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Manhattan Apartments: 3 Craigslist 'Bait & Switch' Warning Signs

Updated on December 15, 2013
Check out the site: It has a free: "How To Conquer the Craigslist Chaos" eBook
Check out the site: It has a free: "How To Conquer the Craigslist Chaos" eBook | Source

My experience with Manhattan Real Estate has been very interesting. After college finding NYC apartments was the main conversation amongst my peers along with finding a job/internship and people getting married at 23, of course.

Im a New Yorker so I am familiar with the city but I was not prepared for the monster known as the New York City Real Estate Market. I knew it would cost a good amount of money and it would be time consuming. Just thinking about the amount of money it would take was overwhelming. Little did I know that the money wouldn't be the most annoying and stressful part of the apartment finding process.

My first thought, like most, was to check Craigslist. So I ventured into the unknown scouring this "User Un-Friendly" site in hopes for a YES! moment. To my surprise there was none. Just a constant stream of CAPITALIZED Bolded and italicized words surrounded by exclamation points and mini stars icons attempting to catch my attention. Quite honestly, they did get my attention. Many of the post caught my eye.

Post example
Post example | Source

Especially post that promise: "2 BED APT in CHELSEA for $1,000!!!" I didn't even need a 2 bedroom apartment but it sound like a sweet deal to me.

Although they did catch my attention I was more curious as to why the post were displayed in that manner. I assumed it was because people are constantly posting so they want to be recognized. I was right. Not until I started working in Real Estate did I learn more. I worked as an agent in a Manhattan office on Park Ave. Soon I realized it wasn't the place for me. While there I learned a lot about different real estate marketing mediums.

That is where I grew my love/hate relationship with Craigslist.

3 Warning Signs

1. Lackluster Ads

There are thousands of Licensed Real Estate agents and brokers in the New York City area and even more people searching for apartments at any given time. Do to these facts there is heavy competition. You would think the information shared in my previous sentence would motivate agents/brokers to promote their property in a better fashion. But they don't because they know the average consumer isn't educated on the rental process or market.

There are too many pictures posted with the toilet seat up, dirty kitchens, blinds closed (without professional lighting) and taken at odd angles.

Descriptions that fail to accurately "paint the picture" of the current space conditions.

If an ad is poorly put together there is a high probability that the realtor, property manager or property owner is sloppy, unprofessional and careless.

2. Hidden Email addresses

Why hide your email address from people you intend to meet and do business with in the near future? The purpose of posting an rental ad is to attract potential tenants. Once you attract those potential tenants you plan to meet with them and show them the apartments. So why hide that simple and valuable information?

When I see the email not being revealed on the top of the post or not in the body of the ad its an automatic red flag.

I understand that in some cases people are worried about other people contacting them but the fact of the matter is they can still contact you. Also, 99% of brokerages provide their agents and brokers contact information on the company website. So there is no need to hide that information.

Hidden email address clearly means that the person doesn't want to be found. So don't respond. Save yourself time and money by trusting people who reveal their contact information. When working with people directly in businesses such as Real Estate I believe there needs to be a great amount of transparency.

3. Out of Date Posts

The issue is Out of Date post aren't easily identified. Actually its nearly impossible, unless you are the realtor who posts it. Sometime rental agents may use pictures from a previous listing to attract clients (which I will touch on a little later in the article).

In other cases, someone may be looking through Craigslist from top to bottom and land on a posting from a few weeks back. Craigslist doesn't delete post- it's a steady stream of post. Chances are that that apartment has already been closed (someone lives there now and will be living there for about 12 months).

When you are in the mist of your apartment search make sure to check it every few hours on a daily bases. Trust me - something new will be there.

Bait & Switch

The Bait and Switch is, as defined in wikipedia, a form of fraud used in retail sales but also employed in other contexts. First, customers are "baited" by merchants' advertising products or services at a low price, but when customers visit the store, they discover that the advertised goods are not available, or the customers are pressured by sales people to consider similar, but higher priced items ("switching").

You see? A realtor may post an apartment that is either old, taken from another site or closed to get the potential tenants attention. That's just the basic part of the baiting (put something attractive in front of the potential tenant). The next and final part is putting an attractive price on an attractive apartment.

So if you are familiar with New York apartments, if you've visited someone in the city or just have seen NYC apartments on TV, imagine then nicest one you've ever seen. Now picture that apartment next to an affordable price!

I imagine a 2 bedroom Loft in Soho for $2,000 monthly!

That would be awesome right?! Right. So then you click it and make an appointment to meet with whoever posted the ad. At this point you are excited to see this amazing apartment that is priced just for you. Once you get to the meeting the realtor hit you with this:

"Hey 'insert name here', nice to meet you. Unfortunately, the apartment we were supposed to see closed this morning, darn. But I do have an apartment listed for around the same price or one that looks just like the one we were scheduled to see"

Now that you are with them and you have time they can show you other apartments.

All the reasons I provide above are waring signs of the Ol' Bait & Switch. If the Bait & Switch wasn't so prominent in the online marketing of rental properties in NYC the 3 things listed above may not be so bad. But because this happens all the time we must be cautious.

In the realtors defense, there are times when the above situation happens and its not a trick. Sometime a realtor, property manager or property post apartments and they close in less than a week. It just so happens that you saw a post from a week ago. There are other cases when the realtor receives an open listing (which means anyone with a state real estate license can advertise the property) from the MLS ( Multiple Listing Service) and everything seems to be legit but the MLS didn't update the database. This is why its so tricky. You can't always be sure when this will happen but you can identify telling signs like poor picture quality, post older than 2 weeks and hidden emails.

Basically watch out for anything that's Too Good to be True

Alternative Resources

These are also great options to find apartments in NYC

All Craigslist's post aren't bad but it can be annoying to swim through all the post, especially if you aren't educated on the NYC market. Listed below are some search engines that will lead you to apartments in NYC as well as brokerages you can contact if you are looking for a solid realtor. Also, an eBook that can educate you on some way to find apartment in terms of planning and budgeting so you don't waste time or money... Cheers!

Search Engines and Real Estate Companies
Keller Willaims NYC
Bond Realty

What's your story?

Do you like using Craigslist?

Do you have a Craigslist horror story?

What do think about this article or the resources provided?

Leave a comment below. We'd love to hear from you :)

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