Thursday, June 7, 2012

Searching for a place to live sucks: here are some tips for people renting

So recently I've been looking for a place to live, as my landlord is selling the house where I currently reside. This means asking friends and keeping my ears open, but mostly browsing Craigslist. Looking for a place to live on Craigslist has been a pretty frustrating experience, and I have some tips if you are renting your place, both to help future renters and maybe make it easier on yourself, too.
  • Number one, please be specific about where the place is. It's nice to have the actual address, but if you aren't comfortable with that, at least put cross streets or the block (1100 block of Kenyon or whatever.) It's almost like people don't want responses: "Washington, DC" is not helpful at all. Too many times I've gone back and forth with the person in the ad, only to learn the place is at 5th and Rock Creek Church or something farther away than I'm looking, and then we both wasted our time.
  • Also, please get familiar with where the neighborhoods generally are. I know Columbia Heights is a hip place and people want to be here (which itself is a pretty cool and interesting thing,) but there is no such thing as "Columbia Heights North" like this culprit says. Or if there is, 14th and Montague certainly isn't it. It's barely even Petworth. I wouldn't consider 14th and Shepherd to be Columbia Heights either, like in  this ad. (I mean, just look at the Google Map in the ad, it's on top of the "Petworth" word.) I know there is some debate about where the boundaries are (just see all my posts on the subject), but at least get close. If you're north of Spring Road or west of 16th Street, you are probably not Columbia Heights. Plus to me putting driving time rather than walking is sneaky, like an ad in Takoma that says it's 10 minutes from Columbia Heights.
  • Unless you want to get tons of emails asking you, put all the details in there -- how many people live there, how big the room is, how many bedrooms and bathrooms, and so on. Then again, if the ad is super terse and makes no sense, that probably means a renter should avoid it. A corollary to that is don't write a ridiculously long survey for people to fill out, I've seen a few of those. Most reasonable folks probably won't want to do it, so you are filtering out people you'd probably like.
  • This one is kind of anathema to how DC seems to operate for housing, but posting ahead of time is always good. It's crazy how many places I see where the lease starts the next day so they want an answer immediately. I don't know if people wait too long before posting the ad or what, but it seems to be that it'd be much easier and less stressful if you post the ad a few months before (assuming you know in advance, of course) and then getting people locked in early.
If you have any tips for people posting ads, or for those looking, post them in the comments.


  1. Try padmapper. It works wonders for craigslist

  2. Try It's a brand new site that pulls from Craigslist and gives you maps of available places and can be sorted by rent. Pictures show up when you click on the spot too. It's incredibly helpful and how I found my new spot. Good luck everyone.


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