There are certainly flashier and easier-to-navigate real estate websites on the internet than Craigslist. Still, consumers are drawn to Craigslist because it’s free, it’s viewed more as a peer-to-peer marketplace, and it’s designed to connect buyers with sellers directly.
Wondering how to get real estate leads from Craigslist? Well, most agents can’t capitalize on Craigslist because they don’t know the strategies necessary to capture these anonymous browsers and actually turn them into clients.
In this article, we’ll walk you through how to get your listings (or any listings, for that matter) in front of interested buyers, and how to convert those lookers into contracts.
New to Craigslist? Here Are the Basics
Craigslist is a website for digital classified ads where users can buy and sell anything from toasters to tube tops, race cars to real estate.
On your local Craigslist page, you can look for or post a job, join community conversations, search for services, or buy and sell just about anything (legal) under the sun. Seriously, if you haven’t been on Craigslist before, take some time to poke around—it’s pretty wild.
For the purposes of this conversation, we’re interested in the “Housing” section of Craigslist, specifically, “Real Estate For Sale.” Here, people create ads marketing homes, condos, property, and everything in between for sale. These can be ads created by sellers who are trying to sell FSBO-style, or by agents and brokers trying to get their listing in front of another audience.
What Kind of Leads Will I Get on Craigslist?
For the most part, buyer leads.
Most of the people who are cruising the listings on Craigslist are looking for a home to purchase. The people who are posting are the ones who have a home to sell. There’s a strategy for capturing seller leads from Craigslist, but more on that later.
By and large, the leads you’re going to get on Craigslist are buyers who are interested in properties you’ve got listed for sale. Capturing a buyer lead for your own listing is a great way to “double-dip” a transaction, getting both sides of the commission.
Don’t have any listings at the moment? Not to worry. Most listing agents would love to have more exposure for their properties. Try going to your broker or top performers in your office and ask them for permission to market their listings.
Remember, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Code of Ethics requires that you must disclose the name of the brokerage through which a property is listed, and it also prohibits creating the impression that a listing is yours if it isn’t. But, with listing agent (and broker) permission, you’re welcome to market another listing in pursuit of buyers.
How to Post a Real Estate Ad on Craigslist
Posting a real estate listing on Craigslist (the first step to actually getting a lead) is easy. Here’s the step by step:
- Go to www.craigslist.org and select your local page
- Find the “Housing” category on the homepage and click on “Real Estate For Sale”
- In the top right hand corner, click on “Post”
- When prompted what type of post you’re making, select ”Housing Offered”
- In your category, select “Real Estate – By Broker”
- Agree to the Craigslist Terms of Service
- Fill in the required listing information
- Add some photos of the property
- Confirm your listing’s location on the map
- Review your listing and publish
Creating a listing takes less than five minutes, but most agents miss out on the power-ups that actually turn Craigslist (CL) into an active lead generator. Here are the seven things you can do to take your CL strategy to the next level.
How to Get Real Estate Leads From Craigslist: 7 Killer Strategies
Let’s dig into how you can maximize your converting leads.
1. Create a Craigslist Account, DON’T Post as a Guest
Posting on Craigslist is easy. So easy, in fact, that you can do it without even creating an account on the site. But, this is often the first mistake that real estate agents make. The benefits of having an account are huge.
On Craigslist, postings are displayed on the page newest to oldest. Unlike on platforms (like Facebook), where an algorithm is tailoring what you see based on your behavior, likes, and dislikes, everyone sees everything, based on when it was posted.
Users with a Craigslist account can easily log in and see every single post they currently have active on the site. With a couple clicks, they can renew their listing (an option available 48 hours after your listing goes live) so that it gets pushed back to the top of the Craigslist feed.
Users without an account can also renew their posts, but to do so, they’ll need to hunt through their inbox for the email they received when they completed the initial post and jump through hoops to verify that the post was actually theirs every time they want to update, edit, or renew—a laborious and time-consuming process.
An account allows you to renew all your ads from a single screen with just a couple of clicks.
2. Write a Great Headline
We here at The Close know a few things about headlines. In fact, we eat, sleep, and breathe headlines. Through years of experience writing content for the website, making social media posts, and crafting email, we know that if a headline doesn’t grab your attention, you just aren’t going to click. The same goes for Craigslist.
Most agents use mediocre headlines like, “For Sale: 345 Main Street.” This headline might tell us the address, but it doesn’t give us a reason to click through.
Instead, try something like, “STUNNING Four Bedroom Meadowbrook Home Just Listed For Sale.”
This headline uses a flashy adjective (“stunning”), it describes a physical feature (“four bedrooms”), calls out a prestigious neighborhood (“Meadowbrook”), and adds some urgency (“just listed”). Most browsers of Craigslist are scrolling relatively quickly through the listings page. If your headline doesn’t stand out, it’s going to get ignored.
Still not confident in your headline abilities? Check out this headline analyzer from CoSchedule to get some feedback on your headlines.
3. Write Fantastic, Motivating Ad Copy
Ad copy on Craigslist is deceptively important. Here’s why.
On a typical MLS listing, you’ve got categories of searchable information that a home shopper can sort by: square footage, acreage, bedrooms, bathrooms, township, style, and so on. Though some of these dimensions are searchable on Craigslist, most searchers aren’t using them. This means that your ad copy has to display all of the most important information for a listing, and do it in a way that will entice your reader to learn more.
There’s a fine line when it comes to Craigslist ad copy—you want to provide enough information that a buyer is interested in the home, but you don’t want to provide so much that they feel like they can make their decision on whether to see the home without first talking to you.
Here’s an example of some excellent Craigslist real estate ad copy:
“If you’re looking for a fantastic home on the west side of the city, you’ve found it. 123 Main Street is a practically new home (built in 2018) that comes complete with top-of-the-line finishes throughout, including marble countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms, maple hardwood floors on the spacious first floor, and plush Berber carpet with a double-thick pad upstairs.
“With four bedrooms and three full baths, this home has enough room for families of any shape or size. When it’s time to relax, step outside into your fenced backyard and spend some time on the newly laid patio.
“To see more photos, learn more about this property, find out any special buyer incentives the seller may be offering, and to set up a showing, text or call today.”
This ad copy is clear, engaging, and paints a picture of the experience of being in the home, not just objective details. The goal is to motivate a reader to want to learn more, and that’s what we’re going to do in Strategy #4.
Not much of a writer? Don’t worry, there’s a solution for that. We found lots of highly experienced Craigslist Ad Experts on Fiverr who can write all the content for you, some starting as low as just five bucks. Check out Fiverr to see what freelance options are available.
4. Create a Clear Call to Action
Craigslist’s terms of service make it so the typical call to action for real estate ads (something like, “Visit our website to learn more about this home and to schedule a showing!”) isn’t allowed. You’re not even allowed to include a hyperlinked URL in the ad copy itself, and attempts to get around this rule (like saying “copy and paste this URL to learn more”) are sure-fire ways to get your ad flagged.
This roadblock is another place where real estate agents stumble with Craigslist because their path to contact conversion is blocked. But we’ve got the solution for you.
You are allowed to include a phone number with your listing; in fact, you’re encouraged to do so.
When creating your ad copy, use a phrase like, “Text or call me to learn more about this home, including any special incentives the seller may be offering, and to set up a showing.”
By making the call to action a call or a text, you give your buyers options, depending on their urgency and comfort level.
5. Include the Right Photos, But Not All of Them
Craigslist ads without photos are like cheeseburgers without buns. Sure, there’s some nourishment there, but honestly, who eats a burger without a bun? Most browsers won’t take action on an ad unless they have some visual to back up your ad copy, so choose the best listing photos you’ve got and include them just like you would on your MLS listing.
However, stop short of including all the photos. In fact, we suggest only including five to seven photos. That way, you can include in your call to action a request to text or call you for access to the rest of the property images.
6. Plan Your Renewal & Reposting Cadence
Remember back in Strategy #1 when we told you about how easy it is to renew your ad if you’ve got a Craigslist account? It’s easy, but only effective if you actually do it.
Craigslist ads are displayed newest to oldest, so in order to stay at the top of the feed, you’ve got to constantly be refreshing your ads.
Our suggestion? Set aside some time every morning to work on Craigslist stuff. When you log into your account, you’ll see which of your ads are eligible for renewal. Push anything that you can back to the top of the feed, but don’t renew more than five posts in a single day.
The reason we suggest not doing more is that Craigslist has some automated monitoring in place to flag spam accounts. If your renewal volume gets too high, you may trip one of those safeguards and have to start all over with a new account.
Also, set a reminder on your calendar to remove and recreate posts after 21 days. Most of the browsers on Craigslist are repeat viewers, meaning, they come back to the site day after day to look for something new. If they clicked on your ad but didn’t convert, seeing it at the top of the feed again is most likely not going to trigger a call or text.
However, a new ad (for the same property) with a new headline, some new photos (another good reason not to post all the photos at once), and some refreshed ad copy might, which makes the reposting of an ad a valuable strategy for properties that aren’t getting many leads right out of the gate.
7. Have a Solid Lead Conversion Strategy
You’ve created an account and posted a great-looking ad with all the right photos and intriguing ad copy. Mow what? Now you need to actually convert the leads you get into clients.
Most of the leads you’ll see from Craigslist are high-funnel buyers, usually in the “Just Looking” phase of their real estate journey. This can be frustrating to some real estate agents, but you should be happy about it. Here’s why:
Generally, these early-stage buyers haven’t spoken to a mortgage lender or a real estate agent. They don’t know what they want—they just know they want to look. This gives you an opportunity to provide value early in their process, cementing yourself as a trusted resource and partner in their mission.
What to Do When a Lead Call or Text Comes In
When someone calls or texts you from a Craigslist ad, don’t delay in providing that value. Ask for their email so you can send them the full listing of the property as a link from your website. This does two things: First, it gets you an email address to add to their lead information. The second thing it does is gets them into a traditional lead ecosystem where you can manage them alongside other leads in your customer relationship manager (CRM).
Ask for a Showing
Next, immediately ask if they’d like to schedule a showing. Sometimes a little momentum is all it takes to push the “Lookers” into being “Shoppers.” This gives you space to ask if they’ve been preapproved (if they haven’t, it gives you an opportunity to make a referral to a mortgage lender you like), and to continue the conversation about what they’re looking for in a home.
Start Your Long-term Nurture Strategy
If you get an email address from the lead, set them up to receive property alerts from your website of homes in the area that match the basic criteria of the property they requested information on.
Before you activate the drip, shoot them a message and say something like, “I was just doing a search on my website for properties for another client (a demonstration that you’re a successful agent with a high-functioning website), and I saw some homes that I thought you might like too. I’ve set you up on a property alert for homes like these; feel free to let me know if you want me to adjust the criteria or pause it at any time.”
This allows you to create a cadence of regular contact with the lead, which then gives you a reason to check in once every couple of weeks to see if there’s anything you can do.
Need Help With Lead Nurturing?
The key to success with any real estate lead generation strategy (not just Craigslist) is consistent nurturing and follow-up. There are lots of ways that real estate agents go about this, but the most efficient and effective way is to use a real estate CRM. We’ve written an entire buyer’s guide all about The Best Real Estate CRM for 2021, but in case you just want one suggestion, our top pick is LionDesk.
LionDesk makes Craigslist lead follow-up easy, automates the bulk of the process, and keeps you in the loop on the progress your leads are making down the funnel. And, with a 30-day free trial (you don’t even need a credit card), you can check out LionDesk for yourself, risk-free.
Bonus Strategy: Go After Seller Leads
This article has been all about capturing buyer leads—what you’ll find most on Craigslist. But, there’s a strategy for capturing listing leads too.
Remember, there are a LOT of FSBO posts on Craigslist. Most of these FSBOs include a phone number for more information, and just about everyone offers email as a contact option.
You can work these FSBOs just like any other, but we suggest starting with a quick comparative market analysis (CMA) of their property (chances are you can get most of the details you need from their Craigslist ad) so that in your initial conversation with them, you can offer them an idea of the value of their property.
If you come up with a number vastly different than what they’re listing their home for (even if it is much lower), you’ve got an entry point to get the conversation started.
If you’re not sure what to say when cold emailing or calling FSBOs, make sure to check our article, 5 Best FSBO Scripts of 2021 & Why They Work.
Still have questions on how to get real estate leads from Craigslist? Getting ready to start your first push onto Craigslist? We’d love to hear your questions or results—tell us in the comments below.
For more advice on lead generation tactics like using Craigslist, make sure to join our Facebook Mastermind Group.