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Making the most of Craigslist apartment ads

If you have ever rented an apartment, chances are you have heard of Craigslist. If you haven’t you are missing out on the best way to advertise your apartment units. And did I mention that it is free in most cities? Having placed my fair share of postings on the service, I have learned a few tricks on how to make the most out of each ad with the least amount of effort possible. Use this info wisely:

  • Pictures, pictures, pictures – A lot of people do their apartment shopping while at work or late at night from their couch. In this age of multimedia, it is essential to have lots of pictures of your apartments. You can use the Craigslist uploader to put up to four images in any post. If you know anything about HTML, you can also embed images hosted elsewhere directly into the post. Personally, I use the embed method as it allows me post as many images as I want, in any layout I like. If you don’t have your own server, I would recommend starting an account on a photo-hosting service like Flickr for all your photo needs. *NOTE – I will be posting a followup to this story soon that goes into more detail about embedding.
  • Reposting ads – With the ever-growing popularity of Craigslist, the biggest issue is often getting your ads to stand out. If you post an ad today, by the same time tomorrow it is going to be buried beneath 100+ other apartments on page 4 of the apartment ads. People can still find your apartment by searching, but you will lose a lot of browsing traffic. To fight this issue, I like to delete and repost my ads every 48 hours. Each time you delete your ad and repost it, it goes back to the top of the apartment queue so that your listings stay in front of people. Craiglist does not allow you to do this more often than every 48 hours so take note of that. One of the annoyances with doing this is that if you are uploading your pictures to Craigslist, you have to repost the pictures each time. However, if you are embedding the pics from a separate server, the pictures take care of themselves.
  • Lots of details – As with pictures, lots of details about the apartment and the neighborhood it is in are very helpful for reaching apartment shoppers looking to do as little legwork as possible. If you have features worth highlighting, highlight them. Don’t just say: “Call me for details.” Another benefit to putting a lot of text in your ads is that it is searchable. When prospective tenants search for features via the searchbar, your apartment will come up.
  • Avoid overly flashy ads – I’m not talking about tacky ads, though those are bad in their own right. One of the good/bad things about Craigslist is that it is community policed. People can flag posts they think violate Craigslist rules, but they can also do it just to be a jerks. I used to post very colorful, graphic intensive posts for my apartments. They looked nice, but I had a big problem with posts getting flagged despite being within the rules. I went to a more simplistic layout with simple photos, detailed text and contact info. Since then, the flagging problem went away and I don’t think it has hurt the marketability of the ads.
  • Contact info – Last, but certainly not least, is how to handle your contact information. Most posters seem to use Craigslist’s “hidden email address” feature to maintain their privacy. Whether you use this or publicly show your email, if email is the only method of contact you will have for your ads, make sure you actually check it. Once a day at a minimum. If you won’t check it, then just put up your phone number. I put my number in all my ads and don’t think I have ever had an issue come from it. Whatever you do, just make sure people don’t have to jump through hoops to ask you questions about apartments.

So there you have it. If you follow these basic guidelines, you’ll really maximize your exposure on Craiglist. You can also use these same principles on the similar service,  Backpage. It doesn’t get as much traffic, but I find it is worth using in tandem with Craigslist. The only real difference is that you can only repost ads once every72 hours, but other than that they are about the same. Best of luck in your tenant search.

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Matt Kastner

Matt Kastner is an Investment Real Estate Consultant at St. Louis Real Estate Society in St. Louis, Missouri. He is also develops properties on the side through Threshold Properties. When he isn't representing investors in the purchase or sale of multifamily properties, rehabs, foreclosures and other income producing properties, he is often taking on rehab projects himself. He lives in South St. Louis and has been in the real estate business since 2004.

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