Mom, Dad, Look What I Found on Craigslist

Ahhhh… the joys of a Saturday morning. Pour some strong coffee, fire up the ol’ laptop and get on Craigslist. Look at a few cheap used cars, maybe buy some used furniture for the bathroom, check out a few ladies offering the latest in massage therapy, and oh, see if you can’t find a house to move into and get outta the dumps!

Craigslist is fast turning into the red light district of the Internet. As the New York Times reports today:

“Craigslist has become the high-tech 42nd Street, where much of the solicitation takes place now,” said Richard McGuire, Nassau’s assistant chief of detectives. “Technology has worked its way into every profession, including the oldest.”

In July raids, the sheriff of Cook County, Ill., rounded up 43 women working on the streets — and 60 who advertised on Craigslist. In Seattle, a covert police ad on Craigslist in November resulted in the arrests of 71 men, including a bank officer, a construction worker and a surgeon.

And while prostitutes also advertise on other sites, the police here and across the country say Craigslist is by far the favorite. On one recent day, for example, some 9,000 listings were added to the site’s “Erotic Services” category in the New York region alone: Most offered massage and escorts, often hinting at more.

That in essence sums up Craigslist. A microcosm of the Internet. Anything, anywhere, anytime and in anyplace. Click, click, click and you’re there.

So, is there anything wrong with this picture when it comes to Real Estate? Not really. Many agents advertise their listings on Craigslist. It’s great exposure and heck you’ve got to show your clients you’re doing some on-line marketing right?


You don’t need a Harvard degree to know that in marketing perception is reality. In most cases the medium used to convey the message defines the messenger. In Real Estate the product is the agent. The house is a by-product. An agent attracts the type of buyer he or she seeks. So, this begs the question: What kind of product are you? Do you want to work with Shrek or Lord Farquaad?

Lani raises the exact same issue on her blog, and I agree with her:

The only problem is that most of us don’t venture past the “housing” section of Craigslist to know that one of the most popular draws of Craigslist is the “personals” section. It is common knowledge that Craigslist’s success began with the “personals” and “for sale” sections. Some of the personals range from questionable to pornographic. Looking to buy a ball-gag wearing bedroom slave? Look no further than the famed Craigslist.

That’s great for those in the market for a slave, but did you even know that the same venue you post clients’ homes on is used for this purpose?

However, she goes a step furtherand wants Craigslist to remove their personals listing or make it somewhat hidden. She even asks why MySpace and other social networking sites get a bad rap on the same issue but Craigslist hasn’t felt the heat.

The main reason why sites like MySpace get pressure is bacause it was a kids hideout until the adults jumped in on it. In late 2004 no one above the age of 35 knew about this underground phenomenon and all of a sudden today we have entire real estate listings on MySpace.

What I’m saying is that a teenage hangout got raided by everyone and anyone trying to cash in on a hip new trend. Craigslist was never a teenage wasteland. From day one it has always been the classified section of the Internet.Young urbanites, more comfortable with a laptop than a newspaper in cities like San Francisco and Seattle used it to find stuff and sell stuff – all for free. You got on, found your stuff and got out. You’re not there trying to make friendships with the guy selling the old BBQ grill.

As you can see MySpace and Craigslist are two different animals. In MySpace you build a community, on Craigslist you try to get a sale out of the community. Kids talk about MySpace in school and everyone wants to be your friend, I’m not sure Craigslist has the same effect. That is why MySpace needs to make sure kids are protected and Craigslist doesn’t. 

Despite the differences authorities are still asking why Craigslist doesn’t self-police or stop allowing such advertisements. Again from the New York Times:

Law enforcement officials ask why Craigslist even includes Erotic Services among its 191 categories. Mr. Buckmaster, the company president, said the site created that category “at the request of our users” for legitimate massage, escorts and exotic dancers.

The bottom line is you use Craigslist at your own risk. In other words Craigslist has no obligation to remove any section of its classifieds. Responsible adults need to teach their kids and neighbors need to warn neighbors. Besides its like getting on the Internet. Once on, you’re really only one typo away from porn.

As far as listing Real Estate, it’s a business decision. More specifically it’s a market positioning decision.Whether you want your face on a sale sign next to the local De Ja Vu Club or not is up to you and maybe based on the house you have to sell. This may get you some additional traffic, but when was the last time traffic paid the bills? Even the massage ladies know that!

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