When Craigslist came online, it used to be a primary resource for buyers and sellers to list nearly anything and everything you ever imagined. From job listings to used cars, furniture and services, Craigslist took the traditional model of a newspaper classified ad, put it online, and became the online classified marketplace of choice. In the process, it also became a very successful search tool for those looking to rent apartments throughout the country, and in Boston as well. Over time, however, Craigslist Boston Apartments has lost significant ground to other more sophisticated search platforms and is no longer the dominant player it once was. These are some of the key reasons why far fewer people use craigslist to find apartments in Boston.
Craigslist is Still Just a Classifieds Website
From its beginning, Craigslist was known as a classified listings website. Little has changed since then. It still just presents a list of classified posts, showing the most recent listings at the top. If you have ever browsed Craigslist Boston Apartments, you will notice many listings are repeated multiple times. The reason is simple. Publishers need to re-post them again and again in order to remain at the top of the list, creating duplicate listings in the process.
On Craigslist, you will always get a significant number of duplicate results. The most important goal for a publisher on Craigslist is simply to show up at the top of the list. Once the apartment is rented, there is no incentive for the publisher to remove the listing. Therefore, the duplicate listings remain online until they expire. In a nutshell, it is almost completely devoid of oversight. This allows bad actors to keep erroneous and outdated data on the website.
Inaccurate Results on Craigslist Boston Apartments
In addition to the regular search by category, Craigslist offers users the ability to search by keywords. However, many publishers also manipulate this because they “stuff” the title and copy of the ad with too many “keywords.” They generally include as keywords every single neighborhood in any given city or metro area. While Craigslist deploys filters to guard against keyword stuffing, some cities have better luck than others in terms of it actually working properly. So even if you search using the name of the area you are looking for, your search results may not be precise and often filled with irrelevant listings. You will sometimes get any listing that included that keyword term.
A map view is also available, which does help, but it suffers from the same flaws in terms of duplicates and irrelevance. You will also find confusing price differences between the same apartments displayed by different real estate agencies. It’s quite possible that you call several different real estate companies and they have different prices, so it becomes hard to develop trust with anyone. Be leery of when the agent says, “That one just rented” but there is “another one” that is $50 higher on the floor above it. Craigslist’s open market system leaves too much room for abuse and neglect of accurate data. Any real estate agent can post there, and they generate their own ads. Often times a reputable broker may have a less than honorable agent posting ads that are not perfect without the owner knowing what is going on.
When Searching for Apartments in Boston, Local Real Estate Rental Platforms Offer More Accountability
In contrast, nearly all major real estate rental platforms use databases as the basis for their results. Therefore, it’s easier to ferret out known bad players in apartment postings. The key to larger platforms is to look at how they supervise their websites. What controls do they have in place to avoid over-posting or incorrect pricing? In a perfect world, each post should be unique to a particular unit and there should be few duplicates. Be aware that many national real estate portals that allow for open competition simply do not patrol their sites properly for violations. Therefore, it’s common to see some of this marginal posting behavior on these sites.
Quite frankly, the large national players simply do not provide the street level granularity needed to make it a joyful and trust-building experience. You may find better results looking for a dominant local apartment rental platform. One with a single database that is monitored by its own staff and agents who work together to only post accurate data. When you have one group self-regulating their conduct, you can expect to see superior results because there is far less incentive to cut corners. It might be wise to do your research and see what company rents the most apartments each year in your chosen area.
It’s never a bad idea to look for local domain names that reflect apartment searches in your area. If you see they have recently updated pricing and shows when a listing went active or is price updated; that can a go a long way to know how good they are and what kind of showing experience will be delivered. One thing is for certain, over-posting of outdated data, or too many people posting on the same site, simply wastes the consumer’s time.
Craigslist Lacks Advanced Resources
Craigslist Boston Apartments portal doesn’t offer any of the advanced tools and resources that many of the major apartment rental platforms provide. Beyond what Craigslist provides, today’s renters are looking for real time data that can accurately tell them what apartments are currently available. They are looking for additional relevant results for available units regardless of when they were first listed. The consumer is now seeking the big picture of the apartment rental marketplace in one portal.
People want as many search features as possible so they can sort by price, size, location, distance, amenities, etc. It’s hard to believe in 2020 but some national real estate portals do not provide the ability to sort by dates or multiple dates if you are looking for flexible options. Great local or national portals must provide a wide range of additional resources. This includes rent affordability calculators, virtual tours, videos and compelling local neighborhood content so you can get a feel for whether a specific neighborhood will meet your commuting and lifestyle needs.
Useful Features Today’s Renters Expect
Unlike the options provided by Craigslist Boston Apartments, the major interfaces also provide the ability to save or “favorite” your searches so that you can go back, review and compare. Other platforms also have a built-in capability to send an online request form directly to the listing agent. The request forms typically include the property you are looking for and your contact information to make communications more efficient. The major platforms also allow you to save your search criteria and opt-in to receive custom email alerts with new matches that fit your specifications. If you are seeking the optimized apartment search, it may be prudent to look for a local company with advanced features on their website so that you know they are spending revenue to provide the best possible outcome.
It is safe to say that the best apartment searches will most likely reveal themselves on highly focused local real estate websites. These are sites that keenly focus on their area – with a proven track record and resources to provide the best tools that many national players deliver. In essence, find that hybrid company that provides all the data tools of a national portal but delivers precise local service because they carry the greatest amount of local apartment listings that can be shown in one viewing.
Craigslist is Vulnerable to Scammers
Over the years, Craigslist has been known for being the cradle of a variety of scams. This is something that has scared many renters away. The solution to this problem is simple: Craigslist must do a better job of vetting the sources of their classified listings. Craigslist needs to go farther to check the trustworthiness of the source. This same logic also applies to many national portals. It would make sense for the national portal brands to have local hires in each respective market review “to good to be true” listings. Some national portals are trying to use AI to see if they can find bad actors or patterns but nothing can beat the human eye and so additional monies need to be spent patrolling their sites.
Scams and frauds happen much more frequently on open listing websites that allow hundreds of real estate companies to post on them. It’s simply a mathematical fact that if you have too many disparate players on the same website that it is easier for bad actors to reside in the shadow of too many listings. Without a true vetting source built from the ground up and self-regulated by one source; there will be scams. Look for local apartment portals that have paid staff and cooperating agents working in harmony in one database that have safeguards built into it that do not allow for bad listings.
How to Spot Scammers Lurking on the Craigslist Boston Apartments Website
Many different types of scams can be generated through the Craigslist classifieds system. For instance, there have been many reported cases of listings showing non-existent units by fake landlords. These scammers then ask for personal information as part of the rental application and use it for identity theft. Another example seen on Craigslist Boston Apartments pages is the use of fake apartment listings for “phishing” purposes. In these cases, the publishers may even pose as real estate agents in order to get your personal information. In some instances, these unethical actors might even ask for application fees or advance deposits in order to “hold” the unit for you.
The ongoing pandemic has made scammers even bolder, since in-person showings have become less prominent. They use this to their advantage by saying they are doing everything remotely and can’t perform an in-person showing or take payment in person. Instead, they will ask for virtual payment via an app such as Venmo, CashApp, or even PayPal. These apps make it very difficult if not impossible to get your money back in case of a claim. Most of the time these scammers lure potential renters by posting listings well below the actual market rates for a similar unit – this is a key giveaway of a potential scam. For example, if a one-bedroom apartment in a particular area would be normally listed around $2,500-3,000 per month, a phony listing from a scammer would instead list something similar for around $1,500 – $2,000.
Verification is Protection
By contrast, look for websites where you can call the real estate office directly. Ask if the person works there and is licensed. Do a quick search on Google My Business so you can see that an actual office exists. Be leery of sham operations where the real estate agent works out of their apartment or house. Ask for the broker’s license number and information and don’t be afraid to call and verify that you are working with a reputable company. Ask the agent you are working with for their office number. Make sure it matches what you are seeing online. Don’t be afraid to call that office.
Ask for details, such as how many keys for properties do they have. The answers will be a telltale sign of what kind of company you will be working with. The chances you are going to be treated to a great apartment rental showing with lots of options is probably not going to be the greatest from a lone unverified person working from home. Where would this real estate agent store various landlords keys? There are lots of common sense signs to look for; and if you feel you are being shammed, stop and do more research. Look for local companies with the highest amount of Google My Business reviews.
Do Your Due Diligence
Examine everything, including company affiliation, contact information, ratings, reviews, etc. Being licensed by the State, real estate agents are legally bound to follow local guidelines and regulations. Realtors cannot post fake listings just to get “leads” to call, because they would be risking their license to practice their profession in the state. And while some real estate companies are now accepting select payments through different online apps, any reputable firm should be able to give you as a first option to pay via a cashier’s check, certified check, or wire transfer. Professionally run real estate companies have official bookkeepers and controllers that will have their own office extensions. That can go a long way to know you are working with the best and not some kind of rogue unlicensed actor or possible scam.
Trust is the Most Important Thing
In short, Craigslist hasn’t changed with the times and updated it’s user interface to meet consumer demands. Today’s apartment seekers are looking for advanced, easy-to-use features and an intuitive interface that works across multiple devices – particularly in a city like Boston which has one of the most highly educated consumers in the country. Craigslist has barely updated its platform since its inception, making it look very outdated and not user-friendly. Its long-standing platform is built to list classified posts, not an advanced database of listings. Since Craigslist remains a general classifieds website, it has not integrated advanced tools specifically for real estate. Their decline in this market is symptomatic of these flaws. Several national online real estate portals have risen over the past decade. They are now facing a host of unforeseen problems that came with success.
In some respects, many people that stopped using craigslist and migrated to national portals because of these problems. These national portals then started to suffer growing pains and structural challenges that Craigslist suffered. While innovation is important, it is not the be-all end-all. The most important factor in having a great apartment rental experience is working with a local company that has the power to deliver national search feature tools with the capacity to self-regulate through a better operational and database structure.
At the end of the day, all real estate is a local experience. Work with local reputable providers that have the most apartment listings and the widest inventory that can be shown in one showing so that you feel good about your apartment search. You want a strategy that lets you be efficient and see the most apartments in the shortest period of time so that you win!
Published October 21, 2020
Demetrios has pulled together the largest apartment leasing team in the Greater Boston Area and is responsible for procuring more apartment rentals than anyone in New England – with over 130k people finding their housing through his services. Demetrios is an avid real estate developer, peak performance trainer, educator, guest lecturer and motivational speaker.