Category: Shopping tips

What’s the best way to search craigslist?

*Note that the Tempest Blog and SearchTempest.com are in no way affiliated with or endorsed by craigslist.

Craigslist clearly has a fantastic wealth of classified ads available in every conceivable category. However, their search capabilities are relatively limited. Fortunately, there are a number of useful tools out there to help with searching craigslist. Which one is best really depends on what you’re hoping to find. Here’s our completely biased rundown:

For the Locals

First off, if you’re really just interested in your own city, and you’re not shopping for an apartment or a car, your best bet is probably just to search craigslist directly. (And you’re probably not actually reading this…) In case you are reading though, when searching directly, keep their advanced search syntax options in mind. They can often come in handy, allowing you to combine multiple searches into one.

Globetrotters

On the opposite side of the spectrum, say you want to find something on craigslist, but you don’t care where in the world it is, or what category it’s in. In that case, your best bet is simply to use Google’s ‘site’ operator:

your search terms site:craigslist.org

One downside is that in many countries craigslist uses the country’s own top level domain instead of .org. (For example, craigslist uses .ca in Canada and .co.uk in the UK.) With the query above, Google won’t catch those. Of course, you can add them to your query, like this

your search terms site:craigslist.org OR site:craigslist.ca OR site:craigslist.co.uk

but that quickly becomes tedious if you really want to search everywhere. And of course, this method doesn’t let you narrow your search either; you’re basically stuck with results from (almost) everywhere and from every category, even if you’re only looking for, say, a motorcycle in your home state. That said, it can’t be beat for speed or simplicity.

Power Searchers

One option to have a bit more control over where you’re searching is the tool we came up with: SearchTempest.com. With SearchTempest, you can choose exactly which craigslist cities you want to search, in a couple of different ways. The easiest option is to enter your zip (or postal) code and the distance that you’re willing to travel. However, if you prefer you can also search by state, or even choose specific cities. You can select the category and subcategory to search, as well as only show results since a given date. And finally you can get results from eBay, Amazon, and Oodle (Facebook Marketplace) at the same time (but only if you want them).

Perfectionists

SearchTempest isn’t perfect though (although we certainly try!) Its default mode is powered by Google, so it should offer basically the same results as the Google method, just with a bit more flexibility in terms of where to search. One downside to this though, is that Google does occasionally miss craigslist posts, or at least takes a while to find some. (Most posts are found within minutes, but some take hours or longer to show up, especially in less popular cities and categories.)

If you really want to be sure to catch everything, especially if you’re searching for something obscure, using craigslist directly might be a better option. However, if you still want to check multiple cities, SearchTempest has an alternate mode called Direct Results that we hope offers the best of both worlds.

Basically Direct Results mode allows you to open results pages directly at craigslist.org, but adds a little navigation window to quickly flip through cities. So you’re getting results straight from the source, just as if you’d searched directly, but you save the effort of manually typing your search into each site. It still takes a bit longer than the Google-powered option, but you’re seeing exactly the same results as if you searched each city manually.

Serial Searchers

Now, if you tend to run the same searches repeatedly, you have a couple options to speed up that process. First of all, if you’re only checking a handful of cities, one great technique is simply to bookmark the craigslist results page for each city, and put all the bookmarks in a folder. Then you just use your browser’s option to open all bookmarks in that folder in tabs, and you’ll have the newest results for all the cities in your search.

If you prefer a bit more automation, craigslist supports RSS feeds, which are built for this sort of thing. Each craigslist results page has an orange RSS link, which you can click to add the feed to your reader of choice. (If you don’t have a favorite, we recommend Feedly. No affiliation – we’ve just found it to be the best free option so far.) You can create a folder for each search, and add the results feeds for all the cities you’re interested in. Then just click on that folder to view the new results from all of them in one place. It keeps track of which posts you’ve already seen too, so time is wasted retreading the same ground.

If you’d like to speed up the setup a bit, SearchTempest can help with that too. Just run a search at SearchTempest.com, then click the “Feeds for this search” link at the top-right. It will generate a file that you can import into Feedly (or your reader of choice) with the matching feeds for every city in your search, saving you the effort of adding them one by one.

Car Buffs and Vagabonds

While all the options above will work regardless of what you’re seeking, for some searches there are better alternatives. For apartments, Padmapper is a cool site that will show you results from craigslist and several other sites, all on a map as the name implies. Craigslist has also recently added a map option, but it’s not as slick as Padmapper (yet, anyway), and obviously lacks results from other sites. (We’re not affiliated with Padmapper; I just think it’s cool.)

If you’re looking for a car (or truck, or van…) we’d like to think AutoTempest.com (our other site) is worth a look. It ties into SearchTempest, so you get everything mentioned above, plus it adds results from all the other top car classifieds sites: AutoTrader (no affiliation), Cars.com, CarsDirect, Oodle, eBay Motors, and more. Also, it simplifies things like specifying model years. It is possible to specify a range of years using craigslist’s advanced keyword syntax, like this

1998|1999|2000|2001|2002|2003|2004

but with AutoTempest you don’t have to bother; we do it for you.

In Summary

  • Searching a single city? Just use craigslist.
  • Don’t care where, just want results fast? Google’s site: operator should do the trick.
  • Want to choose where to search? Try SearchTempest.com.
  • Want to get every result? Try RSS feeds if you’re running the same search a lot, or Direct Results mode otherwise.
  • Searching for a car? Try AutoTempest.com. An apartment? Padmapper.

Did I miss anything? Let us know which tools you use to search for classifieds in the comments!

How to make your craigslist For Rent or For Sale post not suck

There are a truly surprising number of really terrible housing for-rent and for-sale ads out there, on craigslist and other sites like it. Don’t make yours one of them! Here are some of the top things to avoid:

Bad Pictures (Or none at all!)

Aside from the title (which should be long and descriptive), the pictures are the first thing people will notice about your posting. Don’t post pictures that suck.

One picture (or two or three) is not enough!

If your ad contains one lonely picture (often of the laundry room or outside or something useless), I’ll pass. If you can, post pictures of every room! And the yard (front and back), plus shots of the exterior and views. But mostly the rooms. If you don’t have a shot of the kitchen, I’m going to assume it looks like this.

Show the house in the best light, literally.

Take pictures in the daytime, preferably on a sunny day. Use a nice camera. If you suck at taking pictures, have a photographer friend do it. If you’re selling your house or it’s an executive rental, hire a photographer to take pictures. Or at least listen to their advice.

Oh, and post the pictures at a decent resolution, and right-side-up for Pete’s sake. If you don’t know how to do that, get someone to help you. Here’s a rule of thumb: if you have to squint to make out the details in your pictures, they suck.

Non-descriptive Descriptions

Don’t post a one-line description! Here’s a post I just read on usedeverywhere.com: “amazing 4 bedroom, 3 bath, large garage great for workshop or storage, large lot”. (It had one picture of what looked like an attic.) That’s not even close to the worst description I’ve read, but even so, it’s one line. If the house is so ‘amazing’, why don’t you tell me something about it?!

Really though, it’s not enough to just tell something about it. You want to tell everything about the house/apartment/shed/whatever-it-is. At a bare minimum, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, garage size, appliances, yard size, any selling features like air conditioning, pool, recent renos, whatever, and a link to a Google Map of the location. But don’t stop there. Describe the house in detail. Give people enough information to really picture what living in the house would be like! You want them to already be planning who would sleep in what room and how their furniture would be laid out. The better someone can picture living there, the more they will want to live there. (Unless your place itself sucks. But even then, the people who do contact you will be legitimately interested and you won’t be wasting both your time.)

Price Confusion

First of all, state the price for crying out loud. Why do people leave that out? Gah! If you think it’s going to help your bargaining position or something, forget it. You’re losing half your potential buyers/renters right off the bat.

Second, put the price, and only the price, in the price field. If you have two rooms for rent, for $500 and $600, make two separate ads. Do not enter $500600 in the price field. It boggles my mind when people do this. Not only is it annoying, it also removes your ad from pretty much everyone’s search results, since most people are not looking for a five hundred thousand dollar room for rent. Plus, with two ads you get twice the exposure!

Also, don’t put $1 as the price, unless you are selling your house for one dollar. That’s little better than the people who spam a bunch of unrelated keywords at the bottom of their ad. Presumably you realize that if you don’t post a price at all, your ad won’t show up when people specify a maximum. (So you’re one step ahead of $500600 guy…) But you also know the price you’re asking is exorbitant (presumably, or you’d just post the actual price, right?) So you figure you’ll just game the system. Well, don’t. Most likely you won’t be able to rent (sell) your place while still keeping the price a secret, so you might as well spill the beans now. (And if you can’t post the price because you’re trying to list multiple things in one ad, see above.)

Going into Hiding

Be reachable. Put a phone number and an email address in the ad. Include your first name so people know who they’re calling or writing to. You could even write something like, “Feel free to call, text, or email whenever.” You want people to contact you. Make it as easy as possible!

A few more “Don’ts” for Good Measure

Don’t…

  • Write things like “No deadbeats” or “No loud noise after 10” or even “Serious inquiries only” in your ad.
  • Post an ad with nothing but a link to a post somewhere else. If you’re too busy to copy and paste your post, I’m too busy to read it. Linking to more or higher resolution pictures is fine if the site you’re posting on limits you there, of course.
  • Use abbreviations, like “p/m” for “per month”, or “w&d” for “washer and drier”. These aren’t old school newspaper classifieds where you’re paying by the word. Don’t make people decrypt your ad; write it out in plain English.

Summary

And there you have it. Follow those few simple guidelines and at least people won’t be cursing your name as they attempt to decipher your ad or avoid getting eye strain from your photos. That may not rent your apartment or sell your house on its own, but it’s certainly a start.

How to buy stuff on sale – even when it’s not

Of course, the best way to find great deals is to use SearchTempest to search craigslist and eBay. But occasionally I admit it makes sense to buy from an old-fashioned store. (Like Best Buy for example. 🙂 ) A few months back I was helping my sister find a new laptop. She was on a tight budget, so did a bunch of shopping around and eventually found one that fit the bill at Best Buy. And it was on sale – perfect. Didn’t get a chance to tell her until the next day though, and the sale price had vanished from the website. No worries. I just pulled up Google and did a search for that product. For example, HP E-350 laptop site:bestbuy.com Then, I opened the cached version of that page. Generally Google’s cache has a couple of days’ delay, so there was the sale page. All my sister had to do was print off that page and take it in, and they gave her the sale price, no problem. Got me thinking, you could take this a step further. Before buying any new electronics, why not head over to the wayback machine and see if it’s been on sale recently? Even if they won’t give you the sale price, you might get some bargaining room, and at the very least, you’ll know whether it might be worthwhile to wait for the price to drop again. Related tip: before buying a common product on eBay, be sure to search for it in ‘completed listings’ (under their advanced search). You’ll see what prices they’ve sold for recently, which can help you make a smart bid!