Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cleaning house with Craigslist, iPad and the Daily Craigslist App

It was a hard winter that seemed to last forever here in upstate New York.  Every winter, I have more than one, “why am I still in New York” moment and this winter I had many.  Unfortunately, I have not been successful in convincing the family members to move to a sunnier location, but the good news is that the resistance is getting less and such a move remains my goal.  We had moved to our new home about 6 years ago or so.  It was a local move and we were one of those fools who bought our new home before selling the old home so we had the luxury of taking several trips and the move was relatively easy.  Regardless, after living in our former house for nearly 20 years, there were many occasions where I spotted something and said to myself, “I don't want to move that again”.

So after a hard winter, I decided it was time to clean house and hopefully send the signal to my fellow family members that I'm not fooling – I want to move to a warmer climate and I'm not about to have clutter stand in the way of my goal.  I had many targets, that stamp collection that was passed on to me, 2 old cuckoo clocks, computers, an old dehumidifier that was left in our new home as a housewarming gift (just kidding), glassware, a popcorn bucket and old miscellaneous silverware.  Much of this stuff has been little to never used and in the case of the collectibles / family pass downs, they have been boxed up in closets and basements for the duration of my ownership.

My first step was valuation.  This was pretty simple for most items where I was able to find comps online – Craigslist or eBay or just run a Google search.  Some items just aren't worth selling.  If you decide to clean your house using Craigslist, you need to think through how much your time is worth.  For instance, I sold a set of glasses for $5.00 but after the sale, I reflected that my time invested was worth more than $5.00 so in some ways, I gave the stuff away…and I really liked those glasses and could have easily given them away when it came time for a move.  I amassed a healthy volume of VCR tapes, CDs, DVDs and clothing and made a trip to the Goodwill – goodbye stuff!  Also in the not worth it category was the old dehumidifier which I did not know whether it worked or not.  For this item I found posting to the Free Stuff in Craigslist was a lifesaver… I was pleasantly surprised how many people wanted this dehumidifier that I advertised as not working.  In fact I was so surprised that I did make one rookie Craigslist mistake and responded to the first person who provided a phone number.  Unfortunately, this responder despite his intentions was not responsive – failing to show as promised twice before I texted him to say thank you for your interest, but the dehumidifier is no longer available.  I would suggest to all to extend courtesy even to these type of responders.  I would have liked to send a snarky message like, “thanks for jerking me around, a-hole,” but you never know the mental state of the other individual so it is wise not to unnecessarily incite the wrath of a stranger.  Generally, I find it useful to screen the responses for cogent responses that address what is important to me, specifically local buyer with a local phone number and a clear time frame for decision / pick up.  While it is always nice to have more than one response to consider, you may find that for hard to sell items, you may get only one response.  In these cases, it is critical to respond timely – waiting a day or two does not work; you will lose your buyer.  If you're trying to clear out your house, use impulse buyers to your advantage; sell it to them before they change their mind.  Another sales tip is that if you have multiple similar items, use cross-selling.  When a seller comes to see one of your items, don't hesitate to have a couple of your other items on hand as well.  I had a buyer come for a collection of CDs; he left with the CDs and 4 albums that I was also trying to sell.

After my thoughtful reflection in regards to the sale of my set of glasses, I refocused my energy to clearing the house of items not being used and which were worthwhile to sell either because they would be hard to quickly sell / dispose of for their true value such as the stamp collection and cuckoo clock or would be a nuisance to move or get rid of like the desktop computers.  Tip:  walking through the house and pulling stuff out of closets and cupboards helps to identify hidden stuff as well as stuff that is hiding in plain sight – just taking up space.  I found carrying the iPad on this trip made the process easy.  Find something, pull it out to a well-lighted area and snap some pictures with the iPad.  After snapping 3-5 items, return to the recliner, open my Daily for Craigslist app and start posting.

In exercising this endeavor, I learned that you can renew your post every 48 hours.  This proved to be invaluable as postings can get stale and buried in Craigslist.  Renewing bumps your post back to the top of the listing.  I would highly recommend renewing frequently and also consider strategic times when you think that it may be most advantageous for your post to be at the top of the pile.  For example, Friday afternoon might be a good choice as pushing your item to the top at the beginning of the weekend when buyers may be most able to come get your item.  Also, by renewing on Friday afternoon, you can get a second chance on Sunday afternoon so you can maximize the weekend.  Tip:  If the item is small enough, I offer buyers the option to pick up at my place of work.  There are many advantages to this.  For nervous sellers, they do not have to come to a private residence.  For me, I don’t have to waste my time waiting for someone in a public spot nor have sellers traffic to my home.

Another tip to point out in regards to Craigslist is that you are able to configure your posting to show "more ads by this user".  Surprisingly, this is not selected by default.  I say "surprisingly" as I have tried to envision a situation where one would not want to do this as it seems to me that most users would want to maximize exposure to their ads.  Perhaps one possible situation is if you place your phone number in an ad, but don't want you telephone number used for other ads.  I never use my telephone number in my Craigslist post as I want to screen all the responses before moving toward actual contact.

While I haven't sold everything; I definitely made a dent in the debris.  The change jar now looks healthier with a couple hundred dollars from Craigslist sales.  Next, I'm eyeballing my hard to sell items for the next step... eBay!