If you were not aware of it, Craigslist.org announced this past week that they are going to begin charging rental brokers who post in New York City (and possibly one or two other places) a $10 fee per listing. If you read the forums on Craigslist you will see a lot of different opinions on whether this is good or bad. Here are my feelings regarding this new development:
1) Many very small brokerages who used craigslist as their sole source of advertising will be in trouble for a while. Some of these brokerages have their own exclusive listings (ie, a landlord gave them exclusive right to rent their apartment) and they will pay a few times a week to post on craigslist. But only 20% of the agents in this city actually represent a listing. Most brokerages advertise the same listings (in case you didn't know this already), sometimes multiple times a day. THE RESULT: craigslist will be less cluttered.
2) Many of these rental agents who just wanted the phone to ring will stop posting fake or inaccurate ads on Craigslist. You may have suspected that you called one during a recent search: you called them and they immediately started speaking about another apartment far more expensive. These guys will stop. If they don't stop, Craig will be able to ban them more effectively because he can track them better. This will not stop, however, good apartments from being rented shortly after the ad is posted. THE RESULT: You will trust rental agents more because the honest and productive ones will filter to the top!
3) Another bulletin board site may become more popular than craigslist for real estate rentals. Already one site Matchifieds is being surfed quite a bit. But I don't think this will happen because Craig has wisely kept from charging in all categories, just the most popular ones (currently only jobs categories in three cities are incurring fees). This means that people will still think of Craigslist as a free place to search and post, so the popularity won't drop off much. THE RESULT: Certain other posting sites may become more popular with rental agents, but the jury's out as to whether the crowds will follow.
4) Fake listings may abound on the "by owner" rental section. Currenty Craig has decided not to charge for this section, so it is possible that some shady rental agents will claim to be owners so as to post ads for free. If you call and find out the poster is a rental agent, REPORT IT TO CRAIG!! The logical end result of this situation is that people will not be able to find good by owner ads on Craigslist and will turn back to reputable rental agents (those paying to post). THE RESULT: Overall, direct-renting owners will be hurt by diminished feedback and will go elsewhere, possibly working with more rental agents. Other web sites may gain more landlord-direct listings.
Overall, I think it's a wash. I happen to advertise on NY Times Direct so I'm not too concerned. Also, the Citi-Habitats web site is one of the most heavily trafficked in the country, so you will certainly find my ads. Don't worry: when I find one that's great, I'll certainly let you know!
COMING SOON... I reveal a great web site for no fee listings - including MANY that brokers have!