How not to respond to a DC Craigslist housing ad

All in all, I received over 100 responses to my Craigslist ad. I couldn’t have gotten more inquiries if I’d posted a barenaked snapshot in the “casual encounters” section. But I wasn’t peddling a slippery, grunty night of carnal escapism – I was just trying to rent out my apartment.

I am vacating my place, and I agreed to write the ad for it and help my roommate find a suitable replacement. (Whoever it is has some big shoes to fill – I mean this literally, as I wear a Size 10.)  Sure, I knew we pay low rent for Columbia Heights. I also knew that the rental market in this city is tighter than the pencil skirt in the back of my closet I will never squeeze into, but keep just in case I am ever a victim of famine. Still, I was unprepared for the barrage of hopeful e-mails. This is the first time I have been on this side of a Craigslist rental – and I learned a few things about humanity in the process.

Out of 100 total responses, I probably nixed 20 right off the bat. Out of the 80 I forwarded my roommate (who is remaining in the apartment,) perhaps 25 received invitations to our “open house.” Out of those, perhaps 13 showed up. Of them, five expressed strong interest. Of the five, we received three applications, and my roommate selected the new tenant based on personality preference and dowry size. (Note: many people do pay wee-to-moderate apartment bribes in DC. My roommate and I aren’t necessarily above this, but we are too awkward to know how to facilitate it. So this was clean, bro.)

I have been exposed to the kook, desperation, eccentricity, try-too-hardery and general outrageousness of strangers. I somewhat sympathize – I have flown my own cyber-freak-flag in search of Craigslist roommates. As a public service, I am providing to you the fruits of my wisdom from experience. Here are some tips for those looking to woo the inaccessible internet overlords who determine your apartment fate based on a single e-mail.

Do not request special favors
This will sound harsh, but in a competitive rental market, you needs to play by my rules. We all jump through hoops as DC renters – and some are higher and narrower than others. Some hoops are so ridiculous that your hips get caught on the way out and you wiggle and thrash in the air trying to get through. It’s a fact of life, and you can’t change it single-handedly by asking me to make exceptions for you. I was swimming in a pile of 100 e-mails written by would-be tenants. So, no – I won’t take extra photos and answer your wildly detailed questionnaire. And I certainly won’t pay an extra month’s rent to accommodate your preferred move-in date. And I won’t take you on a Skype tour of the place, or hold the room for you until you return from France. And I won’t take a rent check sight unseen before we’ve met. In fact, I am already mad at you because of the undue exertion your ass-hattery has forced out of my finger muscles in clicking ‘delete’ after skimming your e-mail. Not to mention the effort of typing out this post. If you expect me to pay for the rent until you get here, do you also expect me to spring for the squishy wrist pad under my keyboard to avoid carpal tunnel while properly addressing your shenanigans?

If the ad is looking for a roommate, do not expect to be accompanied by another living creature
This includes pets and significant others. Some people may think that any given animal would make a worthy roommate, but plenty more do not. So many responses casually mentioned something like, “I’ll be moving in with my dog. He’s only 50 lbs and sooooo friendly!” I am no animal hater, but the idea of living with a random person’s random pet is abominable. Your pets are like your children – of course you unconditionally love them, but other people are under no such obligation. And, like children, if I wanted a pet, I would get pregnant and give birth to one (whoops! I suppose that every analogy had its limits!) Generally, this is one of the reasons I’m not currently tied down by a domesticated animal that depends on me to live – in the next few years, I plan on moving a lot. Why did you get a dog if you thought your housing search might lead you toward Craigslist? Still other people asked if we’d rent the room to a couple, and not just one person...BLECH. First off, even if two people occupy one bedroom, they still take up more than one person’s share of an apartment – everyone now splits a bathroom, a living room, a kitchen and storage space in three. And who in the Milky Way would want to live with a couple they don’t even know? Did someone dip my chicken wings in crazy sauce?! Am I the only one who feels this way? Get outta my inbox, punks.

Look for a roommate, not a murder victim or soulmate
Whilst writing an e-mail to a potential roommate, do your best to toe the line between serial killer and date seeker. Some people wrote e-mails barely a sentence long, including only a first name and phone number. Of even more concern, these e-mails typically contained no punctuation. Um, is the hockey mask you’re wearing blocking your view of the shift key? Would a single personal detail betray your identity as the Zodiac Killer? A super brief message might suffice if you’re writing to a landlord or property manager, but a potential roommate deserves a bit more information. This does not, however, mean that you should copy and paste your OkCupid profile into the body of your message. My ad sought a quiet, easygoing roommate – don’t drench me with your personality just yet, Jazz Hands. Save it for Show(ing)time.

These tips should help you get invited to see the place. After that, you’ll need to rely on your personality and credit score. Go charm some pants off, tiger.

– Natalie

About Natalie Shure

literature, life and latte lady

103 Responses to “How not to respond to a DC Craigslist housing ad”

  1. You might be one of my new favorite authors

  2. Hahaha!!! “Look for a roommate, not a murder victim or soul mate”! <— this whole paragraph was absolutely hilarious. Except for the part about Jazz Hands…because that's something I look for in a potential soul mate… 😉

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! This was a fantastic post!

  3. haha!! I have definitely got some odd responses to ads I have posted on craigslist, and they were for trivial little things!!

    Love the “looking for a rommate, bot murder victim or soul mate” I guess some people feel that love can happen in the darndest of moments / places and seek any opportunity to bridge that connection! 😉

  4. Hahahahaha!!!! Awesome!! Congrats on FP!!!

  5. It’s alarming to realize that there may be a “virtual” activity that brings out more crazies that online dating. I had more than my FAIR SHARE of odd experiences during that ordeal…but your experiences? Perhaps crazier…

    Great post!


  6. I really am afraid 🙂 LOL

  7. This is awesome. I just listed a space in Boston and could add a few: “I know you said it’s furnished but could you move the furniture out for us” “I would like to rent your place but I want it only for a couple of months and would like to put a satellite dish on your roof” or my favorite “I’m thinking of divorcing my husband. Should I decide to divorce him I am interested in your apartment as I will be leaving everything I own. Kindly let me know if this will work…”
    Thanks for the great post.

  8. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! I work in the rental industry in Colorado and it is amazing what people will ask for! I help property owners find suitable tenants in an also very tight rental market and some people will ask if they can skip the deposit, bring their chickens, or if it’s okay that they have a long criminal record. Getting a rental right now is like interviewing for the job and you better be the best candidate!

  9. I’m a landlord and believe me, there are enough really odd people out there that I prefer to let an agency manage the property, find new tenants and vet them! 🙂

    I like your strategy though.

  10. I’ve been that guy that asked for a place to stay as a couple, and with the super-friendly dog – who wasn’t really super friendly, and occasionally tried to bleed dry the landlord’s own unruly dog.


    I’ll keep this in mind next time I go desperately craigslisting for a place to crash. thanks.

  11. One more reason on my list to not find a roommate on Craig’s List. Thank you. Very funny.

  12. Ha! This was all too much of a rude awakening, as I’ve been looking for a new place via Craigslist. Oh how I’d prefer to be on the other end. With all the power.

  13. I had a friend recently ask me to review her email to a potential roommate and I told her she sounded like a serial killer – your post has already been forwarded to her for her to get a grip on her emails 🙂

    Great great post- you are hysterical to read!

  14. Craigslist is a strange world. I recently sold an item to a perfectly normal set of grandparents, and I felt lucky to have them as buyers, considering the other responses I got.

  15. Sooo sending that email with the naked pics attached is why I wasn’t invited to the open house? :-p

  16. hilarious and helpful! i once placed an ad for an i-pod, and it was like a drop of blood in shark infested waters. people swarmed. and you’re right, any weird stuff or special requests took them right off the list. thanks for sharing!

  17. I’m seriously going through the same thing right now and was debating writing a post on it then saw yours haha. Great post and totally agree (and back up) everything

  18. This was fantastic. I saw it on freshly-pressed and just had to read it, considering I just wrote a post on apartment hunting on Craigslist. I haven’t been on your end yet, but I think you nailed it.

  19. This post was wildly entertaining! Thank you. Maybe I’ll add “Don’t look for a girlfriend on rental advertisements” to my latest post (Awkward School for Adults). You’re a very witty writer! I deal with the DC area crazies as well.

  20. Having done the Craigslist thing in NYC, on MULTIPLE occasions, I totally feel your pain and am glad that your system worked out so well for you. My very first blog post was about apartment hunting in NYC on CL and to say it’s daunting is the understatement of the year.

    Bravo on getting Freshly Pressed – really enjoyed your well written post!

  21. Haha ‘toe the line between serial killer and date seeker’. For some people it seems to be a very very thin line….I’m amazed at how many people are clueless as to their own creepy-vibes

  22. critters and crayons Reply 2011/08/19 at 2:49 pm

    I enjoyed this! I’m forwarding to my sis, Angie Goff, who is with News 9 there! I bet she’d crack up!

  23. LOL, great post.
    That is what happens when you are exposed to humanity. You will never be the same.

  24. I’ve never posted nor answered an ad from Craigslist so I’ll have to take your word for all this. I’ve also never rented an apartment. I found this useful and hilarious all the same and because of that I think I’m going to subscribe. You don’t need to reciprocate if you don’t want too ^_^.

    I think my favourite line was this one: “Did someone dip my chicken wings in crazy sauce?!” Nice.

  25. Check out this craigslist post from a man looking for roommates in San Francisco. Hilarious.

  26. As someone recently forced to seek housing in a remote location having a tight rental market, I have some retorts from a prospective tenant perspective. They’re not necessarily pertinent to your example of seeking a new roomie, but are applicable to those posting housing ads in general:

    If you are asked by me for additional photos, it’s not necessarily because I’m trying to be an asshat. Your photos are my eyes, especially when I’m contacting you from nearly 2,000 miles away. For God’s sake, turn off your damn wide-angle lens too (or at least dial it down). It’s irritating to arrive at the property only to find an expansive-appearing room in your photograph is really the size of a storage closet. Photograph *every* room to which I, the tenant, would have access. I *want* to see your kitchen, the bedrooms, the bathrooms, et al. If I don’t, I will presume something is wrong with them – either they’re in poor condition or microscopic.

    My wildly detailed questionnaire is my only way to ascertain whether the property has the features we’re seeking and whether we can make it work for us. Perhaps you should have been more detailed in your description. Be honest when writing it. Don’t say your “efficient” galley-style kitchen is large simply because it has an eat-in area. Some people measure kitchen size by prep area.

    If you don’t want pets, *say so* in your ad. Is that so hard? (You’d be surprised how many landlords fail to address this off the bat in their ads.)

    Do not advertise your property as a house if it is subdivided into multiple dwellings. Don’t respond to my ad seeking a single-family *house* if you’re trying to fill a vacancy in a sub-divided house. It might look like a house, it might be in a house, but it’s not a house. You’re trying to stuff someone seeking a single-family house into a *duplex* or apartment suite.

    Likewise, if you’re renting out a place, you shouldn’t expect tenants to have to share the property with *your* storage facility. I don’t want to hear that rental of your house doesn’t include the photographed garage or storage shed in back.

    Don’t expect me to make a special trip of 2,000 miles to see you and your place when I say I’m calling from across the continent. You’ll have to deal with my agent and my references. If simply across town, I’ll be happy to meet you.

  27. Haha. Love the part about the ski mask blocking the view of the space bar. 🙂

  28. Like your post. Love your attitude. Thanks for this; you entertained me mightily in my house in the suburbs of another major metropolitan area….sigh.

  29. This was absolutely spot on hilarious. I have not had to deal with Craigslist in years, but when I was living in Los Angeles, I think I met every bit part actor in the city just by selling a halfway decent pain of stereo speakers on Craigslist.
    Oh, and don’t get me started on the ones who thought it was okay to drop by sometime after midnight to “check them out.”

    Hilarious, and congrats on FP.

  30. And I thought my OKCupid profile would really help:

  31. Entertaining! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. This brought to surface and old memory of when I was young, single, & LOOKING for a place to live.

    I went to see a place that sounded good…and the guy renting the place spent the whole tour saying things like, “I sure would’ve hated to be Ted Bundy’s twin brother. Hey – you know you are EXACTLY the sort of woman Ted Bundy targeted…Yep, he liked his victoms…petite…brunette….”

    Two days later, he called and asked me on a date. Um, dude…looking for a place to LIVE here, not a place to DIE.

  32. Ha! Great read, and congrats on the fp!

  33. Say if you could give birth to something out of the ordinary, you could live anywhere you want 😉

  34. Love the post….congrats on being Freshly Pressed. Hope the roommate’s roommate works out.

  35. I’ve been the couple searching for a share house, It’s pretty crappy to hear the other side, because you’re only looking to share because you dont have enough cash to rent on your own. Still, i can understand the perspective. It doesnt make it any less crap.

  36. Been there, done that. Ew. Ha 🙂

  37. Great sense of humor. Love it.

  38. It’s alarming to realize that there may be a “virtual” activity that brings out more crazies that online dating.
    I agree with it

  39. You had me laughing so hard! Yes there are lot of crazies out there! Good thing you are so cynical. Hope your choice works out.

  40. Love this! Thanks for making me laugh.

  41. Congrats for being freshly pressed!

  42. great job. I always check this blog, I am very impressed! Very useful information, especially the last part I have this information it is seeking care for a very long, I wish you good luck for specific information

  43. Interesting,Congrats for being freshly pressed!

  44. Renting a room looks like an excellent opportunity to study humanity. It’s scary what you’ll find. Great post!

  45. As a veteran of about 50 share houses and infinitely more flatmates, I can say you’ve hit the nail on the head!

  46. malirikikualan Reply 2011/08/20 at 7:52 am

    Helloo Friend, Who are u to day…??

  47. Elizabeth Dignam Reply 2011/08/20 at 10:16 am

    Maybe you should have considered this guy:
    His ad is hilarious, unfortunately I had a roommate in college with a personality matching his “I’m so awesome, it’s amazing” attitude… Funny on paper, not so much in person!

  48. A DC metro resident who has used the craigslist housing section (always in desperation), I thouroughly enjoyed this.

  49. “I practice magic and witchcraft. Will the neighbors care?”

  50. lol, I love it! I’m a landlord and deal with the same types of headaches – I x-posted you on my blog. 🙂

  51. Great writing. Craigslist is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. You need preparation, stamina and a sense of humor.

  52. Great post! Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  53. “knew that the rental market in this city is tighter than the pencil skirt in the back of my closet I will never squeeze into, but keep just in case I am ever a victim of famine. ”

    That was funny seeing that I have a few things myself I just don’t want to let go 🙂 I have recently experienced craigslist and all it’s craziness getting rid of some furniture. Not sure I will use it again.

  54. I love reasonable reactions to Craigslist.

  55. Did it ever occur to you that perhaps you ad wasn’t thorough or clear enough? If people are emailing you about bringing their pets, perhaps you should have said “no pets” in the ad?

  56. Funny post. I’d rather pick a roommate from a list of people about to get out of prison than Craigslist. I wonder if the special requesters act that way in every area of commerce? “Yes, I want to buy this shirt, but I want you to dye it a different color first. Then fix me a sandwich.”

  57. People’s negative attitudes towards pets is why I now just have an imaginary pet springer spaniel called Jeremy.

    Despite having made this concession finding a room has remained just as difficult. In fact if anything it’s gotten even harder.

  58. Brilliantly funny! Really livened my day up at work thanks 🙂

  59. Broads on a beltway….Love the Washington Monument Pic. I was thinking Brooklyn & BQE..

    Nice Post

    spread the

  60. Very, very funny! Thanks for sharing and Congrats on being Freshly Pressed–well deserved! Good luck to your roommate!

  61. Your chicken wings didn’t get the crazy sauce, you’re not the only one who feels this way, and the roomate-seeking couple’s escort out of your inbox was duly appropriate. Here’s hoping that single, sane person you found loves to do the dishes.

  62. That is soo true about the pets. I’ve 4 rentals in FL and I’ve never had a potential tenant tell me there dog was a biter. It’s always how nice and friendly they are.

  63. Very, very true! 😀

  64. “Of even more concern, these e-mails typically contained no punctuation. Um, is the hockey mask you’re wearing blocking your view of the shift key?” The coffee in my mouth litterally burst out with the escaping laughter. This was marvelous, and completely true. Also, theres a whole other playing field; the potential roomate. All the shit you go through while looking at open houses, whether it be a bug infested house with a creeper eye patch landlord, or a crazy cat lady roomate, being the one looking has all sorts of troubles along the way as well.

    Anyways, kudos.

  65. Wow. This took me back to apartment hunting on DC’s craigslist in uncomfortable ways. I once interviewed for an apartment and was told that if I watched the guy’s dog when he was out of town and helped with OTHER things (he wink-winked, eye brow raise-raised) then we could talk about me not paying towards utilities. Yuck. Pass.
    Anyway- great read and congrats on being FP’d!

  66. HAHAHA, wow, so classic. There’s a lot of filtering to do with Craigslist I guess

  67. Well written, so fun and funny. And yet you get your point across. Except for the fact that I am a homeowner, a happily married mother of three (AND a dog-hater), I will do a MUCH better job of responding to ads on Craigslist, should the need ever arise. And if not, at least I’m enlightened to what you need to put up with!

  68. As someone ELSE looking for an apartment (and really would like a house-share) I have to agree with some of these! I can’t count the number of CL ads I’ve looked at where the prospective landlord sounded like a serial killer or a date seeker (works from both sides, I guess?). Incredibly brief description of the place, no pictures, no details.

    My partner and I are moving with our cage of finches across the country, and unfortunately I can’t really leave either of them behind for the sake of making life easier for a potential roommate. So when I email people, I’m very up-front about who I am and what I’m looking for.

  69. Loved this post, very funny 🙂 Sounds a lot like you posted a ‘crazies wanted’ advert, not a housing ad! Pity your poor ex-roomate, at least you don’t have to live with the repercussions of a possibly bad choice…this time….(cue psycho music…)

  70. Well played… well played.

  71. These kind of post are always inspiring and I prefer to read quality content so I happy to find many good point here in the post.

  72. IS THE ROOM still available? Can you hold it for me until October? Can I bring my son? Heh.

  73. I hear you. I wouldn’t consider living with someone I didn’t know. I had a boyfriend’s friend board with me once and she brought a rat with her, then got angry that my cats were circling like buzzards. They were there first! I have a rule, if I am there first, its my rules. If you don’t like them, live elsewhere. No significant others “staying over” and no noise. If I want doof doof doof doof I’ll put on my own tasteless trashbag music. Don’t come home late and wake me up and pay your goddamned bills on time every time. Besides 20 somethings are out. I’d want someone older, employed and quiet!

  74. How long did it take for you to sort through all of those emails?

    • Alan, luckily it was my roommate’s job to actually sort through them and decide which she even wanted to dignify with a reply. I did read all of them, though…and over the course of several days, I’d say I dedicated several hours to the effort.

  75. Nice post, I love it, so classic! I hope your blog will be more exciting like this. Thanks.

  76. Loved this post.

    I live in Canada so I don’t use Craig’s List but I do use something similar, Kijiji, all the time. It’s amazing to me how many people contact me because they HAVE to have what I’m selling so save it for them, they’ll be right over … then they never show up.

    I also teach guitar and have ads on Kijiji. I’ve had several people in the last few weeks set up a lesson with me then don’t show up. They don’t respond to my follow-up emails either.

    Folks, if you change your mind, just e me. It’s okay if you can’t make it but don’t leave me here with a half hour block of empty time just because you had to stay home and clean your cat’s litter box.

    Thanks for letting me vent. My therapist mourns the loss of income.

  77. Thanks for the laugh and the realness I’ve brought several items off craigslist and I’ve never had any bad experiences. I often recommend craigslist to other ppl who in turn have had bad experiences but I always thought that they were perhaps the problem. Probably low bidding and constantly wanting “hook ups” (I’m sure you were hit with those request). Thanks for sharing from the sellers end.

  78. Haha, I’ll def. keep this in my mind when I’m gonna respond an add once, even though I think I never would have said those kind of things xD

  79. realanonymousgirl2011 Reply 2011/09/07 at 1:57 am

    Ha ha! Great! I must admit people ask for some pretty ridiculous things. I loved that someone asked for a Skype tour. I’ve worked at Starbucks and have heard some ridiculous requests so I can only imagine what potential roommates would want.

  80. Thanks for sharing this very good piece. Very inspiring! (as always, btw)

  81. ’ve never had any bad experiences. I often recommend craigslist to other

  82. Hi I agree with most of the things you mentioned, I think you are smart to recognize the complexity of renting but sometime you sounded a bit conceded ( I guess that’s who u are) …I guess I would be too if my writing skills were as good as yours .

  83. Nat,
    Best article ever. I’m in love with you. You are my soulmate. Now if I could just get rid of that pesky roommate of mine and his giant dog so we could be alone ( you know, no witnesses).

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