• Agents in areas where inventory is tight can see the largest benefit from using Craigslist.
  • High-profile or luxury apartments may not do well on Craigslist.
  • Renters looking on Craiglist are looking for that perfect price around the median rent in the neighborhood.

Do the sheer number of sites catering to the rental industry make your head spin? Rental portals have been making their move into the rental space to cater to the growing number of people renting throughout the nation, touting 3-D layouts, video tours, search filter functionalities and more.

Websites like rent.com, apartmentlist.com and Zumper are offering a full-service experience to users who are looking for a new apartment. As the adage goes, sometimes less is more.

I’ll admit it: I’ve used Craigslist to find my last two apartments, mostly because I don’t need to know where the closest coffee shop or grocery store is located — I already know. I was staying in the same neighborhood, and I knew what I wanted (and I got it).

Courtesy of Craigslist.org

Courtesy of Craigslist.org

Big national rental portals have proclaimed themselves the anti-Craigslist and the better alternative to the “poor experience” that the no-frills website gives its users.

But some agents working with rentals have found the website useful for producing good leads with a fast turnaround.

Real estate agents fled from the site when HTML and embedded links were banned, along with any other special formatting. In attempt to keep the listings a bit more uniform and a lot less spammy, Craigslist lost some users, but that doesn’t mean renters stopped using it.

Stuart Jacobson, a broker in New York and New Jersey, said that upper-middle-class to lower-middle-class rentals tend to lease pretty quickly, with a turnaround of about 30 days. The more high-profile luxury apartments don’t do as well on the website.

In the Facebook group Lab Coat Agents, several users posted about success with utilizing the portal. However, one person said they got only one lead from 100 ads.

Markets where Craigslist renters seem most active are ones where inventory is tight and moves fast.

Sometimes the renters who use it are looking for something in particular, like an apartment that accepts pets or a low credit score. Others are looking for independent landlords or competitively priced apartments.

“The average Craigslist user has an issue or reason they have gone to Craigslist,” Jacobson said in an email. “I’ve gotten a lot of great leads from it and in turn built a large list of ready-to-go tenants. This has helped me attract more landlords and sellers to work with me because of the volume of tenants I handle.”

Having high-quality images and detailed information is still important for the Craigslist apartment hunter. It’s also important to hit the pricing sweet spot for renters based on nearby median prices.

So it’s not yet time to completely write off Craig. “Educate yourself! Know what you get, and test out a bunch of different methods,” Jacobson said.

Email Kimberly Manning.

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