How to Use Craigslist to Generate More Real Estate Leads

Here’s how to generate more real estate leads through Craigslist

Jacqueline Kyo Thomas

Jacqueline Kyo Thomas


Do you currently use Craigslist to get more real estate clients?

If not, you should. For the uninitiated, Craigslist is an online classifieds website where you can find everything from broken dishwashers to farm animals. For those of us who've used Craigslist in the past, it's not just a glorified ad section. It's a time tested tool for generating real estate leads.

When you're just starting out in real estate, you don't have a large marketing budget. Every single penny counts. Fortunately, Craigslist is free to post in most places. With just a little bit of effort on your part, you can get in front of a lot of eyeballs. And since selling real estate relies heavily on exposure, the more people who see your property, the better.

Another good reason to consider Craigslist is its popularity. Nine out of 10 people start their house hunting online, and Craigslist is one of the first places they visit when searching for properties.

That said, scoring leads via Craigslist isn't as easy as it used to be. Thanks to scammers and spammers, Craigslist marketing requires a tad more finesse. But that's what we're here for. In this post, we'll discuss how to use Craigslist to find your real estate clients.

Avoid these common pitfalls when posting on Craigslist.

How to Create a Real Estate Ad on Craigslist

When constructing an ad on Craigslist, be sure to follow these best practices:

Set Up an Account on Craigslist

Depending on your market, you may be able to post ads on Craigslist without an account. However, having an account makes it easier for you to access and edit previous posts and save drafts to work on later. If you plan to spend a lot of time on Craigslist, you definitely should set up a permanent account.

Create an Ad for Each of Your Properties Individually

Each of your posts on Craigslists must be about a specific property. Unfortunately, you can no longer post multiple houses on one ad.

Don't Post Too Frequently

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Because Craigslist is so easy to use, you may be tempted to post your ad several times to maximize exposure. After all, depending on your market, your ad can get buried in a matter of hours. Don't give in to that temptation.

Craigslist can automatically flag your ad simply because you've posted it too frequently.

So, how often should you post on Craigslist?

You'll need to wait 48 hours before you can post again. But the good news is that your ad stays viewable on Craigslist for 30 days.

Repost Your Ads

After 48 hours has passed, you can renew your posts on Craigslist. Renewing a post will put it back at the top of the list. Hooray for not having to retype the post again!

If you have an account on Craigslist, you can simply return to your postings manager and then click on the renew list. If you posted without a Craigslist account, you'll have to shuffle through your inbox to find your confirmation email (titled POST/EDIT/DELETE) and then renew the posting from a link within that post.

Even though you can continue to renew your posting, it will still expire at the end of 30 days. At that point, you'll need to make a new post for your property.

Post at the Right Time of Day

Because it's really easy for your post to get buried on Craigslist, it's important that you post at a time when you think your prospective client will be looking through the listings.

According to the Posting Bros, the best time for real estate agents to post listings on Craigslist is between the hours of 5 pm to 10 pm on Friday through Sunday. Weekends are typically active for house hunters in general. Be sure to keep your phone nearby.

Upload Images of Your Property

This isn't a suggestion, it’s a must. Some house hunters won't even consider your posting without an image. Furthermore, Craigslist allows its users to filter out ads that don't have images. Bottom line: You need images.

You should include multiple images of your property to give buyers a good idea of the space. You definitely want to show the best images on your post, so edit your image selection appropriately.

Don't include people in your images, though. This is against the rules. By the way, "people" include you. The images in your listing should only feature the property and nothing else.

Similarly, don't include graphics or cartoon images in your postings.

And finally, don't sneak in links to your website on your photos. This is also against the rules (no fun, I know).

Choose a scroll-stopper as your primary thumbnail image. You have less than three seconds to get a house hunter's attention. Select the best photo that you can for this coveted spot.

Choose a Headline That Stands Out From the Rest

In addition to grabbing your reader with a beautiful image of your property, don't forget to choose an exciting headline.

Focus on the biggest selling point of your home. Using words like "Handyman Special" or "Motivated to Sell Quickly" or "Gated Community" or "1st Floor Master" can make your listing stand out among the sea of "4BR 2.5BA Colonial" listings out there.

Spice up Your Text

Craigslist classifieds aren't exactly attractive. However, you can use a few keyboard tricks to spruce up the way that your ad looks on Craigslist.

Make use of all of those symbols that you didn't know the names of to create a bullet list of your property's key features. Here's a short list of suggested symbols that you can use:

  • Dashes (-)
  • Asterisks (*)
  • Carats (^)
  • Greater Than (>)
  • Pipe (|)
  • Tilde (~)
  • Plus (+)

Lead With the Most Important Details First

This is known as the triangle method. Instead of building your case by starting with the least important details, begin with the top features of the property.

Give General Directions

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As a standard practice, you should include the street address of your property in your Craigslist ad. This allows Craigslist to include a map on your listing.

While this map is handy, consider sharing general directions in your post to give the reader an idea of where the property is located. Not everyone understands maps. For those people, list nearby landmarks or distances from popular sites (i.e. 15 minutes from the stadium, 10 minutes to the airport).

Include a Strong Call to Action at the Bottom of Your Post

It's not enough to have an exciting post. You've got to also provide your reader with the next step to take. End your Craigslist post with a call to action like one of the following:

  • To see more photos of the property, text the number above.

  • To schedule a showing for the property, click on the telephone at the top of this listing.

  • See more of my property listings on Craigslist by searching for JudithSells.

  • Email me for a virtual tour of the property.

Don't Make Posts for "Just Sold" Properties

While this is a common strategy for direct mail campaigns, it's against the rules for Craigslist ads. You must only post ads for properties that are currently available.

Don't Link Back to Your Website

You cannot send the reader to your website. In fact, you can't include any link in your listing. You can, however, ask them to email you for more information.

Additional Resources Before you go, check out these related posts for generating more leads:

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