Is ‘Free Advertising’ Really Free?

Friday, April 4, 2014

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A variety of free-to-post classified and listing websites are scattered across the Internet. They are often seen as an ideal marketing platform for rental property owners, simply because they are free. But in the long run, is there an associated cost?

While these sites may be free, there are many disadvantages of marketing rental properties through free listing sites, which can become costly.

Property owners generate revenue from tenants – occupants don’t live rent-free. Likewise, premium advertising or listing websites charge for their specialty services. Let’s examine the differences between paid rental property listings versus free-to-post advertisements.

The first key difference is regulations and enforcement. Free-to-post sites often lack regulations, enforcement of rules and provide limited protection for users. Meanwhile, paid advertising sites typically have much stricter rule enforcement and employ staff to review each listing’s content before posting them online, to ensure that regulations are being abided by. Most free-to-post sites don’t implement an approval or review process for advertisements.

Another issue is quantity versus quality. While free-to-post sites may boast high levels of user traffic, the resulting respondents may not be in the advertiser’s desired demographic market. Property owners may receive many ad viewings or inquiries from free-to-post sites, but will they be productive leads with serious renters? With paid advertising sites, there is a much higher probability of finding quality tenants, retaining occupants longer, reducing damage costs, and reaching your targeted market of renters.

Time is a precious commodity. The process of closing a deal can be much more time consuming with prospects received from free-to-post sites, as these prospects would not be prescreened.  Property owners may get hundreds of inquiries, but the time required to sort through them and find suitable or qualified renters would be substantial.

Property owners who advertise on free-to-post sites may also experience more frustration by dealing with tenants who want to barter and negotiate cheaper rental rates. Users of these sites often think that rental rates are open to one-way negotiation – for cheaper rental rates. Bartering tends to be less common with paid listing websites.


Perhaps the largest problem with free-to-post sites is that they are regularly cluttered with many ads and seemingly full of duplicate listings for the same rental property. Why does this happen? Property owners want their advertisement to receive as much exposure as possible, and it doesn’t cost them to post duplicate ads. This can be very frustrating for the users searching for accommodations and make it difficult to track the advertisements they’ve already viewed. Paid advertising sites rarely have repeat listings and often offer sorting tools for users, in order to simplify their search process.

Another important consideration is the availability of live customer support. With free-to-post sites, there tends to be limited customer service available. On the other hand, paid listing services commonly employ a team to provide customer service to property owners and users. This immediate assistance alone can be considered a worthwhile reason to pay an advertising fee. After all, time is money!

Lastly, the frequency of encountering online scams is much more prevalent with free-to-post sites. These sites tend not to implement the same security measures as paid listing websites or have the same prescreening methods, as previously mentioned. When potential scammers are not required to pay to post ads, fraudulent advertisements become more rampant.

In the long run, many of these issues can develop into lost revenue or increased costs for property owners. It is critical to market properties effectively, find reliable tenants and keep units filled year round in this competitive rental market.  To protect their valuable investments and secure leases quickly, it seems worthwhile for property owners to pay a minimal listing fee to advertise on a success website.


Advertise your rentals on and get results – quality tenants! 

The Team