How to Respond to a Craigslist for Sale Ad

By Jane Williams

You can respond to Craigslist ads through email or by phone.
i Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

You can find a variety of items on Craigslist for less-than-retail prices, from electronics to furniture. Once you locate an item you'd like to purchase, you must contact the seller to stake your claim. Craigslist sellers have the option to include contact information in their listings to field interested buyers, in the form of an email address or phone number, or to instead use an anonymous Craigslist-generated email address.

Read the Ad Carefully

Items on Craigslist are generally sold on a first-come, first-served basis. The quicker you contact the seller to indicate your interest, the more likely you'll be given priority over other responders. Take the time to read the ad completely to make sure that it matches your interests, and contact the seller as instructed. Some sellers request email correspondence only, while others only prefer phone calls.

Email Your Interest

Craigslist offers sellers the option of listing either personal contact information directly within the ad, or to use a Craigslist-generated anonymous email address that will then forward to the seller's personal email account. Whether your reply is sent to a listed personal address to or the Craigslist-anonymized address, both will be sent directly to the seller. In your initial email, ask questions on any issues that aren't addressed in the ad, such as original warranty information or overall condition. You may want to request photos of the item listed, if not included in the ad.

Be Courteous

When responding to an ad, always be polite and specific in your message. The seller may have multiple listings running at once, so sending a vague “I want this” message isn't helpful to either of you. While sellers who use a Craigslist-generated anonymous email will have the listing title appear in the subject line of your message, including a detailed response will still help to set your response apart. State the item you're referring to, and ask any questions you have before locking yourself in to the sale. If research on the item reveals the asking price is too high, ask if the seller would consider a lower amount, as sellers may often be willing to negotiate. Return any responses from the seller in a timely manner to ensure that your interest isn't overlooked in favor of another buyer. Never give out personal information, such as your home address or financial information, in an email or phone message.

Use Common Sense

Once you have communicated with the seller and decided to purchase an item, follow some common courtesy and safety precautions to ensure a smooth transaction. When possible, choose a public exchange location that is convenient for both you and the seller, such as a store or gas station. If you live some distance apart, requesting to meet halfway between the locations offers a fair compromise. For larger items you must pick up at the seller's home, take a friend or two with you for help moving and added safety. Scammers and other ne'er-do-wells love Craigslist for the anonymity, and often take advantage of unsuspecting bargain-hunters, so trust your instincts -- if a deal seems too good to be true, or the seller wants to meet at a time or in a location you're not comfortable with, pass on the sale.