I ran my last ad on Craigslist last summer, and people — including my clients — are asking me why. Selling homes is tough these days, and sellers want me to use every means of advertising at my disposal, including Craigslist.
For years, I could count on a steady stream of calls and inquiries on my listings through Craigslist.
There isn’t anything wrong with Craigslist, but in my opinion there is something wrong with some of the people who are using it to advertise real estate and the people who respond to the ads.
I believe there are so many scams on Craigslist that it is hard to stay on top of them all — though the site operators have made efforts to combat users’ illegal practices. It used to be a great place to advertise real estate for sale or rent.
I remember the first scam e-mail I got through the service. The writer wanted my bank account number so that he could wire money to buy the home I had listed. He said he did not need to see the property and just wanted to buy it, and he wanted to put the money directly into my bank account.
Like every good scam artist, this guy knew that taking advantage of human greed is one of the best ways to separate people from their money.
It isn’t just the buyers who are running scams. One type of property scam on Craigslist is advertising homes for rent or for sale at unbelievably low prices. Sometimes the home is on the market and sometimes it really is for rent but the person advertising it isn’t the homeowner or the owner’s representative.
The advertiser could be someone who is using the address and the price as bait to get money and/or to get personal information from potential renters or buyers. The advertiser may ask for deposits or ask potential renters to fill out an application. I like to check Craigslist periodically to make sure that none of my listings are being used as bait in a scam.
There are warnings all over the property section on the site advising people not to send money over the Internet or to give out Social Security numbers or other personal information to strangers who they meet through ads on Craigslist.
It isn’t just crooks who are misrepresenting the truth — some real estate agents are doing the same thing. I don’t want my name or the addresses of my clients’ homes on the site because I am afraid that people will associate my name or the property address with a scam. How can consumers tell the honest businesspeople from the criminals?
The real estate professionals who are not being truthful on Craigslist may not be extorting money or personal information from potential homebuyers or renters, but rather may be using deception as a lead-capture strategy.
Once the leads are captured they can start with the e-mail dripping. The deceptive advertisements are used as bait.
Deceptive practices include advertising a property type in the homes for sale section. The ad may state, "20 bargain properties," with a link in the ad to another website with more advertising — the website visitor is given numerous opportunities to enter an e-mail address and/or phone number. Craigslist rules forbid this practice and this type of ad can be flagged by any user.
Real estate agents also engage in a deceptive practice when they advertise a home for sale in the for-sale-by-owner section at Craigslist. Some agents who advertise properties as being for-sale-by-owner rarely disclose that they are real estate agents, in my experience, and some also never list the name of their brokerage company.
Brokerages do not seem to monitor their agents’ advertising on Craigslist. If they did, they may find that their agents are violating all sorts of rules and legal requirements.
Most real estate professionals would say that they are just using Craigslist for prospecting and that they are not doing anything wrong. Anytime real estate agents use deception in advertising it is wrong and it causes the public to distrust all of us.
For now, I am keeping my listings off of Craigslist.