Selling a House on Craigslist: The Case for and Against Using this Internet Throwback

Craigslist is kind of the OG of internet classifieds. What started as an email listserv from a guy named Craig now gets more than 50 billion page views per month. Good news for people who want to buy and sell stuff!

However, the case for using Craigslist to buy or sell a house has just as many naysayers as disciples. Here’s the case for and against selling your home on the site, as well as some smart ways to make the most of your property listing should you choose to go the Craigslist route.

Two women discussing selling a house on Craigslist.
Source: (Christina Morillo/ Pexels)

The Case Against Using Craigslist

In an article on Entrepreneur, writer and Craigslist expert Shanon Lewis writes:

There’s no question that Craigslist is one of the most powerful marketplace websites in the world. You can buy a car, hire a new employee and rent an apartment in the same place.”

So that makes it the perfect place to sell your house too, right? Well… not exactly.

Lewis notes: “However, just because Craigslist is capable of doing a lot of different things, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right format for your business.”

Craigslist isn’t ideal for regular real estate sales

Many agents are coming to this conclusion too, in terms of selling real estate.  They say Craigslist’s heyday has come and gone. “Craigslist is a great thing to sell a refrigerator, but don’t use it to sell your house,” says Sandi Pressley, top-selling real estate agent in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Michael Winslow, top agent in Colorado Springs, Colorado, echoes this sentiment. He previously used Craigslist but stopped. “I never once got an interested, qualified individual and closed on a property. Never,” he says.

Craigslist has a scam problem

Pressley previously used Craigslist to market properties as well, but forced to field too many scams in recent years, she’s stopped using the platform completely.

“I’ve had a renter show up with a moving truck at one of my listings!” Pressley tells the story of someone who was scammed into renting a house that was never for rent in the first place. This is a common problem on Craigslist. One that has lots of red flags but one that still happens all too often.

Craigslist presents liability and safety concerns

Pressley also doesn’t like Craigslist because of safety concerns. She says there is too much liability and exposure.

Opting to sell your house without an agent, or marketing heavily on Craigslist means you’re vulnerable to non-qualified buyers. Agents have the tools to weed these people out, which means you don’t just have random people walking through your home every day.

The Case For Using Craigslist

Though Pressley and Winslow choose not to use Craigslist to market the homes they represent, it doesn’t mean everyone who is selling their home should completely dismiss the use of this classifieds trendsetter.

Craigslist may be good for certain real estate sales

Certain homes—along with your lugnuts and your toaster—may be a good fit for life on Craigslist. Houses must pass certain standards to take out a mortgage on them, so if a house doesn’t meet these standards, Craigslist could be a good alternative.

Houses that are uninhabitable, condemnable or can’t be sold to a standard buyer in a retail market make good candidates. Sellers are likely to find buyers looking for inexpensive fixer-uppers or flippable properties.

Craigslist has unbeatable traffic

Despite the fact that the Craigslist website still looks like the beginning of the internet, the site is ranked among the top 20 most trafficked websites in America, according to Alexa. And the top-trafficked classifieds site, according to SimilarWeb.

For comparison, OfferUp, another popular classifieds site, is ranked 467 in the United States. Apartment.com is rated 291.

Craigslist.org gets about 478 million visits each month with the average visitor viewing 11 pages. Though Craigslist isn’t specific to real estate, this is far more traffic than Zillow, which gets about 176 million visitors each month with the average visitor viewing 12 pages.

Craigslist is one more way to market

Winslow argues that marketing on Craigslist isn’t worth the effort. But though he doesn’t personally use it, he knows many brokers who do. “They say never leave one stone unturned,” he adds.

These Realtors argue if they’re going to spend money marketing their properties everywhere else—Zillow, social media, Realtor.com and the local newspaper, why would they skip Craigslist which has great traffic? The site may attract a different kind of buyer but that’s not necessarily a negative thing. A buyer is a buyer if you’re willing to sift through those who aren’t serious.

A man moving a box out of a house after selling on Craigslist.
Source: (Alex Tan/ Death to the Stock Photo)

Listing your home on Craigslist: A handy step-by-step for sellers

If you decide to go ahead and try to sell your house on Craigslist, here’s a tutorial and some tips:

First, visit Craigslist.org. On the top of the left sidebar, select “create a posting.”

The home page of Craigslist.
Source: (Craigslist)

Narrow down your location.

A Craigslist listing in process.
Source: (Craigslist)

Then indicate your intentions.

A Craigslist listing in process.
Source: (Craigslist)
A Craigslist listing in process.
Source: (Craigslist)

You’ll be asked to agree to some terms. Abide by them unless you want your post to get deleted.

A Craigslist listing in process.
Source: (Craigslist)

Now, you can write up your post.

A Craigslist listing in process.
Source: (Craigslist)

Build a good headline.

There’s no secret sauce for creating a headline, but to get web-surfing potential homebuyers to click, it’ll have to catch their eye. Neil Patel, marketing guru, offers tons of tips here. Among them are these three important ones:

  • Use numbers or data. Numbers enhance scannability. Plus, there’s some intriguing science behind numbers, specifically odd numbers, in headlines.
  • Use interesting adjectives. This is your chance to describe your house in just a couple of words. Make them good ones.
  • Appeal to emotions. If your house is two blocks from the beach, or your neighborhood has the best school district in the country, say it right up front.

Write compelling body copy.

Once they’ve clicked on your oh-so-catchy headline, make them stay for the main course (and be sure it’s not rubbery chicken).

  • Be direct. Real estate ads have a tendency to read like dating site profiles—over-exaggerating certain qualities and underplaying others. Though you want to make your description appealing, you also want to be straightforward. Lewis says the best performing ads on Craigslist are often the ones that get straight to the point.
  • Write with search in mind. Consider what a buyer may be looking for as he is surfing the internet—“condominium” or “beach view,” for example. If some guy is searching “three bedrooms” make sure your three-bedroom house isn’t excluded from that guy’s search!
  • Introduce regional identifiers. Within the listing, include the city and ZIP code (at the very least). More details like the neighborhood and precicient name or nearby landmarks (like parks or hiking areas) are helpful as well.

Price it right on Craigslist

Pricing a house accurately is about as difficult as trying to read your doctor’s handwriting. It’s both science and art and requires deep research into current market trends and the selling prices of homes in your area. But Craigslist pricing is even more fraught with complications.

Winslow says his experience with Craigslist is a lot of interest from “tire kickers”—those who wanted to pay bottom dollar. Maybe you just want to get rid of a house and so you think Craigslist is a good place to sell.

In this case, list it. Be aware that many of those who express interest may not be serious or qualified buyers. That said, ask for what it’s worth. Have support to back it up. Whether you list a price or say “or best offer,” prepare to be lowballed.

A Craigslist listing in process.
Source: (Craigslist)

Upload pictures.

You might buy firewood on Craigslist from an ad that doesn’t have a photo… but a house?

  • Use good photos to start.
    Quality photos are crucial. This is true of every type of real estate advertising, including on Craigslist. Chelsey Robertson, a graphic designer who has done extensive work for Berkshire Hathaway, offers these tips for taking great listing photos:

    • Hire a professional, if you can.
    • Include a wide-angle photo of the front of the house as your featured image.
    • Include photos of other unique or luxurious areas — like a backyard with a pool or view, or a living room with high ceilings.
    • Take photos in good weather.
    • Summer photos are more desirable since plants are more lush.
    • Put the toilet seats down and clean the mirrors before you photograph the bathrooms.
  • Cater to people’s optimism.
    If you’re trying your hand with Craigslist because your house won’t sell on the retail market, it may not have the glamour shots we associate with real estate listings. That’s ok. Be direct but appeal to people’s sense of optimism. What could the house be? Use unique features—a gorgeous view, floor to ceiling windows, a built-in pipe organ in the living room—as the cover photo.
  • Retouch and adjust.
    Your photos should be an honest representation of the house. This means your images may need to be lightened or darkened. You may need to edit out reflections or glares, pets or identifying markers that made it into your pictures.
A Craigslist listing in process.
Source: (Craigslist)

Post and repost.

Yates Harrison and Thomas Wood, the authors of “Cracking the Craigslist Code,” took the trial-and-error approach, posting more than 9,000 ads and examining the results. There’s a ton of competing data from various sources but since these guys evaluated real estate ads exclusively, we’ll take their advice. They determined a few key ways to help your post’s success:

  • Post on the best day. Harrison and Wood say Sunday and Monday are the best days. Traffic drops 40% on Saturday!
  • … and at the best time. If you’re posting on a weekday, the authors suggest doing so when workers are taking their breaks—10-noon or at 5pm. On weekends, opt for the morning.
  • Delete and repost. Craigslist keeps ads up for 45 days, but it also lists ads chronologically, so after a few days, your listing is old news. Keep it toward the top by reposting it every few days.
A female real estate agent helping a woman selling a house on Craigslist.
Source: (Matthew Addington/ Death to the Stock Photo)

Find and work with a qualified agent to navigate the sale

The risk of scams seems to be Craigslist biggest turnoff. If you decide to proceed with Craigslist anyway, keep all deals local and track other posts to make sure no one is replicating your post as a rental instead of a purchase. Craigslist offers tips to avoid scams here.

For most real estate situations, a better alternative exists. Pressley loves Zillow, and Winslow says he finds his own site to be an effective sales tool. Your best bet to sell your home is to find an agent who can properly represent it. They might use Craigslist to market or they might not. Either way, you’re in good hands.

Article Image Source: (andreas160578/ Pixabay)

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