I’ve moved in with people that I’ve met from Craigslist. I’ve done it, I’ve lived it and I’ve loved it. I’m sure you’ve heard a few horror stories but I am here to tell you that a positive Craigslist living experience is possible!
A little background about me – I’ve chosen the ultra glamorous life of working in non-profit since I graduated college. While I love the NPO life, it has put me on a strict budget in LA and I haven’t been able to afford my own place. In 2013, I found my first Clist sublet room in Altadena (a suburb about 30 minutes east of Downtown LA) where I lived for about six months. After Altadena, I rented another Craigslist apartment with a friend in Silverlake. I got a promotion quickly after moving to Silverlake and ended up moving to Oakland (surprise, surprise another Craigslist apartment) for a little over a year. Fast forward to present day and I am back in the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles.
After moving back to LA, I decided to settle down in Santa Monica. Most of my friends live in Silverlake and the divide between the Westside and the Eastside is real….like really real. So real that my friends won’t cross the 405 between the hours of 2:30pm and 9:00pm. If I wanted to live on the Westside, my only option was to return to my dear friend Craigslist and find an apartment with random roommates. Here are a couple of things that helped me decide which room to choose and which to avoid.
Find Your Neighborhood
Do your research! Narrow down which areas you want to live in and then zone in on specific neighborhoods you are serious about. In a city like LA, it can be really easy to convince yourself that you can make a commute from DTLA to Culver City work because you found the perfect apartment with views for days. Make sure to weigh all of your options (traffic, traffic, traffic) and be really clear about what you are looking for in your rooming situation. The foundation for your apartment search should be your neighborhood and budget.
Set Your Price Point & Stick to It
Have you seen what you can rent for $5,000 a month in Santa Monica? Hint – it’s gorgeous, right on the water and you’ll convince yourself that somehow you can make it work. “I’ll take on a 2nd, 3rd, 20th job. Ocean views – how could I say no!?” It is a dangerous game to play.
Take a look at your paycheck for the month. Try to max your rent budget at 30 – 40% of your total monthly take home and make sure to set your search limit within that budget. Your future self with thank you.
If It’s Too Good of a Deal, It’s Probably Because It’s Fake
$600 featuring puppies + parking + male models + free alcohol + an 800 square foot room. (Okay that might be a bit overboard but your get it.) If it looks too good to be true there are a couple of tricks that will help you figure out if it’s legit or not. First tip, look at the e-mail that people are using for responses. On Craigslist, I’ve seen that people will either mask their e-mails or use a property manager’s e-mail. If the response email isn’t one of those two options, be wary. Second tip, always search for apartments with images. Reverse Google imaging was made for catfishers and Craigslist! Use reverse Google images to see if the photos posted are stock images or authentic. That being said, there are some gems on Craigslist, you just need to be vigilant in vetting through the spam.
Crafting the Perfect E-Mail
Once you’ve found a couple of apartments that fit your checklist, start reaching out to the postings via e-mail. Keep your emails short, simple and clear.
The perfect Clist e-mail:
- Name + age + profession + hobbies = first paragraph.
- Social media links (LinkedIn – show them you are employed, Instagram or Facebook– show them you have a real life) = second paragraph.
- Requesting a general time to see the apartment + thanking them for consideration = final paragraph.
- Name + contact info = signature.
Don’t Develop Apartment Crushes
It’s hard, I know. You see the perfect apartment, craft an amazing e-mail and….wait…to… hear…back. Some (most) of the time you won’t! You have to keep pushing through and believe that the right place will come along.
That Perfect Meeting
Once you do hear from a potential place, they will schedule a time to meet with and interview you. Treat this like any other interview: be on time, dress well and do your best to make the conversation on-topic but friendly. Always tell a friend where you are going – address and everything. I forwarded all of my Clist e-mails to my boyfriend so he had a record. These meetings should only last about 10 minutes and make sure to check-in with someone before and after. If you are worried about seeing a place, it’s ok to bring a friend!
It Might Take Time
I agree with you, you’d be a fabulous roommate! But know it may take a couple of weeks or months to find the right place. Here in LA, the Craigslist market is intense. I once went to view a place and another girl looking at the apartment brought wine, cheese and crackers because the ad mentioned the roommates like wine night. Wowzas. You might not get the first, fifth or tenth place you view but keep your options open and keep looking for apartments. The right place will come along.
Know Your Lease and Figure Out if You’re Living There Legally
You did it! You found a place and you’ve been asked to move in! You think the Clist journey is over. It’s not. I’m sorry – I wish it were too! Leases are complicated and confusing but they are very important to read. A lot of leases have clauses that prohibit subleasing so make sure that you are living in your new apartment legally. If your lease does have this clause, talk with your potential roommates about it ASAP. Nothing is worse than moving into a new apartment only to be evicted a couple of months later. Be careful! Also, make sure you check to see if you are signing a month-to-month or year agreement.
It’s Not Set Until You Sign
Sign before you pay. Simple as that. Period. Until you have a document that verifies that you live at your new apartment don’t hand over any payments.
Where am I now? Living in a dope, rent controlled apartment in Santa Monica with parking. YEAH parking. My roommates are clean, fully employed, friendly, love wine and HGTV. It took me about 3 months to find the right apartment but it worked out and I am so glad that I didn’t rush into a neighborhood I didn’t love or an apartment that was grossly out of my budget. It takes time but you got this!!