I bought a tea set on Craigslist once, as a gift. I’ve bought three trucks on Craigslist, a trailer, and a trail-ready atv. I also bought a four-legged table and adopted a three-legged dog on Craigslist. I like Craigslist—I’ve bought a lot of good things there. I also buy houses and sell them for a living. So on early in my real estate investing career I thought—why, it’s obvious! That’s how I’ll find motivated sellers—on Craigslist!

Easier said than done. Yes, I’ve found a lot of good deals on Craigslist. But I’ve also wasted a lot of my time chasing down jewels that turn out to be junk, racing Jim and Joe to buy the dresser Jen’s already bought, just burning gas for nothing but to breathe the smoke. And, as for real estate deals on Craigslist? That time is money spent. If you insist, I’ll give you some tips on how to find motivated sellers on Craigslist, but I’m sure that by the end you’ll agree that there’s a better way. 

How to Find Motivated Sellers on Craigslist: Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Aren’t Other Real Estate Investors Using Craigslist to Find Motivated Sellers? 

Oh, yes, there are many. New ones log on, salivating, as old ones log off, chewing bitter cud. Just like us, plenty of other would-be real estate investors have been coming to Craigslist for deals. In fact, as the rise of Craigslist corresponded roughly to the real estate downturn last decade and the consequent popularity of home-flipping television. The two have been linked from the start. So, the first thing to keep in mind: you’re not alone out there. 

Now, competition is everywhere, it’s true. You’re not the first or the only real estate investor, and you won’t be the last. So why is it a problem that other real estate investors are using Craigslist? It’s about trust. 

To see what I mean, stop thinking like a buyer for a while, and try to think like a seller. Try on some shoes, go walk a mile. You’re recently divorced, distressed. Perhaps a family member died. Because you were so broken up about it, you stopped hitting your numbers at work, and now you’re out of a job. You know you need to sell your house—you need the money and you need to move—quick. So, you log onto Craigslist. 

What do you see? Ad after ad begging for your attention IN ALL CAPS, WITH TOO MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Promising the BEST deal EVER, in CASH CASH CASH!!! You see more ads than you see people selling houses. Many of them are the same ad, or the same ad with a slightly different sentence order. The same ad with a new picture. The same picture with a new ad, that’s really the same as the first ad. Who’s posting all these? The same person? A small group of different people? There’s no name listed, just a phone number to call for an offer. 

Distressed home sellers may be desperate to sell their house, but that doesn’t mean they can’t smell a rat. Having not been born yesterday, they  know better to believe in any ads’ alleged “authenticity.” Craigslist is known for scams as it is. So they log off and call a real estate agent or resign themselves to foreclosure

The point is, people hardly trust Craigslist in the first place. So, no matter how many ads you post to try and entice motivated sellers, you won’t charm many. And, the more ads you post, the more they’ll see what you’re up to and the less they’ll trust you. 

Time Management and Finding Sellers on Craigslist

This brings us to the second problem with Craigslist: time. How long is it going to take to post all those ads? If one a day only takes you five minutes, maybe that’s not so bad. But how about one every day, and a different one? How long before you start repeating yourself? How long before you’ve become exactly who you hoped not to be, the ad-spammer promising cash in all caps? 

You might get a lead, though. You never know. But will it be a good lead? You’ll have to visit the homeowner to check. And, if you don’t have experience inspecting homes and pricing renovations, you’ll need to bring help. Starved for fruitful deals and weighed down by your wasted time after half a year of posting on Craigslist, you may end up overreaching and taking on a bad investment. Yikes. Keep it up and you might need to sell your house for cash. 

If you’re going to use Craigslist to find real estate deals at all, you’ll need to try a different strategy. Craigslist is intended as a place where people can list what they’re selling, not what they’re trying to buy. So look at what people are selling. You can try searching, but it’s tough to tease out a consistent set of keywords. Rather, scroll. Based on price points and context clues, try to find homeowners who may be distressed and are looking for a cash sale. Reach out to those people in a friendly, personal manner. Visit the house and shake hands. Make a personal connection and an honest offer. You might make a good deal. 

Of course, you won’t be the only person doing this, either. Every other Craigslist real estate investor in your area will also be searching those listings and messaging likely prospects. So, you’ll have to compete on price and personality with your peers. At the same time, you all risk losing the purchase if any pushes too hard. If there are too many investors messaging in the same area, inbox fatigue alone can cause the bunch of you to miss out on sales. 

A Better Way to Get Qualified Leads

I gave up on Craigslist fast, except for lawnmower parts and things like that, because it’s just not a fruitful—or respectable—way to grow a professional real estate investing business. In many ways, all those so-called investors posting ads have simply brought the bandit sign strategy online. It’s a haphazard act for those who don’t actually have a lead-generation strategy. You can do better. 

When I became an independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchisee, I immediately got access to qualified leads from the nationally known and trusted “We Buy Ugly Houses®” marketing campaign. These leads come directly from actual distressed homeowners, who are ready to sell. And, since they know the HomeVestors® brand from legitimate radio, television, and billboard ads, I automatically have a level of trust Craigslist can never foster. 

Craigslist is great for filling up your tool shed. But, for buying houses, becoming a HomeVestors® franchisee is tough to top. To learn more about how you can get qualified leads, request information today!


Each franchise office is independently owned and operated. 



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