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.