A blank page may be intimidating, but nothing quite measures up to the simultaneous possibility and stress that an empty eBay search bar provokes. You might be a single page away from the shockingly low-priced Memphis lamp of your dreams—but you could also find yourself searching and searching for hours, only to give up and move on.
Secondhand shopping is particularly challenging. Luckily, the Domino team has picked up plenty of tips that make it easier, whether you’re looking on eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, or even Facebook Marketplace. That vintage Murano egg sculpture is just waiting for your bid.
I don’t use Craigslist or eBay as a discovery tool. Instead, I search for specific vintage items and set up email alerts for those searches. I’ve found great vintage Kilim Turkish rugs and Eames fiberglass chairs (back when they were all the rage) that way. —Gabrielle Savoie, senior home editor
Browse, Browse, Browse
I’ve found that typing in a vague search term—a material, “velvet” for instance, or a color plus a decade, such as “’70s yellow”—and taking the time to comb through the results is the best way to uncover hidden gems. It can be a major time investment, but I also discovered the perfect ’60s rattan magazine holder for just $30 after going through just two pages of results. —Rebecca Deczynski, digital editor
Make Your Computer Do the Work for You
There are myriad browser extensions that will do a lot of the work for you. I use one called CraigsHunter, which checks Craigslist every five minutes, and when there’s a new match that meets your criteria, a red badge appears on the icon. It’s so handy I might never have to do my own deep dives again—yet there’s still something almost meditative about trawling the free section with just my neighborhood as the search term. —Liz Mundle, managing editor
Shop by Seller
I do this on Etsy all the time: If I come across a shop whose general style fits with my own, I favorite it so I can easily find it again. That way, whenever I’m searching for something specific, I can check those stores first to see if they have anything that works. It’s my own perfectly curated mini Etsy! —Elly Leavitt, associate digital editor
Don’t Be Afraid to Bargain
If you find an item you love but it’s over your budget, message the seller and see if they are willing to lower the price or offer a onetime discount code. Nine times out of 10 they are happy to make a deal with you—especially if you are purchasing more than one thing. —Erica Maltz, social media intern
Strategize by Site
In my search and discovery process, the matrix breaks down like this: eBay for deals on smaller decor that can be shipped; Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for furniture and plants (I once saw a 10-foot cactus listed for $100); and Etsy for more curated finds from dedicated vintage shops. Once you get comfortable with not being sure what you’ll find, you can start to work across these platforms holistically—encountering fresh ideas, adding new search terms to your dictionary, and developing intuition around when you’ve found something really special and when you should pass. It takes effort and persistence to uncover the gems, but when you do, it makes the story of your home a whole lot more fun to tell. —Cyrus Ferguson, membership and market manager