often calmly make a rational decision and accept a lower offer. I think it’s easier to avoid confrontation and communicate kindness via an email. Plus, for a person that really needs to the higher price, you are giving them an easier way to stick to their price without any high pressure. Our goal should be two happy parties, not always just an extra nickel of profit. I’ve been learning this more and more over time.
4. Communicate that you are not desperate. It is often said the one that needs the other the least in a relationship holds the power. This is very true when it comes to buying and selling. I will often end an email by saying no worries either way. I’m trying to honestly communicate that it’s fine if they accept my offer and it’s going to be fine if they don’t. Realizing that the sun will come up tomorrow even if you don’t get the item is very important, and will be communicated to sellers in your tone of voice and your words. Don’t be desperate.
5. Tell the seller why it’s worth selling to you at a lower price. What are some of the benefits of selling to you at this lower price? Ask how soon you could pick it up. This shows the seller that you are serious and would be willing to come right over and pick an item up. A quick sale is valuable to many sellers and this adds motivation for them to lower the price. Tell them you are flexible and are willing to work around their schedule. Tell them you have cash and the means to safely remove the item yourself. I’ve waited a week or two before picking up some appliances as they wanted to use them up until they moved.
Negotiating tips when selling on Craigslist
1. Realize your strengths and weaknesses. Some people would rather perish than endure high pressure, awkward confrontations. If this is you then avoid negotiating over the phone or in person. Leave your phone number out of the ad and have people email you. It’s easier to be courageous when facing a computer screen than an old grizzled Craigslist shark. If you want to include your phone number, tell people you are firm on the price. When they ask for a lower price, refer them to the ad and tell them you are firm.
2. Give your item a chance to sell at your desired price. When someone calls or emails a lower price, don’t send back a knee jerk rant about how much your great aunt originally paid for the bird bath. Politely tell them that you might consider their offer if it hasn’t sold by the end of the week, or whatever other time frame you set up. If people are calling about the item, you probably have it priced correctly and eventually someone will pay full price.
3. Don’t be desperate to sell. I will often see ads where a seller will say things like their enormous freezer is sitting in the living room and making life unbearable. Even if that’s the truth, you don’t need to volunteer the information. If you need to move the item to a place that isn’t going to drive you insane until it sells, then do so. Otherwise you are going to get worked over by a discerning buyer that will see your desperation.
4. Don’t drop the price once a person has shown up. Once a person has invested a bunch of time and gas to come to your place to inquire about an item, they are serious about buying. If they act like they aren’t going to pay full price, call their bluff and don’t drop the price. 95% of the time they will end up buying the item. If the rare event takes place and they end up leaving without buying, that’s ok.
5. Have someone else with you. We often give in to pressure because of fear. Having another person with you has a tendency to give a boost of courage you need to stand your ground. This is especially helpful when someone is coming to look at a car or another high priced item. Have them keep you accountable or even make it a joint decision that must go through you both.
6. Be kind. Many times I’ve had someone tell me that they were going to offer less but that I seemed like a good guy. Being kind and courteous to people will often earn you favor in their eyes. Treat each person with a clean slate. It’s easy to get hard and calloused after a rough transaction, but you need to forget about those and assume the best of each person.
Have any questions? What negotiating tactics have worked well for you? I’m sure many of you have interesting negotiation stories, so feel free to share them in the comments.
The pictures above are from our trip this past weekend to the Oregon Coast. It was incredibly beautiful out there.
Ryan, you offer great tips that carry over to other areas of life as well. I’m not currently buying or selling anything on Craigslist but I follow your blog because of the honest and free wisdom you dispense here. Thanks!
That’s cool. I appreciate that!
Very good guide Ryan. Honey over vinegar. Stoicism over emotion.
A good guide to dealing with people and still maintaining a good return on your time and effort. I liked the photos too!
Hey there Ryan,
You are the man. I am a fine dining chef trying to get out of the biz because of the long hours, holidays and weekends. I would much rather work long hours for myself. You have inspired me to start buying and selling appliances in my spare time and i hope to make it a full time job after the winter. I have two questions if you would be so kind: 1. What should i bring to my first washer and dryer install?i.e. different kind of plugs etc? and 2. i picked up a frigidaire front loader washer that doesnt drain the water, what is the issue off the top of your head? door lock?
Hey Ron, You will want the tools to swap out the dryer cord if needed. I usually ask what kind of plug they have before hand and swap it out before I deliver in case there is an issue. It’s always easier to deal with an issue in the shop rather than at a customers house. A nut driver set is really nice to have and small pliers to when disconnecting and hooking back up the water lines. As far as bringing different power cords, this is only needed when their old cord has been damaged. Most of the time you can just pull of the old cord and put it on the dryer you are delivering.
2. First rule of appliance club…never pick up frigidaire front loaders unless they are free 🙂 I really don’t touch those things, but I would guess either something is stuck in the pump or the door switch is broken or possibly the pump itself has gone out.
Hope that helps, and shoot me an email if you are interested in any coaching. It can make your life a lot easier.
Hi Ryan, I have been following your site for a couple of months and I find it very motivational and interesting, I even share some of your entries with my wife and I know for a fact this will be “our bible” when we get serious with our Craigslist project. What you mention on point 4 when trying to sell anything is something beginners like myself fall for, specially if there are any items that don’t sell after trying for months.
I ended up selling an Item for 30% less its ad price and that considering I was already selling it for 50% off its original retail price (brand new Prada shoes) I met up with the guy and he examined the product for 5 mins, he was very polite and friendly and seemed very experienced with the type of product we were negotiating, at the end of his talking he lowered my price and I just said “ok that’s fine” probably out of desperation and impatience or just because his apparent knowledge at bargaining left me speechless.
I just remembered riding the bus back home and looking at the reflection of my saddened fcr at the window thinking I could’ve said no and be more patient.
Some lessons are more painful to learn than others. Thanks for sharing your story.
When buying a item from a seller you know you are for sure
going to buy is it better to act disinterested or point out minute details when trying to negotiate a lower price?
I don’t recommend pointing our really minute details to bring the price down, as more often than not it frustrates the seller and they dig in. Just be polite and ask if they would take a whatever amount you would like to pay. It’s easier to negotiate a tentative price over the phone or email before you go, and removes a handful of the risk.
In general, just being kind to the seller will win you more favor and give you the best chance at a lower price. Hope that helps.
Great article! I was looking for books online on criagslist negotiating and found your blog. This helped!
Specifically the being nice no matter what was good to read. Also, not budging on my price when they come to me. Thanks!!
Awesome, glad it helped!
Here’s a story that pertains to your article:
Recently I found an awesome set of Roland electronic drums on Craigslist (Always wanted a set but could never afford them back in the day). The asking price, $1400, was already rather low, especially considering all the extras and add-ons included. I offered a slightly lower price for the heck of it but the seller didn’t budge, stating that he felt his price was fair. About half an hour later, knowing it was still a steal I agreed to buy at the full price. The seller responded that 2 others had just called him and were willing to pay full price and that they could pick up the set the next day. I asked the seller if it was a first-come-first-serve sale, and if so, I would drive down tomorrow morning to buy (it was a 3hr trip for me). He agreed, so the next morning I woke up at 5:30am and drove down to get the set, successfully beating the other 2 guys. While he was helping me load all the pieces in my car we talked about various things, including a bit about why he was selling, and how that tied to his life in general. I was genuinely interested in what he had to say so I listened and asked a few questions. At the end of it all, he said I seemed like a really great kid, and gave me back $100 “to help with gas and some lunch”. Although I’ve always been kind and respectful when buying/selling, this time proved to me the most just how effective it really can be!
Awesome story, thanks for sharing!
Sticking to your guns is really important. I sell a lot of phones on craigslist, and if I confirm a price through email or text, that’s that. I have had so many people agree on $250 for a phone and then try to low ball me in person offering $200. I usually tell them that I’d appreciate it if they would honor the agreement, and if they keep pushing I tell them that I’ll find another buyer and walk away. (IF it ever gets that far) 85% of the time, if I start walking away they’ll stop me and pay the agreed price.
after a price has been settled, STICK TO IT. You WILL get it.
Yes, I agree that people should always stick to their agreement/prices prior to showing up and not try to low ball a seller(I’ve been on both ends with Craigslist as a buyer and seller so I know the games people will try to play.). Some people like to haggle with sellers, but personally, I don’t even bother. Why? The way I see it, people obviously want what they are asking for their item(s), not less(unless they offer a Best offer in their listing). If I don’t want to pay that amount they’re asking, then I won’t even inquire about it, but that’s me.
Anyway, I had the opposite situation happen to me last month(I was the buyer). A seller had a Bombay-style table she was selling on CL for $150. I contacted her via email and it was all set up(or so I thought)for me to buy and pick up. We agreed on the amount listed and that was the amount that I brought in cash with me. I would never have low-balled her and was willing to pay the full amount asked in the ad. Well, after we rushed home from work, rushed the kids with dinner and taking them to a baby-sitter’s house,showing up with the money, my husband to help me, and a truck to load it, not to mention driving pretty far out of our way on a WEEKDAY EVENING, she suddenly says to us that “it will be $250.” Huh? I was confused. I told her the ad said $150 and she told me she didn’t think so(I had checked it later to see if I was wrong, but I was right and it was still up at $150 when I checked after getting home!). There were no other items listed in the ad to confuse it, just the table. Well, apparently, the woman’s mother said that the two of them hadn’t talked about the price before listing it nor did they both agree to that price. It was the daughter who listed it at $150. I guess it was the daughter’s furniture piece, but the mom was the one who bought it for her many years ago and therefore, felt that she had some say in the selling price. The daughter just wanted to get rid of it before moving out of state and was fine with the $150, but the mom was not.). I could’ve argued the ad or let her know what we just went through to get there(gas and time), etc… but what good would it have done? She wasn’t going to budge though and I refused to go and get any more cash out(not for a small side table that was several years old, used and in good-not excellent condition. Though it was still nice, there were nicks in the wood.)The mom told us: “sorry, but there is no way am I giving it to you for $150 when I paid $***!(even after my husband was trying to get the original ad up on our phone. I just told him to forget trying.). She actually said that she “didn’t care to see it.” I felt I was being punished for their lack of communication(not my fault). I guess maybe she thought we’d just go to cash machine somewhere down the road and take out more money(sorry, but not going to happen!). I know the daughter felt bad at her mom’s attitude, but I wasn’t going to argue with her. We just said “Thank You” and left. Later that night, she emailed me, offering to sell it to me again that night after talking to her mom for the agreed price(but only IF I met her somewhere driving halfway. Huh?-LOL.). At that point, I already had my kids in bed and I wasn’t going to drive out in the dark to give her the amount that they wouldn’t originally honor earlier in the evening! Their mistake, their loss. I don’t like flakes(in buyers or sellers)and will immediately write them off after something like this.
Anyway, I am still looking for a nice side table. I also notice that her table was recently relisted(and now at the price that I was going to pay her, which was her original listed price!). Now, I could see if I was trying to low-ball her or something, but I was going to pay her for what it was LISTED at!
That’s frustrating. I’ve had that happen a number of times but usually before the agreed upon pick up time. I would not have been happy, and would have made sure the seller felt the natural awkwardness of their actions.
You should have a friend email and offer $100 🙂
I appreciate your win-win negotiating tips for buyers and sellers. I am in the midst of trying to buy a vehicle. Thinking it’s good to stay current with new listings and be the first to call, I’ve run into an interesting sellers’ tactic now a couple of times which effectively removes any hope of paying less than the asking price… I request to come look at the vehicle and they say they are going to be out of town for a couple of days, or are scheduled for a colonoscopy. They agree to meet in a couple of days. By then they have mysteriously shown it to another party who’s supposedly offered them the asking price, but because I was the first caller, they are doing the honorable thing and giving me “first option”.
Is this a known tactic of sellers? Even though I might be willing to pay the asking price, I feel a little duped to just roll over for them.
Sounds like the person is a re-seller, which isn’t a bad thing, but you likely aren’t going to get a great bargain. But, I personally would walk away because if they are slightly shifty like that when it comes to negotiations, what else are they going to be shifty about? Are they telling you the full truth? You already are collecting reasons to not trust them.
It’s worth looking harder, and being patient to find a real buyer.
Hope that helps!