The Ultimate Guide to Craigslist

and How it Will Transform Your Vacation Rental




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August 31, 2015
Craig's List Find

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

The golden rule of vacation rental design is to go for a high-end look with a low-end price tag.

And yes, that does indeed include the basic vacation rentals with lower rates. In fact, it applies to all vacation rentals. All of the time.


First of all, a high-end look gets people’s attention. Vacation rental marketing guru Matt Landau recently reported that the average traveler considers 8 properties and actually inquires on 5 before making a booking, so in the inevitable Battle of the Listings, the high-end, eye-popping rentals are going to win the most bookings.

Secondly, a high-end look makes people feel fabulous inside, a little more special while they kick back in their temporary digs. I like to compare staying in a top-drawer vacation rental with getting a massage: it’s like a deeply indulgent treat that makes people feel cared for. And when people feel cared for, they leave glowing reviews and book again.


All this being said, spending a lot of money on high-end furniture and amenities makes no sense for the vacation rental business model. Your return on investment is going to take a serious hit. If you spend $2,000 on this stunning Jonathan Adler chandelier, even if it is going to make the dining room extraordinarily glamorous, you are forking out some serious cash.

Jonathan Adler Sputnik Chandelier

The Sputnik 24 Light Chandelier by Jonathan Adler is stunning and would make any room a bookings magnet, but most vacation rental owners are unwilling to drop $1,990.65 retail.

Fortunately, there is a way to get that same Jonathan Adler chandelier and not spend a week’s booking in the process.

Which is why I bring up Craigslist. Feast your eyes on this beastly find and reconsider….

Craig's List Find

That same $1,990.65 Jonathan Adler Sputnik chandelier can be had for $500 if you’re willing to go to Whittier, California. Craigslist LA.

High-impact designer items have the power to transform an ordinary room into a head-turner and when they cost a fraction of their retail value they do indeed make sense in vacation rentals.

Let’s find a holiday rental that could use a little Jonathan Adler in its life. Here’s a very pretty one (it took about a second to find) wherein I’ll Photoshop in a little Sputnik. Watch how a merely attractive room transforms into a stunner….


Airbnb New York City

This midtown 5th Ave condo with a panoramic view of the city is nicely furnished, but it’s missing something. Airbnb.


Transformation on Airbnb

“Nice” turns into “glamorous” with the simple addition of a Craigslist Jonathan Adler Sputnik chandelier. And $500 is a fourth of the $2,000 retail price tag! Re-imagined done by your’s truly using Photoshop.

Never underestimate the impact designer amenities make to bookings. Sometimes it’s the difference between 5 nights booked and 10. When rooms turn heads, bookings go up, plain and simple.

So the next question is, how do you find the good stuff on Craigslist? What do you look for? Where do you start?

I’ve outlined my method below and I think you’ll find it works pretty darn well.

The Ultimate Guide to Craigslist

1. First and foremost, find what you’re looking for. Learning the names of high-end designers, showrooms, workshops and manufacturers is the secret to scooping up the best Craigslist finds.

There will be a learning curve, but with time and diligence, you will develop a list of what to look for. Start by:

  • Looking through design magazines.
  • Reading design blogs.
  • Browsing through First Dibs.
  • Going to showrooms.

Here are a few names to get you started:

Furniture and Amenities 

  1. Design Within Reach
  2. Mitchell Gold Bob Williams
  3. Donghia
  4. Baker Furniture
  5. Roche Bobois
  6. Restoration Hardware
  7. Crate and Barrel
  8. Jonathan Adler
  9. ABC Carpet and Home
  10. Flou
  11. Minotti
  12. Room and Board
  13. Ligne Roset
  14. B&B Italia
  15. Barbara Barry
  16. McGuire Furniture
  17. Stickley Furniture
  18. Knoll
  19. Herman Miller

Below is a search I did in less than 5 minutes in both New York and San Francisco. The first is an awesome leather sofa from ABC Carpet and Home, barely used because it was kept in a guest bedroom:

ABC Carpet and Home sofa

A barely used, distressed leather sofa from ABC Carpet and Home is $950 on Craigslist NYC. Original price? $5,000!

And the second is a pair of Mitchell Gold Bob Williams armchairs in pristine condition. Imagine some new throw pillows and you’re set:

Armchairs from Craig's List

Two Mitchell Gold Bob Williams armchairs can be had for $600 on Craigslist San Francisco.


I can’t emphasize enough chic lighting in vacation rentals. A stunning pendant over a dining table or a pair of designer sconces in a bathroom have the power to transform a room. Below is a list of top-drawer lighting brands:

  1. Urban Electric
  2. Visual Comfort
  3. Schoolhouse Electric
  4. Donghia
  5. Y Lighting
  6. Circa
Craigs List Artemide Light

An Artemide Tolomeo desk light is $75 on Craigslist Milwaukee. The retail price is $280. Tres chic!


Chic appliances make the whole kitchen sing, even if everything else is ordinary. Guests will notice a Wolf range or a Miele dishwasher in the kitchen photos. It pays off to mention them in your listing too. Here are brands you can’t go wrong on:

  1. Sub Zero
  2. Viking
  3. Wolf
  4. Gaggenau
  5. Miele
  6. Thermador
  7. Aga
  8. Bertazzoni
Sub Zero Craig's List

Oak paneled doors adorn the front of this Sub-Zero refrigerator in Fort Atkins, Wisconsin. $550.


High-end fixtures can “marry-up” any bathroom or kitchen. You can take a basic vanity with nothing special about it and pair it with a Waterworks faucet and all of a sudden, it looks like it belongs in a Four Seasons hotel. You will find these aplenty on Craigslist. Here are a few jaw-dropping brands to launch into the search box:

  1. Waterworks
  2. Lefroy Brooks
  3. Restoration Hardware
  4. Kallista
  5. Perrin & Rowe
  6. Rohl
  7. Dornbracht
  8. Herbeau
  9. Duravit
Waterworks Craigs List faucet

A Waterworks faucet will “marry-up” anything it touches. Have a “nothing special” sink pedestal? Put this baby on it and it’s suddenly Four Seasons. Considering the retail price is $640, I’d say $249 is a steal. Craigslist Hancock Park.

vacation rental bathroom

We found the same Waterworks nickel faucet for this Idaho vacation cottage for $175.

2. Once you find the brands you’re going for, sign up for email and smartphone alerts.

Craigslist email and smartphone alerts let you know something has come on the market as soon as someone lists it, key to scooping up the good stuff before someone else gets to it.

For Email Alerts:

Let’s say you’re looking for a Minotti sofa. The first thing you do is type “Minotti” into the search box. Once you get your results, you’ll see at the top right, ‘Email Alert.’ Click it. I suggest you also check the box ‘Search Titles Only,’ because otherwise, you’ll get alerts for things that supposedly look like ‘Minotti,’  but rarely do (in fact, it’s most likely junk).

You tend to get better deals if you select the “Owner” instead of “Dealer” box because dealers are in the business to make money and although they have nicely curated and edited items, the prices are marked up quite a bit (kinda defeats the point of Craigslist). Owners, on the other hand, are often just trying to get rid of something – quickly – and the prices reflect their haste. I often check “All” because there’s the minute possibility that a dealer is going out of business and is willing to get rid of things for a fraction of retail.

This is what your screen will look like:

Craigs List Alert

Sign up for ‘Email Alerts’ and check the box ‘Search Titles Only.’ Whenever anyone lists a Minotti anything, you’ll be the first to know.

You’ll be surprised at how many great things come up on Craigslist every day. In fact, I delegated all Craigslist alerts to my Promotional tab in Gmail because I was endlessly distracted by juicy finds, and wasn’t getting my work done.

Craig's List Alert

A Craigslist email alert looks like this (I use Gmail). There’s one new result for ‘Minotti,’ and the small print says, “title only.” That’s because I only want listings with ‘Minotti’ in the title.

Smartphone Alerts:

Another super fast way to save searches and get alerts is using a Craigslist app on your smartphone or tablet. I use cPro Craigslist and find it very convenient. You can save searches, specify cities, etc. It looks like this:

cPro Craigslist

The cPro Craigslist app is a mobile search alert for your favorite Craigslist searches. You can program it to alert you every 24 hours, hour or even every 15 minutes.

3. Once you find the object of your dreams, contact the owner right away and let them know you’re interested.

Most sellers prefer email correspondence but it’s not uncommon for people to accept text messages or even a phone call. I start out by asking if the object is still available. If so, sellers generally respond the same day; if the item has already been sold, sellers rarely tell you so. If there’s no response within half a day, assume it’s been snatched up.

When talking to sellers, don’t play hardball. If it’s a great piece and the price is low, there is a good chance you’re not the first person responding to the ad, so if you start out by hard-balling, the owner might think you’re a piece of work and not want to deal with you.

4. Negotiate before you show up and stick to the price you agreed on.

It’s rude to agree to a price and then show up and try to negotiate the price down. If the listing says “final offer or no negotiating and bring cash,” it means “final offer, there’s no negotiating and bring cash.”

5. If the listing is a week old, make a lower offer.

Firm” or not, you shouldn’t pay full price if the post has been up for more than a week. The sellers are clearly overpricing their item if it hasn’t sold in seven days. Because they’re probably anxious to unload it, try offering less and see if they take it. This only applies to individual owners though because dealers are ok with listings lasting months.

6. Take your truck to pick up the item (or bribe a friend with wine to borrow theirs).

All too often, I assume my SUV is ample enough for a Craigslist buy and have been sorely disappointed, not to mention the seller irritated, that it just didn’t cut the mustard.  If you don’t have a truck, borrow a friend’s and pick-up will be seamless. And don’t forget the ropes to tie down the item.

For safety’s sake, don’t go by yourself to meet a seller, especially at night. Bring a friend and everything will be cool.

Now go forth and Craigslist away folks…

Now you know how to find the best finds, score the best scores, and not get messed with whilst shopping on Craigslist. And your vacation rental is going to sing with chicness!

Go ahead. Try a few simple searches. Get a feel for it. Try buying something.

Something small, maybe.

Or go big (just remember the truck part).

And when you’ve bought your first item, please send me a link, so I can experience Craigslist envy, and then getting over myself, share to the world your good luck on my Facebook page.

Hope that helps, everyone! Did I miss anything? If so, let me know below. Tell us a Craigslist story or two.

Psst! If you found this post valuable, shares are insanely appreciated.




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