8 tips for writing click-worthy Craigslist rental listings

Amanda Maher
Amanda Maher | 7 min. read

Published on March 16, 2018

Love it or hate it, Craigslist remains one of the go-to websites for people looking for apartments to rent. Some property managers and landlords shy away from using Craigslist. The platform is pretty rudimentary compared to some of the more sophisticated rental websites that exist today, such as Zillow and Trulia.

However, if you ignore Craigslist, you could be shutting out a major segment of the market. Instead, value Craigslist for what it is: A platform for free advertising—and a wildly popular one, to boot.

We often hear from people who have tried posting apartments for rent on Craigslist before, but without much luck. Instead of getting frustrated with the website, take a step back. How well were your Craigslist ads written? In our experience, Craigslist ads that don’t perform well could often use a bit of a refresh.

Here are 8 ways to write better Craigslist ads for your rental property.

#1: Use Descriptive Headlines

When people are looking for apartments on Craigslist, they don’t click on every listing—they scan the headlines for keywords that indicate that a listing fits their criteria. This means that unless your headline is descriptive, appealing, and accurate, very few people will bother to click on it.

For instance, instead of offering a “Great apartment in one of Boston’s best suburbs,” consider a headline that says, “Family-friendly 2BR apt in Coolidge Corner, steps from the T.” As you can see, the former doesn’t tell a prospective renter much about the actual apartment, whereas the latter gives the exact size, location, and hints at the fact that the property may be appropriate for children.

If you aren’t sure which headlines will perform well, consider doing an A/B test: Use two different headlines to advertise the same unit, and then evaluate which produces better results (based on inquiries, quality of leads, etc.).

#2: Avoid Spammy Formatting

Some headlines use ALL CAPS AND TONS OF EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!! When you do this, you’re essentially yelling at prospective renters to try to get their attention, and it makes your ads look like spam. Instead, catch renters’ eye with compelling headlines that will entice them to click and read the rest of your listing.

#3: Write Detailed Copy

Put yourself in renters’ shoes. If you’re looking for an apartment on Craigslist, what type of information would you want to know? At a minimum, we suggest including:

  • An overview of the property’s condition: Is it older? Modern? Newly renovated?
  • A description of the property’s layout: Is it an open floor plan? How large are the rooms?
  • What’s included in the stated rent? Heat? Hot water? Electricity? Parking?
  • Does the property offer any amenities? A laundry room? A gym? Outdoor space?
  • Describe the general lease terms, such as month-to-month vs. a year-long lease
  • What will be required to secure the apartment? First month’s rent? Last month’s rent? A security deposit? Do you require a background check? Employment check? Landlord references?
  • When will the property become available for rent?
  • Where is the property located? Is it convenient to public transportation or major roadways?
  • Is the property pet-friendly?

This information will help you to weed out anyone who, based on these criteria, would not be interested in renting the unit. Sure, this may result in fewer leads—but the leads the ad does generate will be more qualified. In addition, you’ll cut down on unnecessary emails and phone calls by answering the questions that a vast majority of applicants will have.

#4: Get Creative with Multimedia

Let’s say that you’ve put together the most descriptive ad of all time. People will STILL want to know what it looks like. So, you can either line up a showing for each prospective tenant; or you could include some form of multimedia in your ad (pictures, video, etc.) After all, a picture is supposedly worth a thousand words!

Pictures and video give people a sense of what the apartment is really like before they set foot in it. Many Craigslist users filter their search results to only include listings with photos; so you’re immediately doing yourself a disservice if you don’t include pictures. When Craigslist ads don’t feature pictures, it gives the impression that the unit might not be in great condition. Otherwise, why wouldn’t the owner want to show it off?

Ads that get creative with their multimedia tend to perform the best. Show indoor and outdoor spaces. Create a video tour of the property, then post that video on YouTube and link to it in your Craigslist ad. This will help you to bring in more leads, and to increase the quality of those leads—you’ll know that those who contact you are actually interested in the property based upon what you’ve shown.

#5: Create Individual Listings

Property managers and landlords often create one generic ad that they use across multiple listings. Unless the details of each unit are exactly the same, avoid this strategy! Craigslist limits you to posting 20 ads per day, and if those ads are too similar, the website might flag them as spam.

What’s more, if you use a generic ad to lure someone in, then that person learns that the property available for rent is substantially different than what was advertised, you run the risk of losing all trust with that person. It’s a terrible way to start off a relationship.

#6: Include Your Contact Information

This seems obvious, right? Well, it’s amazing how many people forget to include contact information in their Craigslist ads! We recommend including your full name, company, phone number, and email address in the body of the Craiglist ad. Sure, someone can contact you using the website’s “reply to” feature, but including your direct contact information gives the ad a sense of credibility and removes an extra step from the process.

#7: Avoid Discrimination

Be absolutely certain that your listings don’t violate federal, state, or local fair housing laws. For instance, some people write “Section 8 not welcome” without realizing that this is typically considered discriminatory. With few exceptions, you cannot refuse to rent to families with children either. Brush up on fair housing laws or consult with your attorney if you have questions as to what’s appropriate and what’s not.

#8: Remove Ads Once a Vacancy is Filled

As soon a lease has been signed for a unit, remove your Craigslist ad. The reason is two-fold: First, it prevents unnecessary email overload on your part. Second, it prevents people from becoming frustrated when they contact you only to realize the property advertised is no longer available. That experience will make people less likely to contact you about your other listings in the future.

Learn 8 tips for creating click-worthy rental listings on Craigslist, only on the #BuildiumBlog! Share on X

Craigslist is actually a great online tool for property managers and landlords looking to cast a wider net to capture prospective renters. As we head into peak leasing season, use these tips to create rock-solid Craigslist ads that stand out from the pack.

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Amanda Maher

Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. She holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a master's in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.

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