How to make your craigslist For Rent or For Sale post not suck

There are a truly surprising number of really terrible housing for-rent and for-sale ads out there, on craigslist and other sites like it. Don’t make yours one of them! Here are some of the top things to avoid:

Bad Pictures (Or none at all!)

Aside from the title (which should be long and descriptive), the pictures are the first thing people will notice about your posting. Don’t post pictures that suck.

One picture (or two or three) is not enough!

If your ad contains one lonely picture (often of the laundry room or outside or something useless), I’ll pass. If you can, post pictures of every room! And the yard (front and back), plus shots of the exterior and views. But mostly the rooms. If you don’t have a shot of the kitchen, I’m going to assume it looks like this.

Show the house in the best light, literally.

Take pictures in the daytime, preferably on a sunny day. Use a nice camera. If you suck at taking pictures, have a photographer friend do it. If you’re selling your house or it’s an executive rental, hire a photographer to take pictures. Or at least listen to their advice.

Oh, and post the pictures at a decent resolution, and right-side-up for Pete’s sake. If you don’t know how to do that, get someone to help you. Here’s a rule of thumb: if you have to squint to make out the details in your pictures, they suck.

Non-descriptive Descriptions

Don’t post a one-line description! Here’s a post I just read on usedeverywhere.com: “amazing 4 bedroom, 3 bath, large garage great for workshop or storage, large lot”. (It had one picture of what looked like an attic.) That’s not even close to the worst description I’ve read, but even so, it’s one line. If the house is so ‘amazing’, why don’t you tell me something about it?!

Really though, it’s not enough to just tell something about it. You want to tell everything about the house/apartment/shed/whatever-it-is. At a bare minimum, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, garage size, appliances, yard size, any selling features like air conditioning, pool, recent renos, whatever, and a link to a Google Map of the location. But don’t stop there. Describe the house in detail. Give people enough information to really picture what living in the house would be like! You want them to already be planning who would sleep in what room and how their furniture would be laid out. The better someone can picture living there, the more they will want to live there. (Unless your place itself sucks. But even then, the people who do contact you will be legitimately interested and you won’t be wasting both your time.)

Price Confusion

First of all, state the price for crying out loud. Why do people leave that out? Gah! If you think it’s going to help your bargaining position or something, forget it. You’re losing half your potential buyers/renters right off the bat.

Second, put the price, and only the price, in the price field. If you have two rooms for rent, for $500 and $600, make two separate ads. Do not enter $500600 in the price field. It boggles my mind when people do this. Not only is it annoying, it also removes your ad from pretty much everyone’s search results, since most people are not looking for a five hundred thousand dollar room for rent. Plus, with two ads you get twice the exposure!

Also, don’t put $1 as the price, unless you are selling your house for one dollar. That’s little better than the people who spam a bunch of unrelated keywords at the bottom of their ad. Presumably you realize that if you don’t post a price at all, your ad won’t show up when people specify a maximum. (So you’re one step ahead of $500600 guy…) But you also know the price you’re asking is exorbitant (presumably, or you’d just post the actual price, right?) So you figure you’ll just game the system. Well, don’t. Most likely you won’t be able to rent (sell) your place while still keeping the price a secret, so you might as well spill the beans now. (And if you can’t post the price because you’re trying to list multiple things in one ad, see above.)

Going into Hiding

Be reachable. Put a phone number and an email address in the ad. Include your first name so people know who they’re calling or writing to. You could even write something like, “Feel free to call, text, or email whenever.” You want people to contact you. Make it as easy as possible!

A few more “Don’ts” for Good Measure

Don’t…

  • Write things like “No deadbeats” or “No loud noise after 10” or even “Serious inquiries only” in your ad.
  • Post an ad with nothing but a link to a post somewhere else. If you’re too busy to copy and paste your post, I’m too busy to read it. Linking to more or higher resolution pictures is fine if the site you’re posting on limits you there, of course.
  • Use abbreviations, like “p/m” for “per month”, or “w&d” for “washer and drier”. These aren’t old school newspaper classifieds where you’re paying by the word. Don’t make people decrypt your ad; write it out in plain English.

Summary

And there you have it. Follow those few simple guidelines and at least people won’t be cursing your name as they attempt to decipher your ad or avoid getting eye strain from your photos. That may not rent your apartment or sell your house on its own, but it’s certainly a start.