How to Sell Your House on Craigslist
For years, Craigslist was the place to go when you needed a roommate or some funky, free furniture, or if you wanted to follow up on a missed connection. While the classifieds site might not be as popular as it once was, it still has a presence in cities around the world.
You know you can turn to Craigslist to sell little things, like a slightly used sofa or a bike. But is it a good option when you want to sell something big — like your house?
Selling a home on Craigslist means skipping the real estate agent commission, which can be as high as 6% of the sale price. But for most people, the process might be more trouble than it’s worth.
How to Sell Your House on Craigslist
Selling on Craigslist seems like the ultimate way to arrange a for sale by owner (FSBO) home sale.
Setting up your home’s listing on the site is almost too easy. And it’s totally free if you take your own photos and don’t market the listing outside Craigslist.
1. Create a Posting
Visit your local Craigslist page, either by typing in “[your city name].craigslist.org” or navigating to the main craigslist.org page and choosing the closest city from the list. Then, click “Create a posting.”
Choose “housing offered.” Don’t click “for sale by owner,” as that doesn’t include real estate transactions.
On the next page, choose “real estate – by owner.”
2. Fill in the Details
At this point, you’ll create the bulk of your Craigslist ad. On the edit post page, there are dropdown menus for:
- The number of bedrooms
- The number of bathrooms
- Parking options
- Housing type
There’s also a large text box for a description of the house and boxes for the price, neighborhood, zip code, square footage. You can also tick off boxes if your home has amenities such as air conditioning or electric vehicle charging.
You’re on your own when deciding on the home’s price. You can look at the price of similar properties in your neighborhood to get an idea of a good price for yours. Zillow or Redfin can give you an estimated home value, but if you want a more accurate price, consider hiring an appraiser.
During a home appraisal, the appraiser visits your home, assesses its condition and compares it to similar properties nearby. If your home is in good shape compared to those that recently sold around you, the appraiser might value your property highly. But if the house is worn down and in need of some upkeep, its value might be lower than you want.
Finally, there are areas for you to provide your contact information. Your email address is required. You can also include a phone number if you want potential buyers to call or text you. Since you might get a lot of replies, it can be worth it to get a prepaid cell phone, rather than giving out your primary phone number. Another option is to sign up for a free secondary phone number through Google Voice or get a low-cost VoIP phone plan.
3. Write a Compelling Description
The goal of your Craigslist posting is to sell your home for the best possible price. Along with high-quality photos, the description of the property is what’s going to grab people’s attention.
Be short and sweet with your description and focus on the keywords that people search for. Include:
- Number of bedrooms
- Number of bathrooms
- Square footage of the building
- Square footage or acreage of the property, if applicable
- Recent improvements or renovations
- Details about the garden or yard
- Housing type, such as apartment, condo, or detached home
- Housing style, such as Cape Cod, Colonial, or Victorian
- School district
- Nearby amenities and conveniences, such as parks, shopping centers, and public transit
- Nearest intersection — your street and the closest cross street
Pay attention to voice when writing the listing. Pretend that you’re describing your home to a friend. Don’t try to cram all the information into the listing.
Buyers can contact you directly if they need to know the dimensions of each bedroom. They can also set up a viewing of your home and measure it themselves.
4. Add Photos
The description helps your home appear in relevant search results. But it’s the photos that will really capture home buyers’ attention or send them heading for the hills.
Include at least four photos of your home in the posting. The photos should be in focus and well-lit. Include at least one exterior picture. If your home has unique features, include photos of those.
Consider hiring a professional to take photos of your house. They can use a wide angle lens and will know how to get the lighting and other small details just right. They’ll also have better post-processing capabilities to give your photos a professional sheen.
Photographers’ fees depend on their experience and skill level. The average cost is usually about $100 per hour, but a college student or someone who’s just starting out might charge much less.
5. Publish the Post
You’ll get to review your classified ad before publishing. Read over it, checking your spelling and making sure you didn’t leave out important details. Also check the orientation and quality of your photos. Retake any blurry or otherwise low-quality photos, and reorient any that aren’t right-side up.
When everything looks good, click publish. The post will be live on Craigslist for 45 days. If your home doesn’t sell by then, you can repost.
It’s worth revisiting your posting if you haven’t gotten any leads after a day or two. Craigslist posts ads in chronological order. After a few hours on the site, your posting might fall to the bottom of the first page or move to the second page, which sees much less traffic. Editing and reposting it gets it back on top.
Should You Sell Your Home on Craigslist?
If you’re a DIY-type, selling on Craigslist is attractive. You can skip the real estate agent commission and keep all of the profit for your home sale. But when you skip the real estate agent, you also miss out on their knowledge and expertise of your local real estate market.
So while you won’t pay commission, it might take longer for you to sell your home. You might not get its full market value either because you’ll have to do your own negotiating.
Pros of Selling Your House on Craigslist
Home selling through Craigslist has some benefits, namely making the sale more affordable for FSBO sellers.
- It’s Free to Post. Craigslist’s original claim to fame is that the site is entirely free to use. You never have to pay to post a real estate listing.
- It’s Low Commitment. Maybe you’re not 100% sure you want to sell your home right now. You can post on Craigslist, see what the response is, then take your ad down if you don’t get a lot of leads or if you decide to rent out your house rather than sell it. You don’t have to sign a multi-month agreement or contract with the site, as you would with a real estate agent. You don’t even have to make a Craigslist account to use it.
- Lots of People Use Craigslist. Craigslist might be past its heyday, thanks to social media and real estate sites like Zillow. But it still gets millions of visits each month. If you use the right search terms in your real estate listing, you’re going to get some interest in your post.
- There’s No Commission. In traditional home sales, the seller is on the hook for paying the real estate commission, usually around 5% or 6% of the sale price. Going the Craigslist FSBO route saves you that commission, meaning you profit more from the sale of your home.
Cons of Selling Your House on Craigslist
It’s not all roses if you decide to list your home on Craigslist. These are the most important drawbacks to consider.
- There Are Scams. Craigslist can be a scammer’s paradise, which can make potential home buyers wary of using it. You could also fall victim to a scammer, if you’re not aware of red flags, such as a “buyer” who sends fake cashier’s checks for earnest money or requests an online escrow service. A scammer might also steal your home photos and use them to create a fake rental listing.
- You Have to Do the Heavy Lifting. Most real estate agents work hard for their commission. They know your local real estate market, create MLS listings, host open houses, and help you decide on a home price that’s most likely to lead to a sale. Home sellers that go the Craigslist route miss out on all that. You’re left to do the hard work yourself. If you’re not a real estate pro, you might find it’s a lot of time and hassle.
- You’ll Have to Vet Potential Buyers Yourself. Selling real estate isn’t like selling your old record collection or a car. Multiple steps are involved, from reviewing offers to vetting prospective buyers. When you work with an agent, buyers are usually carefully screened before they get to the offer stage. Most are pre-approved for a mortgage. With Craigslist, anyone can respond to your ad, view your home, and try and put in an offer.
- It Can Be a Waste of Time. Listing on Craigslist can waste your time, especially if you never find the right buyer. You can waste time waiting for responses, refreshing your listing, and sifting through messages from people who aren’t in a position to buy your home. If you’re on a tight timeframe and need to sell your home before buying a new one, Craigslist might not be the way to go.
Alternatives to Selling Real Estate on Craigslist
Despite the old cliche, the best things in life aren’t free. If you want to get at least the market value for your home and support throughout the selling process, your best option is to hire a real estate agent.
If working with an agent really doesn’t appeal to you and you want to keep some or all of that commission in your pocket, there are better ways to market your home. Listing services like Clever and Houwzer can help you sell your home for a flat fee that’s much lower than the average commission.
Another option is to list your home on Zillow. The real estate listings platform has a FSBO section and offers free listings to homeowners. It has a little more clout in the real estate world than Craigslist and reaches a wide audience of interested buyers.
There’s a time and place for Craigslist. If you want to connect with that cutie you saw in a coffee shop but were too shy to talk to, Craigslist’s missed connections board is there for you. Likewise, if you want to offload an old couch or need some inexpensive or free home furnishings, you can turn to the Craigslist goods marketplace.
But if you’re about to sell one of the most expensive things you’ll ever buy, better options exist. Sellers make mistakes when putting their homes on the market. One of them is trying to do everything on their own.
Real estate agents cost money, sure. But the professional expertise they bring to the table often makes their commission fee worth the cost.