Maybe you’ve used Craigslist to buy or sell things, but have you ever checked out all of the things that are free?
That’s right; there is a section devoted to things which are simply given away. People give things away because it is easier than trying to sell them or bring them to a thrift store as a donation. But it isn’t always that difficult to sell these things, and if you know what you’re doing you can make thousands of dollars from Craigslist freebies. Let’s take a look at how it is done…
How to Find Free Things on Craigslist
Go to Craigslist.org and, if you’re not automatically forwarded to a local page, find your state on the list and click on the link for the location closest to you. For me the closest offering is “Fort Myers / SW Florida,” but when I arrive at that page I can narrow down the results by clicking on “Collier County,” where I live. You might look at a couple different locations if they’re both close to you.
Once you have your local directory, look under the “For Sale” heading for the link that says “free” and click that. You’ll probably see advertisements for all sorts of free items if you live in or near a town of more than 15,000 people. In the last week here in Collier County, Florida, the free things offered on Craigslist included:
- A functioning full size trampoline
- An artificial Christmas tree
- A toilet seat
- A bathroom countertop
- A hot tub
- A refrigerator
- Sliding glass doors
- Wood doors
- Leftovers from a rummage sale
I wouldn’t want a used toilet seat, but some of the other things looked good in the photos. The pictures of the rummage sale leftovers clearly showed some decent luggage, a folding chair, many books, clothing, vases and three pieces of wooden furniture. If we lived in a house instead of our small condo I might gather up a bunch of these free things to sell at rummage sales — and that’s only one way to sell them, as you’ll see in a moment.
A recent About.com post on Craigslist freebies asked readers what their best free finds were. The answers included a running Suzuki ATV 250, a home gym set, a fish tank, and a working motorcycle. One reader said “I have also picked up many big screen TVs and sold them for 200 a pop.” If he isn’t exaggerating this guy has had “many” $200 paydays from picking up a free TV now and then.
Of course there are better and worse places to do this. In some cities you might have a lot of competition and new ads can pop up every few minutes, so check often. In small towns there might not be enough ads for free things to bother looking. But chances are good that you can get some free things, and anything you sell them for is a profit.
How to Sell Craigslist Freebies
Let’s assume you have been running around picking up free things that were advertised on Craigslist. Now how do you sell what you collected? There are several ways to cash in your treasures, including these three:
- Sell on Craigslist
- Have Rummage Sales
- Sell to Specialty Buyers
The first way can be considered a sort of arbitrage, which means capitalizing on market inefficiencies by buying cheap and quickly selling for more in some other place. Free is as cheap as it gets, and the “other place” is just the ad categories where things are not free. Ryan Finlay, founder of craigslistarbitrage.com, has some useful information about this on his new website, http://recraigslist.com/. He makes a living on Craigslist, and most of what he sells is obtained there as well.
If you read about Finlay’s best day on Craigslist, you’ll notice that he paid nothing for five of the six items he sold for a profit that day, and the dryer he sold for $200 was purchased for just $25. He figured he spent $15 on gas and ended the day with a $700 profit.
The second way to sell the things you get is at rummage sales. The advantages include working from home, not having people call you all the time (as with the first strategy), and limiting your time dealing with customers to a weekend or two each month. Of course this doesn’t work well if you don’t live in a good location for a rummage sale.
The third way, which will work only with certain types of items, is to sell to known buyers. For example, I got six boxes of free floor tiles, put them in our van, and then sold them later for $10 to the first flooring company I passed. Perhaps I sold too cheap, but hey, I got them for free. For luggage or electronics you could go straight to a pawn shop to get cash. We have a construction resale place that will buy things like used appliances, countertops, and windows (which are all free items offered on Craigslist here in the last week).
Selling to companies that are always buying is probably not how you get the best price, but it puts the cash in your hands fast. Another advantage is that you won’t end up with a house full of things that haven’t yet sold. If you go this route you should keep a list of the best places to sell your goods. You might even be able to get free things and sell them before you return home. Your list should have scrap metal buyers (aluminum and copper items), pawn shops (electronics, jewelry, luggage and tools), used appliance buyers, used furniture buyers or consignment shops, and perhaps a used bookstore if they pay cash for books.
It might be best to use several selling strategies to get the most out of your Craigslist freebies. For example, you could sell broken metal items to scrap dealers, large furniture on Craigslist to get them out of your home, and save the smaller stuff for your next rummage sale. Once you know how to sell you can also buy things cheaply for resale, but the beauty of this hobby or business is that you can start with no expense other than the gas in your car.
Your Turn: Have you ever gotten anything free from a Craigslist ad? Have you sold any of you freebies? Please tell us your stories below.