How to Use Craigslist to Rent an Apartment or House

Craigslist is the resource of choice for many potential tenants, and a strong listing can draw the best. The most recent listings show up first, so it's wise to re-post once or twice a week.

Safety First

You must first register to post an ad on Craigslist, but don't put personal details in your listing -- not your full name, personal phone number, email, or the exact property location if it's near your home. A nearby cross street or even a zip code may be sufficient.

Potential tenants can contact you via Craigslist's double-blind email. Responders won't know your address and you won't know theirs. Another option is to set up a personal email account specifically for the rental. Don't let potential tenants call you -- you call them. Screen prospects carefully to cut down on showings -- and don't show the rental alone.

Include Photos

Don't even think of posting your rental without photos. Craigslist users often click the search option "has image" to screen out listings without them. You'll also save yourself the hassle of describing the rental on the phone, and you'll minimize showings to strangers who take one glance and say they're just looking.

More photos are better than fewer, as long as they're bright and informative. A photo of each room and a photo or two showing the rental's best features is better than lots of dark, fuzzy, repetitive shots. If the property's best feature is great views, include a photo of what the tenant will see when she looks out the window.

Put Basics in the Title

Make your title information-rich but readable. In addition to image-only searches, Craigslist also offers a "titles only" search option, so this is a chance to grab users' attention. Here's a formula one rental software firm recommends:

[rental price]-- [number of bedrooms and bathrooms][apartment, house, etc.] in [neighborhood] with [best feature]

Potential tenants don't screen for features and ignore the number of bedrooms. They check the basics first -- and for many tenants, the basics include pets. Craigslist includes a search screen for rentals that allow cats or dogs or both, but if there's space, the title is a reasonable place to post specific guidelines, such as "no reptiles," "small fish tanks ok" or "no pets whatsoever. "

Put Features in the Description

Flesh out the title by going into details in the description. For example, you might add "private bath adjacent to master bedroom," "foyer with coat closet" and "no stairs."

Be sure to address any amenities the rental offers. Where is the washer and dryer? Is parking included, and is the area well lit? How far is it to the nearest highway? How far to grocery and drug stores? Are they within walking distance?

Describe the neighborhood in a few evocative words. "Stargazer heaven" says that the property is quiet. "Close to nightlife" says the opposite. If the property is in town, you might say "Car-free living!" to attract seniors who are uncomfortable behind the wheel.

Follow the Law

Including "car-free living" in the listing can attract tenants who can't afford a car or whose credit is too poor to finance one. You can discourage such tenants by including "credit check required" in your listing. What you can't do is exclude particular people. You can't refuse Section 8 rent-subsidized tenants just because they're Section 8.

Craigslist reminds listers that discrimination by race/origin, age, family status, disability, creed, sexual orientation or income source is illegal under fair housing law. Describe the premises, not the people you want. You can learn more about the Fair Housing Act's <ahref="https:"" about="" fha"="" target="_blank"> </ahref="https:>rules against discrimination on several government websites.