The inception of the Internet in the 1990’s revolutionized buying, selling, and renting. Real estate rentals were especially impacted by the creation of sites such as Craigslist and Facebook. In recent years, Facebook Marketplace has overtaken Craigslist as the dominant platform for rental transactions.
Before the advent of Facebook Marketplace, most rental transactions took place over Craigslist. The site was started in 1995 for posting classified ads specific to certain categories and geographic areas. Anyone looking to buy or rent a house could search “Homes for Sale” or “Homes for Rent” in a desired city, find something in their budget, and connect with the seller. Both parties would contact each other directly to arrange the details of the deal, although Craigslist allows a user to create a Craigslist email so their real one is not revealed. (The Craigslist email will automatically forward any correspondence to the real one, though. This was designed to prevent a seller from receiving excessive unsolicited email directly to a personal account. As soon as the ad was taken down from the Craigslist site, the poster would not have to worry about spam emails or other unwanted communication related to Craigslist.) The parties would arrange to meet, advisably in a public place since neither usually knew much about the other, to sign required paperwork or work out any other details that could not be attended to online.
Facebook Marketplace was created in 2016 to compete with Craigslist as a site to let people get rid of (or buy) virtually anything. It marked the expansion of the already existing buy/sell groups allowing people in a certain area or niche market to contact each other in cyberspace to browse or post available items. In November 2017, Facebook announced the addition of rental properties (as part of a partnership with Apartment List and Zumper) to Facebook Marketplace.
Since then, Facebook Marketplace has become more popular than Craigslist for several reasons:
- More Users: First, it has more users (2.3 billion vs. 60 million), which increases the odds of finding the right buyer or seller.
- Valid Profiles: Another major advantage of Facebook Marketplace is the ability for both buyers and sellers to investigate each other through Facebook profiles before striking a deal. Craigslist allows and even facilitates total anonymity by allowing anyone (with or without a Craigslist account) to post on the site, while on Facebook Marketplace, a buyer or seller account is linked to the user’s Facebook profile. This gives the other party the ability to have much more insight into their potential transaction partner (what they look like, the kinds of things they share with the world through their profile, how long their profile has been up- it may be a red flag if the profile was created just before the sale posting) and allows him or her to make an informed decision as to whether or not they actually want to go through with the deal. Sometimes the two parties will even have mutual friends through Facebook.
- Stronger Verification: Facebook’s verification process also ensures that every posting is real, a huge advantage over Craigslist, where scams abound.
- Instant Message: Facebook Marketplace allows buyers and sellers to use Messenger to communicate instead of requiring them to exchange phone numbers or email addresses. (This is like the Craigslist email feature, but since a user is linked to a profile, it makes the entire process seem less shady.)
- Mobile App: Since Facebook is newer than Craigslist, Facebook also has a mobile app which makes it much easier to create or browse listings (or view/upload photos) on a mobile phone. Since many people nowadays have one, this can potentially make the buying and selling process much quicker.
- Expire Only when You’re Done: Another pitfall of Craigslist is the need to update the ad daily for maximum exposure. After seven days, it will automatically expire, requiring the seller to create a new one if their item is still unsold. One advantage of this is that it makes it easier to modify an ad to find the right buyer (and there is a lower chance of annoying inquiries into a no-longer featured product), but this is still very time-consuming. Marketplace, meanwhile, will leave an item posting up until the seller removes it. There is also a “Renew” option allowing sellers to maximize exposure on a weekly basis, up to five times.
- Rate the Transaction: Facebook Marketplace does not allow buyers or sellers to rate transactions (as do eBay and Amazon).
This is not to say that Facebook Marketplace is completely without its issues. It has no return policy or remedy for disparities between descriptions and actual products. However, it has recently become the platform of choice for many real estate transactions.
The Internet has led to many innovations in buying and selling homes, including Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Facebook Marketplace has managed to improve on several of Craigslist’s features, allowing it to dominate as the platform of choice for many renters.