How to find the best deal on Craigslist for housing

Aaron Cordovez bio photo By Aaron Cordovez Comment

I'm writing this post because I just finished getting a house at about $500 per month lower than market value in one of the nicest areas in all of the San Francisco Bay: Alameda. There are some 1 bedroom places that are going for more than our place. It wasn't a coincidence, but instead I made sure I knew all the tips and tricks about Craigslist. I'll share with you a few things that I learned that you should know when apartment hunting on Craigslist. These are tips on how to find hidden gems, even when there is "no inventory". Oh and if you have pets, you definitely need to know these things.

Pretty much everyone knows that Craigslist is the go-to place for housing. However if you don't know these tips, you'll likely be passed up by someone who does and they will snag the apartment or house before you do. This guide is for someone who is looking to get a great place at a great price. If you don't care about paying at or above market value, then you don't have to spend your time reading this or spend you time lurking on Craiglist. However if you have at least 15 minutes a day to look on Craiglist, this guide is for you.

First and foremost, you have to be persistent. Do not give up. All of the great places are only on Craigslist for a few days (as little as 1-3 days) and are then gone. You will almost never find your ideal place the first time you look. Or on the second, or on the third. A more realistic timeframe is weeks or even months to find a great place. If you know how to look, you can bring down that number significantly.

In brief here are the tips:

  1. Drill down to only the area you want to live in. I personally made the mistake of looking in neighborhoods that I really didn't want to live in. You can spend hours of your life finding and even looking at places you will never want to live in.
  2. Never select anything except price and # of bedrooms in your search. Using things like sq. ft. or "dogs ok" will elminate great places that DO accept dogs and ARE the size you're looking for. More on that later.
  3. Every day, do at least 2 searches. Once in the monrning and once in the evening. Don't bother looking more than that. Here is where you'll find your gems; every once in a while someone will put up a house or apartment that is well below market value and it's your job to make sure that person leases out to you.

Juicy details

1) If you've already been looking on Craiglist unsucessfully, not knowing this tip has probably been the reason you haven't found a place you're happy with. When you use Craiglist's search feature, DO NOT use their filter! If you select to show only results that have a square feet above XYZ or a place that does allow dogs, you will be filtering out places that are as big as you want and that allow dogs! Is that shocking? Here's why it happens:

Unfortunately, Craiglist requires almost no information when putting up a listing. Here is a screenshot of me trying to post a house up with ZERO information. The only fields required are: title, description, price, postal code, contact email (which can be private), and bedrooms which is not technically required, but if you do nothing your posting will say "0 bedrooms.".

Why is this such a problem? If you select to show "dogs ok" only in your search, you exclude listings that simply left the tiny box blank, even if by accident! There are tons of people who simply have not checked the box but are not against pets. The place that I am living in now did not specificaly say they accepted dogs and I would not have found it if I was searching with the "dogs ok" filter.

TL;DR only search by price, and maybe by bedroom. Nothing else.

2) If you're looking for a place for your family, don't waste time with the areas that you want to live in. You probably already know deep down inside whether or not you want to live at a certain place. Don't compromise with your own gut feeling. Choose the places you want to be in, don't waste time.

How to make an amazing pet resume

Now that you know how to find the place you want, you need to convince the owners that you will pay all the bills on time and, in general, be the best tenant for them.

First of all, I have to say that a Pet Resume is pretty much a must if you're going to rent out a house. Most owners want to make sure that your dog will not mess up their house. I followed the advice on this post to create Bearie's resume.

Download my dog Bearie's resume here. This resume really helped us get the place. When we emailed the person who was showing the house (3rd Party Representing the house owner) their response was "Thanks a lot for sending this info to me. I LOVE your pet resume!!!!" They ended up rooting for us out of the various candidates and I believe this resume had a lot to do with that.

Here is the cover picture I used for the pet resume:

Best of luck to you in your search for a place to live with your family. Still have questions? Reach out to me in the comments section below.

comments powered by Disqus