Craigslist Search Tips and My New Secret Weapon

I recently found some pretty fun things (chairs and coffee table) on Craigslist for the new house.  I also featured some other finds in a post on making your decorating dollar stretch.

In the past, I purchased most of my stuff brand new, but I’m learning more and more to be patient and try Craigslist first.  I usually give it a few weeks before pulling the trigger on something new, depending on how urgent I feel about it.

image  image

A few people have commented or emailed to ask for tips on finding great stuff and weeding through the junk.

Here are my tips:

1.  Consider misspellings.  How many times do we mistype.  Most messages sent from iphones even warn of typos.  So, consider that when searching.  For instance, if you are looking for area rug, try arae rug.  You’d be surprised!

2.  Consider synonyms.  How else can you say Chinese Chippendale chairs?  Chinoiserie, asian, fretwork, chippendale, etc all would work.  There are lots of ways of saying the same thing, depending on where you are from originally.  Same with colors.  Don’t just type teal, but maybe blue, turquoise, blue-green, green, etc.

3.  Be less specific.  If you want the Chinese Chippendale chairs like you see above, just type in chairs.  The yellow chairs above were just listed as aluminum chairs.  Vague.  Most sellers do not know all the proper terms to use.  But, you will need to patiently weed through things. However, I’m going to show you a short cut in a bit.

4.  Be willing to paint things.  This opens up the possibilities.

How to get started:

1.  Start with an extensive search.  Try all the tips above when searching and search as far back as you can.  This may take hours to do.  However, I will give you a tip in a bit that will help!

2.  Once you have done the extensive search, just keep up with the new listings under those searches.

Ready for the short cuts I keep talking about?!

It’s a smartphone app! I just got this on my iphone.  It’s called “Craigslist Ultimate.”  The icon is a purple peace sign.  For $1.99, I promise, it will change your Craigslist life!


Above are screen shots from the app.  So, you put in the city, price range and search string just like on the website.  However, the cool part is that you see the images along with the blurb on the search results!  No more clicking on each link to see images.  Only click on the link if that initial image seems interesting and like what you are looking for!

You can also save searches.  But, even better, you can set alerts.  So, it will constantly run your searches and alert you when things are listed that fit that criteria!  No more manually searching!

And… You can favorite things you like.  I favorited some night stands, for example, because I first want to get a new master bed before I know what sort of night stands I want.

How awesome is this?!  (Thanks to Ryan Wooley for telling me which CL app is good.)

There’s one more perk.  Do you ever take a photo of something on your phone for a listing?   If so, you can take the pic and you can then post it on Craigslist right then and there from your phone.

Amazing!!  But, there is one pretty major downfall to this app.  Since it runs searches constantly in the background, it will eat through your battery power.  So, you may find that it’s best not to do the alert system and instead just save searches and run them manually every once in a while.  Unless there is something you are urgently looking for!

Hope that helps with your Craigslist searching!  What are your Craigslist search tips?



  1. The craigslist app is hands-down my favorite app! Still not finding great stuff on our craig lately, but I keep looking!

  2. I’ve been on CL looking for some new additions for our house lately. It can be so rewarding, but also super frustrating!

  3. It’s like you’re reading my mind because I literally *just* downloaded this app this weekend :O) Thx for the heads up and review! The only thing I might add is to search more “by owner” and remove “by dealer” else there are 400 daily ads for mattress sales in the feed…..

  4. oh and the reason I downloaded it this weekend – beyond wanting something like it – was b/c I missed the exact style of bedroom set I’ve been waiting to pop-up [at a reasonable price] for weeks now. This woman gave away FOR FREE an entire bedroom set – 1 long and 1 tall dresser, two nightstands. For Free. (most of the time this style at least out here is so overpriced …) I missed it by about 30 minutes. FREE! Argh.

    • Woah! Was that listed under FREE or what exactly? What do you monitor for that? haha.

      • I was using to alert and it alerted me but 30 min after posting so I missed it. It was a mid century modern set with peg legs and streamlined faces. There are 2-3 stores here that jump all over EVERYTHING mid-cent and grab it and mark it up to insane prices.

        I even emailed her and said I’LL PAY YO FOR THESE! GOOD MONEY! and she mailed back that someone was there picking them up at the moment. I said ” see if they’ll leave anything behind” but she didn’t reply. I was mad all day about it :)

        • I wasn’t even aware of other alert programs! Thanks for that info. Wow, that’s a rough miss.

          • is actually pretty cool – can be used for all sorts of things. If then then that, so if you want to tag a search or twitter feed or CL or whatever, you can. I use this all.the.time but it’s not good enough for CL buys :)

  5. Great tips! I had never heard of the smartphone app!

    I recently posted a few of my favorite tips too. I love hearing new ways to make CL more bearable! Now if only we could find ways to get more fabulous furniture like your chairs posted! :)

  6. i’ve been looking for chairs like those yellow ones forever, no luck in colorado. great tips.

  7. I’ve got a good CL tip too! Craig’s Easy! It’s a bookmarklet that you save to your browser, do your search on CL, then hit the Craig’s Easy bookmark to see your results with ALL the pictures for each listing! They’re pretty big too.

    Nikki @ the ambitious procrastinator

  8. One other tip that sometimes works well when you are browsing or looking for a lot of stuff: search by nicest neighborhoods/towns in your area. When I lived in LA I was sometimes very successful with random “Beverly Hills” searches, where wealthy people just wanted to get something out of their garage.

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