Facebook Marketplace is full of hidden gems
Words by Ashley Locke
Move over Craigslist—there’s a new kid in town! Well, it’s not that new, but Facebook Marketplace has seen a rise in popularity since its debut. While some folks have been finding gems such as designer couches and vintage dressers, others feel like they’re scrolling through pages of junk. We chatted with Facebook Marketplace expert Katie Hickman to learn all the best tips and tricks.
When did you first start using FB Marketplace, and why?
I’ve been using Facebook Marketplace to find unique furnishings and vintage or antique pieces for a few years, but I only got serious about searching at the very beginning of COVID, so March 2020. I used to go to antique stores regularly to source vintage pieces for myself and for clients, but in the beginning of COVID I was staying close to home, so I immediately turned to Facebook Marketplace to see what I could find.
What are your best tips for searching FB Marketplace?
The main key to Facebook Marketplace is searching consistently and saving items that align with your style, even if you don’t plan on buying. The algorithm for Marketplace is actually pretty good, so by searching the same key phrases daily at first, and saving items that are to your taste, Marketplace will start to show you what you want to see. If you’re into scouring for home goods and furniture, don’t click on clothing items, because all of a sudden if you click on a jacket your feed will have lots of outerwear, and all your furniture digging will take a little bit of time to get back to your initial preferences. My FB app on my phone also shows me different items from my laptop, so be sure to look at both. I recommend regularly searching seven to 10 key phrases in the beginning to help them get to know you.
If you don't mind your phone dinging every time an item is listed that fits your criteria, set alerts! I seldom do this—only if I’m very serious about finding a specific rare item.
In terms of actually scoring the item and bringing it home, I recommend using specific phrasing when contacting the seller to show you’re serious. Sometimes an item might be very popular, and their inbox might fill up with, “Is this still available?” which as a seller is an impersonal and annoying question to receive. If what you found excites you and makes you think, OMG, this is perfect, here’s a quick example of a message I would send:
“Hi, *seller’s first name*,
I would love to buy your *blank.* Please let me know a pickup time that works for you. I am happy to send you an e-Transfer/Venmo deposit to hold the item. Thank you so much!”
If it’s an inexpensive item, I’ll make a 50 percent deposit. If it's a bigger ticket item, I’ll make a much smaller deposit. Oftentimes the seller doesn’t even care for a deposit.
If you’re willing to drive for that perfect item, and you’re not happy with your search results after a few weeks, try extending your search mileage parameters to the nearest big city.
The dresser, lamp, and mirror I purchased from FB Marketplace were all purchased in rough shape. I paid for the dresser to be professionally refinished, and I polished the brass hardware myself. The lamp is an antique Turkish olive jar that I plastered, and I left the natural plaster color. For the mirror, I added some additional gold leaf to give it a bit more dimension. People should keep in mind to look for shapes or styles they like—and if they’re in rough shape, that’s OK! Refinishing and reupholstering could be a great way to go. You get a more unique piece for the same or less cost than at a chain store.
How much time do you usually spend looking for an item?
I recently picked up a travertine cube side table for $30, after searching for a year. My cloud sofa came to me after searching for “cloud sofa” and “restoration hardware” for six months—but this isn’t active looking time, it’s just consistency for that many months. It took that long for my perfect item to be listed in my area. If I'm more flexible about what I'm looking for, or just happen to be lucky, it is possible to buy that day. If you spend 10 minutes on the app daily, I think you can get a pretty good idea of what’s available.
Are there certain types of items that are best to look for? Items you shouldn't look for?
As a rule of thumb, I look for items that can be cleaned properly before I start using them. Can you thoroughly clean that item in the washing machine or dishwasher, or with soap and water? If the answer is no, and it’s not new in packaging, I’d probably stay away. Also, electronics probably aren’t your best bet.