Craigslist has quietly changed its fees for apartment rentals, adding new charges in Boston and Chicago and significantly expanding them throughout the New York metropolitan area. At the same time, it also cut the fee for posting apartments in New York from $10 to $5.
The fees are nominal — $5 for apartment listings in Boston and Chicago. Surprisingly, Craigslist did not add fees in San Francisco, Los Angeles or other major metro areas (Washington D.C., Seattle, Miami) where the rental market was extraordinarily hot before the coronavirus pandemic.
The site generated an estimated $760 million in revenue in 2019, down from $1.03 billion in 2018. Although it is a dot-org site and often thought of as a not-for-profit company, it’s privately owned by founder Craig Newmark and CEO Jim Buckmaster and is believed to operate at profit margins of 80 to 90 percent.
In New York, the change is likely to lead to significant revenue increases. Until this rate change, the only fee for apartments in New York City was $10 per listing for brokers-listed properties. When that charge was added in 2006, Newmark said it was designed to be fair to all. The fee was highly effective at reducing multiple posts, spam and scam ads, which were epidemic before the site began requiring a credit card payment. Now the fee is just $5 — but it’s applied to all listings, whether by broker, landlord or individual, in the New York metro area. The charges will likely lead to tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue annually for the company.. The fee applies in all five boroughs of New York City, plus listings in Westchester County (to the north), Long Island (to the east), Fairfield County, Conn. (northeast near suburbs), and some parts of New Jersey.
In an ironic twist, on some of those, the fee is only applied to certain ads. And it can depend on how users post an ad. Posting an ad in Westchester County brings up a $5 fee. Rye, N.Y., within Westchester, also $5. But try to post in Yonkers, N.Y., another close-in suburb in Westchester, and there’s no fee. Ditto for Stamford, Conn., within Fairfield County; Amagansett and Westhampton, N.Y., both in the tony Hamptons (and in the New York metro), and others: No fee. But post Westhampton and Amagansett as “Long Island” listings, and they’re charged. Just a glitch, but a curious one.
The new charges were not directly announced, as is common with Craigslist. So we can’t tell exactly when they were imposed. But they weren’t in effect last November, when we did our last in-depth analysis of Craigslist fees.
We asked Craigslist when the fees went into effect and what the rationale was; we haven’t heard back.
For apartment listings in New York City, Craigslist competes with Streeteasy.com, owned by Zillow; Zumper.com, and Apartments.com, owned by CoStar Group. In addition to apartment rental fees in the three markets, it charges $5 per commercial and office rental listings throughout the United States.