Craigslist – I am thinking of firing you!

For about 4 years now I’ve been posting all of our listings in Austin Craigslist. It seems like once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I received a call or two, and even a bonafide lead from one of our Craigslist property listing ads. I honestly can’t remember the last time it’s happened though. Must be more than two years now.

Usually all I get is a) spam, b) scam attempts or c) emails from other Realtors wondering if they can advertise our listing on Craigslist as a buyer agent. All three of these have zero value to me.

My general comment to clients when talking about the things we do to market a home for sale or lease in Austin is “..we also place it in Craigslist, which doesn’t ever generate any calls, but it’s free so we put it there just in case”.

So, if we’ve received no results at all from placing listings in Craigslist, is “it’s free” a good enough reason to keep doing it?

I’m thinking it’s not, but sellers expect a CL ad, and we’ve said we do it, so I probably won’t stop anytime soon. The ads have generated 105 unique visitors to our website the past 30 days, because we place a link to the property listing on our website in the ad, but the visitors produce unimpressive stats.

Average visit time is 48 seconds. Bounce rate is 83% (meaning the visitor left our website site from the same page they came in on). Average page views is 1.67 total. And there are no conversions, meaning no visitors from Craigslist have ever completed a contact form to ask for more info.

Nevertheless, since it takes only about 5 minutes for me to post a Craigslist ad, I suppose I’ll keep doing it. But I don’t like keeping an apparently useless activity on the “listings to do” list, just because it’s free. That bugs me.

I wonder if anyone ever finds a home they actually purchase on Craigslist? Surely some homes must sell there? But I am doubtful it’s a meaningful percentage. I think people mainly browse homes there and use or to perform more serious searches.

We do get inquiries from and, but not from any of the other listing sites that our listings are published to, such as Zillow or Trulia. All KW listings are fed through a service called ListHub now, which distributes the listings to over a dozen internet real estate sites, but I haven’t received an inquiry from any of them.

The overwhelming majority of our listings are sold to buyers who saw the home with another Realtor. Occassionally we’ll sell directly to a buyer, but that’s always been from a sign call or an existing tenant. We’ve never had one of our buyers purchase a home that was found on Craigslist, ever.

National Association of Realtor (NAR) buyer surveys say the 80% of buyers now start their home search on the internet. The stat I’d really like to see though would be gathered at the closing table for each sale, and would simply ask the buyer “when and how did you first become aware of this home?”

I’ll bet the top answer would be “our Realtor”, and Craigslist would be an inconsequential percentage, if reported at all.

{Sigh} I’m off to post another listing on Craigslist anyway. I just can’t not do it, yet.

20 thoughts on “Craigslist – I am thinking of firing you!”

  1. So the CL ad itself is good enough to generate some clickthroughs but nothing happens when they hit the ad on your site. This has nothing to do with CL anymore and it is a failing on your site’s part. You are telling them no new information, it’s hard to see more nearby or similar properties, and the bar is slightly too high to request more informaiton (and generate a lead).

  2. I think that there are occasional out-of-town buyers who find properties via CL.

    Austin home search is far superior. That is how I search for houses.

    This summer the realtor for the house we were trying to buy put our listing on CL as a service to us. Our house received many showings but not a single one was from CL.

    I suppose that it might have some marginal value to you simply as a way to show your clients that you are everything possible to sell their homes. But I agree with you — you could drop CL and not see any material difference in how your listings sell.

  3. Hmm, interesting observation Steve. However, I’m not sure we should jump to the conclusion that CL isn’t worth it. The fact is, we don’t have research that suggests it isn’t worth doing it. As far as I’m concerned, I think it might actually serve one important part of your business. Marketing your name. As Gary put it, every listing has that added benefit of being able to market your name out there. The more homes you list on CL, the more people will know your name amongst others Realtors. The chances of getting a call are greater! Getting your name out should motivate you to continue to do this. The fact is, people will surf the net for homes and or other real estate opportunities and they’ll only remember a few Realtors, maybe two or three. Have them remember you, keep doing it. I’m sure down the line, it might actually be beneficial.

    I’ve recently started looking for a place for the following school year. I’ve searched CL and have called a few of the realtors that have actually made good and detailed listings. Going to one of their websites, if very well organized, has helped me see more properties around the Austin Area.

    There is some benefit to posting your listings online! Even if it means stealing more and more of that “mind real estate.” 😀

    Tony Tovar

  4. Hi, Steve:
    I have a lot to say on this topic, but think I’ll just post an initial thought and see where this topic goes.

    I think that the Real Estate Market has done a bang up job OVER-Saturating the internet with home search tools. Your blog only points to a few by name, and then ListHub, which distributes the data to even more sites. Then there are RE Office Site, RE Agent Sites, Sites related to Newspapers, Yahoo has a home finder… Then add Craigslist. But don’t forget eBay – not sure who would buy a house on eBay – but if it did not happen often they would not offer this.

    sean’s comment is pretty much Textbook internet marketing/sales. I think this over-saturation of available information is the cause of the low turn-over rate, not necessarily shoppers not finding what more/else/needs. Most shoppers are just cramming as much home viewing as they can – then probably calling their sister’s friend who has a real estate license now.

    Perhaps, you are right – Craig’s List may be a waste of time for your business model. My experience with people from Craig’s List are that they are shopping there because they do not want to spend money. Or as much money, I suppose. So I think from the start it is a flawed option for selling profitably.

    I have had Zero results from there on Home Staging – I only receive inquiries into whether I am hiring, or how they should start their business.

    Looking forward to more responses.
    Michael @ The Stage Coach

  5. So, I was thinking the same thing as I was posting my recent listing on craigslist. I have sold a few items on craigs list very quickly but never a house. I will continue to post just incase that one qualified buyer will contact me with prequal in hand:)

  6. buyers will always at least try craigslist… and sellers will always demand it… due to the very nature of people: we mostly make decisions emotionally …. i think this is also the reason why buyer and sellers make very poor decisions about real estate (choosing the first realtor)… and why they continue to believe so much mis-information about the real estate industry that defies logic…

  7. > I’m not sure we should jump to the conclusion that CL isn’t worth it.

    Well, in several years, CL has not delivered one closed sale or lease. Not one. I wouldn’t call that jumping to conclusions.

    > I have sold a few items on craigs list very quickly but never a house.

    Me too. I’ve been able to sell stuff that I needed to get rid of, such as appliances and household things. I even got rid of a bunch of stuff for free (boy do those ads generate responses) that were easier to give away than haul off or try to sell (such as when a tenant abandons a washer/dryer and I’m not ever sure they work).

    But I’ve never sold a house.

    Michael, I agree 100% on there being just too many places now to find real estate. It doesn’t make it easier for anybody. Some things are best left to a single source, or a few sources. The Yellow Pages are an example. How many of those things are there now? Seems like 3 or 4. I just throw them all away now and use Google instead.


  8. Steve, remember that I found your blog via an unaffiliated poster in the CL real estate forum and asked you to represent me as a buyer on the merits of your writing. I had been browsing CL in the early stages of my first house search.

    When I browsed CL for real estate what I really needed was to connect with someone who could help me see the dots and start connecting them. I wasn’t in contact with an agent or a mortgage broker. My only stable datum was that I wanted a house; thus I looked for houses in the least risky manner I could think of: CL.

    That got me nowhere. All of the CL listings I saw assumed I knew what to do when I found something I liked. Being new to the market and having a healthy suspicion of the average Realtor, I never felt confident about calling a seller’s agent. Through sheer luck I followed a link to your blog. You had written of your experiences as agent, investor, and property manager, and your reasoned opinions on the subject. This is what made you the first credible Realtor I had ever come across. This is why I hired you.

    On CL you are posting as the seller’s agent with the intention of finding a buyer for a house. You figure potential buyers are browsing CL to find houses but I think that’s a miscalculation that results in very low returns on your investment in CL listings. I expect that the majority of CL real estate browsers are not experienced home buyers and do not already have an agent. Maybe you can redesign your listings to effectively bridge that gap.

  9. Hi Andy, good to hear from you. I didn’t realize the path you took to find our website. I had just recalled that you came from “the blog”.

    Your perspective and hypotheisis about the demographics and behavior patterns of Craigslist real estate browsers is interesting. You might be on to something. If you are correct, then what you’re saying is that the typical real estate ad, the generic old “let’s show some pictures, provide some info and wait for a prospect to inquire” approach misses the mark because, as I’ve learned, nobody ever calls and says “I want to buy that house”.

    Instead people are in the early stages of self-educating themselves about what is out there, the process, etc. and if the ads were written more directly to that audience, then perhaps the reponse rate might be higher and we might hear from lookers in the early stages of house hunting who are looking for some good help as much as they are a specific property. I think that’s what you’re saying.

    If so, you’re actually touching on a phenomenon called “inbound marketing”, which basically says that the old “interuption based marketing”, such as sending postcards, letters, cold calling, etc. that require people to stop what they are doing and read our stuff or listen, is being displaced by “inbound marketing” whereby people go out and start trying to find information at the outset of their endeavour, before even contacting the “experts” in whatever it is they are seeking.

    Then, the consumer is eventually drawn in some manner, mainly search results, to websites where they can anonymously self-educate before ever contacting a candidate provider.

    Then finally, as I think was the case with you, they decide what to do and make contact with a provider for whom they have already, at least partially, decided to use. In fact, your story is a text book example of how this works. We have many others who contact us and basically say “I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now and want you to help me sell my house”.

    Supposedly, as demographics shift, the old print media will become less relevant and instead, companies will have to figure out a way to earn business by attraction rather than promotion.

    Strayed a bit off topic there but your comment got me thinking about all that. It could be a whole ‘nother blog article topic.


  10. I’ve used Craig’s List many times to find investment properties. I don’t think we’ve actually bought one that we found that way but we have gone out to look and were close on a few occasions. In fact, we’re looking at two tomorrow.

    One big problem with it is the rampant dishonesty. If you go to the “For Sale by Owner” section, what do you find? A bunch of agents.

    Austin Home Search has its own problems, the big one being a lack of permanent links. If I want to send an e-mail regarding some purchase possibilities, I have to send the listings to my partners one at a time through the “email listing” link, rather than composing an e-mail with links to six or seven properties at once. It’s supremely annoying.

  11. As an investor that tries to keep costs to a minimum, I think CL is still a good resource. I listed and subsequently leased one of my properties through an ad on CL two months ago. I marketed the property only two ways: a CL ad and a For Lease sign in the front yard. The yard sign generated slightly more contacts than CL. I showed the property about 10 times total, from both pools of contacts; the one that eventually leased it first heard about the property on CL.

  12. Hi Steve,

    I sold a house by owner last spring. My only marketing was a sign in the yard (with flyers), craigslist ads for open houses, and two sunday picture ads with open house notices. The sunday ads were very expensive and yielded very low turnouts, but lots of solicitations from realtors. The flyers flew out of the box faster than I could print them, but mostly I think were taken by nosey neighbors (which I did not mind). The craigslist ads generated the most interest by far. At the open houses I asked the guests if they had seen the paper ad or the craigslist ad or if they had simply seen the house when they were driving by. Most stated that they had either seen the craigslist ad or had been to an mls listing on the street and noticed my sign. Some were brought to the open house by their realtors (since I was offering 3% to buyer’s agent). I also got some emails from out of towners doing preliminary looking online. Anyway, I found craigslist to be a valuable asset for a FSBO. I also like to search craigslist for FSBO’s.

    I’m curious, what’s your experience with buyers – do they mostly wait for you to find homes for them or do they spend a lot of time poring through the mls and craigslist and then point things out to you that they are interested in?

    Thanks for keeping this blog – its a valuable asset for real estate professionals as well as consumers.


  13. We used CL to lease our condo years ago. I look at it every so often for market research, but haven’t done so in a year or so – the last time I looked it was nearly useless because of the overabundance of reposts crowding out new content.

  14. I hear your pain Steve! Craigslist has certainly become saturated with listings, and some sellers still demand it.

    There’s a point where sellers listen to marketing statistics though – e.g. 187 listings on craigslist equals zero response.

    As for other Realtors asking to market your listings on craigslist, I think that’s excellent. If CL is just a Realtor to Realtor marketing tactic, and those buyer’s agents then do the promotion for you on CL, that sounds like you meet your sellers “need” to see the listing on CL, and you get someone to post it there for you!


  15. I agree with Andy and think Steve’s response to him is spot-on. The majority of people that I know that are searching for a home consult the internet first to familiarize themselves with areas, prices, and all the other factors they may be concerned about. Once they have a level of comfort and/or a better idea of what they want, they will focus their efforts. In the case of a large and unruly market like real estate, that usually means finding a helpful professional. My cousin and I have bought a few investment properties through the Crosslands for the exact reasons that Andy mentioned – we found the blog and got to know them through their writing as honest, knowledgeable, informative, professional, and experienced. So as you both mention, the value of CL ads is keeping your name out there during a potential buyer’s initial research period and hopefully drawing them in to your service. The reason no one buys off CL is that there are too many ads and it is too daunting so its a perfect place to convince someone they need professional help, rather than sell a specific property.

    As some have mentioned in comments, leases on CL are a totally different story and I have had great luck there. I think this is probably because people looking to lease usually have a pretty good, narrow idea of what they want when entering the process that is not always the case in people looking to buy.

  16. Thanks Adam.

    These great comments have educated me a great deal on how to better utilize Craigslist. I’ll start tinkering with the ads. I have a few ideas rattling around in my head.


  17. People go to Craigslist for something cheap and quick, be it a $5 dumpster couch or a casual hookup in a sleazy motel. I can’t imagine someone serious about buying a house going to Craigslist. I actually no longer go on there even to look for apartments; I just use a locator. For the big decisions, I think Craigslist is still seen by most as a little too shady.

  18. So you don’t like Craigslist? Stop posting so much spam. I’m looking for one or more investment properties. I look on Clist frequently. Good leads are few and far between. And hard to find, what with all spam/bogus/bait and switch ads.

    WHY ON EARTH would you expect someone who’s clicked on an ad about a specific house to give you their name and address and phone number, when your site has NOTHING WHATSOEVER about the property in the title of the ad? Does it even exist, or you just phishing?

  19. Hi Revill,

    We always post full info in a CL ad, and a link to the actual property listing as it appears on our website. though I haven’t posted any new ads since writing this blog article.

    Thus, I really have no idea what you’re talking about. If someone else if posting ads for our properties I’d like to know about that.



Leave a Comment