Austin Craigslist – A Real Estate Advertising Sewer

We don’t post ads on Craigslist. I’m not sure why any informed buyer, renter or seller would use Craigslist in Austin anymore, as it’s become a sewer of real estate scams and spammy garbage ads. If that’s not bad enough, Craigslist real estate ads in Austin represent the #1 subject of Ethics Complaints at the Austin Board of Realtors, as agents ignorant of advertising rules and the code of ethics try to market other agents’ listings. In short, the real estate section of Austin Craigslist has become a scourge and a menace to the Austin community.

Before anyone emails me or posts a comment about how great Craigslist is in your community, don’t bother. I know it works well in some communities. And I’m sure there are anecdotal instances of good outcomes and success stories in Austin. But it’s worthless as far as I’m concerned.

A scammer today posted our listing for 6010 Long Champ on Craigslist For Rent at $700/mo. This is a $2,400/mo. home in Westlake, for which the $700 price should have been red flag, yet at least 1 person we know of believed the ad. Later they forwarded the correspondence to us after concluding it was a scam.

Tenant Prospect Responding to Scam Ad (personal info altered/removed as indicated:

Good morning,

My husband and I are interested in seeing this home. The price & location are perfect for us –

Please contact us anytime at {contact info}

The scammer replied with the following (unaltered except is was all blue bold text):


God bless you for your interest about my house,yes is still available for rent. I am renting this house to a responsible and neat person or family who has the fear of God and treat my house as his or her own.Presently I and  my wife have work for USAID.USAID works in agriculture, democracy & governance, economic growth, the environment, education, health, global partnerships, and humanitarian assistance in more than 100 countries to provide a better future for all.
USAID still faces an uncertain future. In many developing countries, HIV/AIDS and health issues are having a dramatic impact on social cohesiveness and economic strength, blocking the very development goals we seek. Virtually all the new democracies in the world today are fragile; others are democracies more in name than substance. Nearly a quarter of the people living in developing countries, or about one billion people, live in absolute poverty. There are a host of other threats – ranging from terrorism to infectious disease and violent conflict – that challenge us and the developing nations we seek to help.Here is USAID Web
USAID efforts to foster world-wide economic growth and increased trade,and tackling cross-border issues such as the spread of HIV/AIDS and trafficking in persons.To safe the live of peoples from primitive  death that claims the souls of younger ages as a result of casual sex gave us transfer to West Africa and we will be away for 8 years or more and this is why we are actually renting out house,so if you are interested and will take good care of our house then we will be ready to accept you as our future tenant and family friend. If you really impress me by taking good care of our house then you will be allowed to stay as long as you wish okay.
This is the address of the Place:
6010 Long Champ Court #105, Austin TX 78746
So get back to me on how you could take care of our house or perhaps experience you have in renting home. Hope you are okay with the price of US$700/month and $500 for security deposit with hydro, heat laundry facilities, air condition and so on. PETS ARE WELCOME!

I am looking forward to hear from you ASAP so that i can forward you an application to fill out and discuss on how to get the house for rent, also are you ready to rent it now or when?
Await your reply.


The prospect further responded, in earnest:

We are very interested in renting your home.  My wife & I keep our home very clean, organized and neat (inside & out).We have a (x) year old {child}, a dog (x years old) & a cat (x years old).  We are looking to move in May of this year, but may be able to rent from you sooner.

We are looking for a home in a nice neighborhood with great schools for our {child} to attend.  We are looking to rent long term (5 + years) since I am several years out from finishing my engineering degree.

My wife works from home and she enjoys keeping our home nice.  She loves to garden/take care of the yard as well.

We would like to know how quickly you need someone.  We currently live in {Compass Direction} Austin … and our {child} will not finish {school grade} until May.  We are not opposed to commuting her to school if this works out.

We thank you for taking the time to respond.

And, finally, the response from the scammer:


You are welcome,It is good to hear from you with this detail. The house is vacant now and all the utilities are included in the month rent. The property was for sale while i was in USA but i decided to lease it when i got transfered to Africa. Below are some questions that I need you to answer ,so that we can discuss further.Like you know,i have the keys and documents to the house here in Africa,You can go check the neighborhood viewing the house from the outside and get back to me for  furtherdiscussion. It is available for a  long lease as I intend buying a new home  on getting back to the state.


***** Private & Confidential *****

1)Your Full Name________________________

2)Current Address_______________________

3)Phone Number (________)



6) Zip______________

7)Are you married______________________

8)How many people will be living in the Apartment__________

9)Do you have a pet______________

10)Do you have a car______________________


12)Email Address:_________________

13)How long lease are you looking for______________

14)How soon do you intend moving in________________

15)Reason for relocation___________________

Looking forward to hear from you with all this details so that i can have it in my file incase of issuing the receipt for you and contacting you. Await your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how to get the document and the key to you, we do not see yet and only putting everything into Gods hand, so please do not let us down in this our property and God bless you more as you do this. Thanks and God Bless You.

Thankfully, at this point the potential victim decided something was sketchy and starting researching a bit more, found our listing and contact info, and reported the scam to us.

Lesson learned: If you’re buying or renting, and the deal seems to good to be true, and the landlord or seller has poor grammar and is from Africa, it’s a scam. Nothing in Westlake rents for $700.

I had the same thing happen with another rental listing in Central Austin last year, though those people actually contacted me directly, set an appointment, said “we’ll take it” upon seeing it, and only after I started going over the application process and confirming the deposit and rent amounts did they make weird faces and say “we thought it was $700/mo”. They’d apparently driven by and called me from the sign.

After I pressed them on it, they admitted the price “seemed way too good to be true, but we were still hoping …”

Real Estate is particularly vulnerable to scammers on Craigslist, especially rentals. And it’s easy for them to surf or any of the other online real estate sites, download photos and create the scam ad. There is nothing we can do short of plastering an obnoxious watermark with our company name across every MLS photo, and we can’t do that because it violates the terms of the MLS agreement. So we just have to put up with this illegal activity permanently I suppose.

Meanwhile, of all the real listings I have entered entered into Craigslist in the past, none have generated a lead the resulted in a sale or lease. Craigslist just doesn’t work well in Austin for some reason.


9 thoughts on “Austin Craigslist – A Real Estate Advertising Sewer”

  1. Steve,

    What a drag. I am curious though – how do you market properties for rent them to cultural creatives? I live in East Central Austin and have a rental property there, but I’ve heard of anyone finding a place to rent in my neighborhood via any other means than craigslist. Homes with realtor “for lease” signs in front of them likewise seem to sit and sit, whereas it’s never taken me more than 2 weeks to find a great tenant through CL. Thoughts?

  2. That’s about all craigslist is good for — tenants on a slim budget who have way more time then money and can spend days sifting through the spam.

    It also works for landlords who don’t like to pay commission. They underprice it, which is why it gets rented anyway (see above), but what many of them don’t realize is if they put the rental house on the open market it would get much more rent. Enough to cover commissions and still make the owner more money.

  3. We continue to get hit with similar scams here in Utah. I really feel for those who fall victim to. I too, have eliminated the use of Cragslist as have many of our MLS members. Your blog is great, filled with useful information.

  4. I’m curious. I though that in most states if not all one has to have a realtor license to partake in the marketing of someone else’s property whether for sale or lease, no? Does CL have a license? If license required and CL doesn’t have one then how do they and many other such sites avoid the license police? If no, then what extra level of involvement requires such a license in any way that benefits of protects the public – opening the door to show a prospect around, filling out a standard lease form, expressing an opinion, collecting a commission – but if any of them were the reason this is obviously absurd, no?

  5. The majority of the spam on the Austin CL comes from local leasing agents often originating at various “apartment finder” firms here in Austin. The spam produced by these entities is an exponentially more severe problem than that presented by the scammers (who are present in every section of CL beyond just housing). What makes the scam worse than the scam is that while the latter is simply an attempt to con an individual the former is in actuality (sadly effective) attempt at poisoning the free resource that the housing section of the Austin CL presents. In reality, the housing listings on the Austin CL would be a much more efficient way for prospective tenants to search properties – even more so than the MLS in some cases, however, since doing this would threaten the profit that leasing agents make by connecting tenants directly with prospective landlords, effectively circumventing the “service” that they provide (and eliminating the middleman) their only available recourse is to sabotage the system as a whole.

    Compare any of the housing sections on the Austin CL to any of the other “for sale” sections (i.e. Electronics, Computers & Tech, etc) and you will see a marked difference in the legibility of the listings; compare then the amount of spam (from leasing agents) in the housing sections to the amount of discernible spam in the “for sale” sections and you will see what I’m referring to.

    I don’t know if the Austin Board of Realtors has any jurisdiction over leasing agents (or apartment locator firms) or if they indeed care if licensed real estate agents spam CL… but I myself consider it unethical and would never want to associate with an agent party to such behavior.

  6. Re: “Does CL need a real esate license?”

    Does your local newpaper need a real estate license? I doubt it. They both offer ads to sell many things, including real estate. CL just happens to be electronic and mostly free. And actually, being free probably further removes CL from any risk of legal entanglement than your newspaper.

  7. Frankly, Craigslist needs to clean up their site or be shut down. I used to post services ads there and can’t anymore due to spam/scam. It used to be a good place to look for a place to rent or search for a job or place something up for sale. Not anymore. About 1 in 1000 ads and responses to ads placed seem to be legit anymore. I used to place ads for pet sitting services and will not anymore due to spam/scam replies. Many of the job ads break the law as well. It’s quite laughable when you see an ad for a 4 bedroom home in Westlake renting for $650 a month. Yeahhhhhhh riggggght. I hate Craigslist.

  8. We ran across this great website and I am inspired to follow suit, if you don’t mind. Sorry, we’re not in the real estate market but have your same feelings that Craigslist should be shut down. We are in the Entertainment business and there are two other competitors that have been posting severe defamations of character and slander specifically naming and pointing out our business. They consistently flag any ad we try to post in the last 3 months and Craiglist will not let us repost. We have tried to complain and sent Cragslist our emails. To no avail, we just receive canned responses. No one there cares who does what so we have had to quit advertising on Craigslist also. If you ever hear of any class action law suit against Craiglist, please let us know and we’ll join in. No one can contest the advertising they allow alone. Do you know if the RE board had complained to the Attorney General and BBB? They will probably be shrotly receiving my opinion and complaint. This is a horrible ID theft scam in the real estate business! More power to you!

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