How to Remodel Your House by Thrifting: Part II - Craigslist/Ebay

Welcome to part 2 of our Remodeling your House by Thrifting. Today we are going to focus on what has been the biggest source of inexpensive materials for John and I in our own home remodel. If you missed out on Part 1 of the series make sure to stop over and check that out too! 

If you aren't using craigslists yet to find materials for your remodel, you should. Here's just a couple of quick reasons why: 

1. We know real estate is an investment and remodeling projects can add a serious boost to that investment. . 

2. The less you put into an investment and the more you get of an investment the better, right? So if I put in $100 and get out $200 - you are like, awesome! But what if you put in that same $5 and still get out $200 ?  You'd be like, "I'll take door number 2 please!" That's what remodeling by thrifting has the ability to do for you. 

3. It's all in the numbers. So, while talking numbers can be a bit uncomfortable let me give you an example of how we have saved money just on our craigslist purchases alone. When I did the math to figure out how much money  we have saved using Craigslist on our remodel just this year, the final number was around = $9,095!!

Here's the breakdown if you are curious. I tried as best I could do look up similar products to what we purchased. Not only were we able to get materials for cheaper, but in almost every setting we were able to get higher end nicer materials, than if we had bought budget grade new.

 Siding:  Brand New =  $7,000 | actual spent =  $1,000

New sink fixtures: Brand New = $ 100 | actual spent =  $10

New ceiling fans: Brand new = $300 | actual spent  =  $50

Washer and dryer: Brand New =   $2,000 actual spent  = $35 (these are front loading, high capacity energy efficient models)

New Kitchen sink and garbage disposal: - $350, actual spent, $20

New entry door - $300, actual spent - $15

Bathroom vanity with countertop and sink: Brand new = $200 | actual spent = $25

Total project savings from Craigslist = 9,095!!

So why isn't everyone taking advantage of what's right in front of them? I think the most obvious answer is they don't know how, or are timid to jump in. So, let's address some of the top concerns when it comes to thrifting on Craigslist, so you can really be smart about how you invest. Cause wouldn't rather, you know, not spend your life savings on a new entry door or a ceiling fan? Maybe that's just me....

Here are some top concerns people have when it comes to purchasing from craigslist. 

1. Buying from strangers is scary 

We've all heard the stories about that one lady who was brutally murdered while trying to buy an antique sewing machine etc. While I do acknowledge that this world can be a scary place, and there are most definitely scammers and not so nice people out on craigslist - I think some common sense principles really help this one out. 

        - Create safe meeting places: If I can at all avoid it, I almost never give my personal address to a stranger. My all time favorite place to meet up with someone is right across from the police station. I'm talking 100 feet from the entrance of the police building. I know that some towns even provide safe meet ups for buying and selling from people you don't know. Check your local police department to see if this is a service they offer. 

         - Don't go alone: If I have to go to someone's house to pick up an item (say a large remodeling item) I never go alone. Most often, I don't go at all as a woman. When we are talking about numbers,  I am just more prone to be a statistic than my husband. 

     - Be aware of your surroundings and know basic self defense: I think this is important whether or not you are meeting up with people. There are many things we do in our lives that put us at risk to danger whether we know it or not. Increasing our situational awareness and understanding how to react to emergency situations is always helpful. 

  - If it seems shady, or a too good to be true deal - figure out why before proceeding: Sometimes people legitimately don't know the worth of what they are selling, or need to declutter their lives rapidly. Those looking for a deal can benefit greatly. However, thieves and not so nice people also like to offer too good to be true deals. Now, anyone can make up a story, but I've noticed that scammers tend to have stories that don't match up and generally  seem fishy right from the start. 

If a large amount of money is involved, don't bring the money with you - Inspect the item first, assess the situation, then go to an atm and get the cash. I've also been in situations where I've paid half, inspected the product, and then paid the other half. This gives both parties insurance and a way to move forward. 

2. Used stuff is gross  

dirty duck

Now I realize everyone feels little bit different about the thrifting lifestyle. I'm assuming because you are reading this article, you either are someone generally down with the occasional thrift store trip, or you are just generally intrigued by the concept. I think when thinking about used items, especially items for your house, think about the house you just purchased. Unless you bought a newly constructed home - everything in the house you bought it used. Walls, toilets, light fixtures, vents, appliances, carpet...everything. In fact, if your house is like mine - some of the house has probably been used for 30 + years. So replacing it with something that's only been used for 6 is still a definite upgrade. 

With that said, some used stuff is gross. Here's my top used materials list that I tend to proceed more cautiously before purchasing. The great thing is oftentimes, these materials are listed for brand new at a way discounted price. 

  • Toilets
  • Carpet
  • Venting  (range hoods, bathroom vents)
  • Bathtubs
  • Dishwasher
  • (used ) Plumbing
  • (Used) Electrical 
  • (Used) Siding
  • (Used) Windows

Now all of these under certain circumstances may be ok to purchase used, but these are the areas I would generally proceed with more caution. 

3. Buying used is risky and not worth my money

There is something very risky about buying things that don't come with a guarantee or warranty. However, peace of mind can be quite expensive. I love this article by blogger, Mr. Money Mustache. In it he talks about the illusion of peace of mind, and how oftentimes we throw alot of money away on insurance and warranties to obtain a perceived "safety net." Now, I'm not against all insurance - but could I suggest that sometimes weighing the risk may be worth it? 

The questions I ask myself is, "Am I prepared to lose this ____ amount of money in order to take this risk? What is my back up plan if this is completely a dud? 

I'll walk you through a recent purchase John and I made. We bought washer and dryer off of craigslist to replace our current models. We needed ones that could stack, front loading, and we need a different dryer. We knew we could sell our set for at least $175 and had it listed for sale before we even purchased the new set. We knew the set we were buying had some issues with the washer. We found a set on Craigslist for $200. So we would, at the end of the day, spend $25 bucks.  We decided spending $25 on even just a dryer would be worth it - even if we needed to spend full price for a new washer. In the end I spent 2 days on the phone with repair people and $10 for a new part and we had a fully working set for $35. 

4. It's such a hassle to have to search, wait and meet up for materials this way.

Yes, yes it is. There's no way around it; purchasing and remodeling your house this way is not going to be the most efficient way to come about materials. I've tried to streamline this process as much as possible by planning ahead. If you want to read more about some of these strategies check out Part I in my series. With that said, John and I have certainly passed up lots of good deals for the name of efficiency. This again goes back to weighing the cost, risk and worth of the item. That set of tiles might be perfect, but if it's an hour and a half away, is it worth the time to go get it? 

5. I don't even know how to get started


  •  Using craigslist, in your town and area is a great place to start. Don't just search within the area you think the item might be in, but do an entire search of your area for the item. I also recommend searching other terms. For example when searching for a fridge, search refrigerator, fridge, kitchen appliances, appliance set, and kitchen remodel. Sometimes gems can be overlooked when they are listed poorly or difficult to find. 

  • Check surrounding towns and keep an eye on places you travel frequently. I watch towns about 3 hours from me in every direction. While I wouldn't make a trip that far to pick up a used doorknob, I might make the trip if someone was giving away free granite countertops (true story, someone was -I just wasn't fast enough on it). 
  • Download the craigslist app and set alerts for things you are looking for. This is how I found our siding, and it was so helpful. 
  • Call and ask for pictures on the posts that don't have photos. I'm so tempted to just skip over posts that don't have any pictures associated with them, but so is everyone else. I know if I go the extra little bit and ask for photos I can find things other people haven't snatched up. 
  • Don't be afraid to haggle. If this is an uncomfortable practice for you, be sure to check out part 1 in this series where I go  more into depth about how to do this. 

Final thoughts

While craigslist has been the main vehicle of shopping for us, we have also had great success with buy/sell/trade group on facebook in our area. You can now even set alerts within these different groups. 

Other place to also try: 

  • Ebay local classifieds
  • Your newspaper classified section 
  • Reddit local groups

So what about you? Have you used craigslist for remodeling needs. What the craziest thing you've ever come across while thrifting? Leave your comments below!