Using Craigslist Successfully

Our third roommate, the mysterious Z, recently announced that she is going to be moving out at the end of May. This is a source of sadness to us, because Z is a pretty cool cat. It’s also a source of sadness because now we have to look for another roommate, which is never an enjoyable task. Fortunately, the Bay Area has this nifty site called Craigslist, which you have perhaps heard of. Ah, Craigslist. How I loathe it, yet love it, at the same time. (By the way, if you or someone you know is looking for a room in San Francisco, feel free to email me—meloukhia at gmail dot com is the name of the game.)

So I posted a carefully crafted and precise ad today, and sat back to wait for the results. Within five minutes, I had a hit from someone who was wrong in every conceivable way…and they probably knew this when they were writing me, but decided to go for it anyway. Bad idea! Don’t make me grumpy when my carpal is acting up.

The thing about Craigslist is that a lot of people don’t really seem to understand how to use it. So I thought I would provide a few useful tips for using Craigslist, which apply both to the abundant personals section and the housing. Please, republish them. I entreat you. I wouldn’t mind credit, but beggars cannot be choosers.

1. Think about what you want.

Make a list of your expectations before you look at ads. Think about how much rent you want to pay, what gender you want a potential partner to be, if you need studio space, if you must date a blonde, etc. Keep this list handy while you look at ads, so that you can immediately strike down ads which are not a good fit. It’s a waste of everyone’s time to respond to an ad thinking “well, maybe it will work out. I mean, I want to live in the Sunset, but this place is pretty close to Ashby BART, so I could commute…” It’s not unreasonable to have expectations, and no one thinks less of you for it. Also use your expectations to help narrow your search, meaning less garbage to pore through. There’s a lot of garbage on Craigslist. Save yourself.

2. Read.

Read the damn ad. About half of the responses I get every time I use Craigslist to advertise anything are from people who did not bother to read the ad. If you have animals, check to see whether or not the ad says that they are ok. You might also want to establish if the person writing the ad is looking for a particular gender, sexual orientation, or age. This is particularly pertinent in the personals. If you are, for example, a disgustingly skinny forty year old, don’t respond to an ad looking for “twenty something full figured women.” That is not you.

Once you have established whether or not you meet the expectations of the person posting the ad, think about the list of questions you might ask. How much is rent? Is it possible that this information might be included in the ad? Uhm…probably. So look. You look like a complete fool if you ask “how much is the deposit” when a line in the ad clearly starts “Deposit is $X, making move in costs $Y.” Your basic lack of reading comprehension might be a turn off. Read the ad carefully to see which questions are answered, and make note of questions that come up. Read the whole ad. Please.

The ad can also give you a feel for the person writing it. If you like peace and quiet, responding to an ad for a “convivial party friendly household” is probably not a good call. If you smoke pot and an ad suggests that drugs are not welcome, do not respond. Your potential future roommates will not be impressed by your persistence. They don’t want drugs in their house, and they probably have good reasons for it. Respect that. If the ad says the house is “clean,” expect it to be clean. “Laid back” might suggest an atmosphere where your dirty dishes are more welcome.

3. Formulate a response with care.

I realize that not everyone is a grammar nazi, but taking the time to write a grammatically correct, well parsed response is worth it. First of all, clearly stating your aims eliminates potential confusion. It also shows that you have a brain and know how to use it.

Respond to specifics of the ad. Most people want to know how old you are, your gender orientation, and what you do for a living. State these up front, and then add supplemental information about how you “love cooking for your roommates” and “can’t wait to spend a romantic night out.” The people writing ads have expectations as well, so don’t waste their time by burying useful information. This is also a good place to lay out some basic expectations of your own, like “my girlfriend likes to come over a lot” and “I prefer nonsmokers.”

4. If you don’t get a response…

A. The person hates you and is too lazy to respond. Which is, I admit, pretty lame. I always respond, usually briefly, even if the person is not a good fit at all.

B. The person is really busy, and will get back to you. Don’t pester them, it will confuse their inbox.

C. The room/position of sexual partner is already taken, and the person forgot to take down the ad or is too lazy. Bummer.

Please, people. Help make Craigslist a better place for us all.

p.s. You can read my manifesto on Craigslist too! I promise to reprint any novel responses here.