Craigslist, the popular Web site where folks from around the world find used sofas, second jobs, cheap housing and new soul mates, is starting to ask for money for a spot on its busiest pages.
This week, it's New York City apartment brokers who are being told that a listing fee is on its way. Later this year, Washington area employers may be asked to cough up some money for an ad on the region's job listings page.
It's an out-of-character move for the site, which is best known for allowing users to post their ads free of charge. But it's the users who begged the site operators to do something about the number of repeat listings on the site.
Starting March 1, a $10 fee will be imposed for listings in New York with hopes of deterring the brokers who list the same apartment several times in a single day, Craigslist Inc. chief executive Jim Buckmaster said. There are no plans to impose fees for real estate listings in other cities.
Playing the listing game
In the highly charged, competitive real estate market of New York, the site has become a victim of its own success. Its simple interface gives the newest listings the most prominent spot, prompting some brokers to re-post the same listings several times a day to ensure that theirs were the first ones that home-seekers encounter.
As a result, the site gets 600,000 listings for real estate in New York per month; by instituting a fee, Craigslist hopes to cut that number by 90 percent.
"We've had requests for a long time to make a change like this," Buckmaster said, adding that there are no plans to charge for similar listings in other cities. "New York, and particularly Manhattan, is, in our experience, completely unique."
Craigslist executives have also had similar concerns about its job listings pages, prompting a fee for postings in select cities. A job ad in New York and Los Angeles is priced at $25, while a user who posts a job in the San Francisco region pays $75.
In addition to Washington, job listings in San Diego, Boston and Seattle are being considered for a possible fee later this year.
Users receptive to fees
Craigslist's city-specific Web sites get 3 billion page views and are visited by 10 million viewers every month, the company said. On Craigslist forums debating the issue yesterday, many apartment seekers in New York indicated they were in favor of the fee.
"Please charge for listings. Please!!" wrote one respondent. "I'm tired of seeing the same apartment listed by the same person four times in the same day."
In Washington, some real estate agents were unsure if they would continue to use the site if a fee were imposed for local listings.
"We get a lot of activity from Craigslist," said Washington agent Tom Drury, who puts his listings on the site. "I wouldn't have any problem with" a nominal fee.
But Tony Hain, a Washington agent who also uses the site, said the bigger problem for Craigslist users is the lack of a good search mechanism.
Though he posts his listings there now, he might reconsider if there were a charge. "If it's really going down at the bottom of the list, it may be throwing money away," he said.