Navigating the World of Craigslist – House Hunting

Too Many Homes

I’m not sure why but I love looking at the rental section of Craiglist in cities to which I might not even be moving. The idea of suddenly just dropping everything and moving to some interesting new city has a certain appeal. In college, I often would have a backpack in my car trunk with an extra set of clothes and a toothbrush just in case I wanted to go on an adventure. Just the idea of leaving it all, even momentarily, was exhilarating.

After I got married, I stopped driving around with the extra set of clothes in the trunk in exchange for checking Craigslist rentals constantly. My wife and I live in the Santa Barbara area and love it here but also feel that at some point we’ll have to move. Checking out different areas to rent has been my way of putting myself into the head space of going on an adventure and checking out my options.  I get to learn about an area, to explore the streets in the town (via Google Street view), imagine what it would be like to live there – lame, I know. It’s like I have a hard time imaging that I won’t have to move despite the fact that I’ve been here for over a decade.

Most recently, my wife and I almost found ourselves moving up to Petaluma which is in the North Bay Area (about 45 minutes north of San Francisco). Melissa had an unexpected job interview for a school up there in September and we were suddenly faced with the very real possibility of needing to move at a moments notice. Melissa didn’t end up getting the job after all but before I found that out, I researched ever detail about Petaluma, checked out every home listing on Craigslist, and became all around obsessed. I don’t really have a way to segue out of this topic. I just know I’m glad we’re not moving. The idea of uprooting myself isn’t as fun of a concept as it once was and I’m too lazy to want to pack all my stuff and move inside of a few weeks, which is about how long we would have had if Melissa had gotten hired.

Since I dropped a few tips on the previous blog posts, I suppose I should offer a few here as well. Most of these tips apply to looking for a place to rent in general, not just in the context of looking via Craigslist:

  1. Deposit
    Technically, it’s illegal in California for landlords to ask tenants for first and last months rent and deposit though they can ask for a deposit that is 2x rent so it just comes down to semantics. Be cautious on Craigslist when someone is asking for too much or too little. If they want no money then the post is probably a front for some kind of scam out to get your personal information and if they want too much money (like a deposit without signing any kind of paperwork) then it’s also probably a scam.
  2. Look for Competitive Markets
    If you’re looking for an apartment to rent, be sure to check out where different apartment complexes are located in a city or town. If there are two or more complexes close to one another with different ownership, then you may be able to find a particular good deal as these complexes are forced to offer more competitive rates to attract new tenants.
  3. Haggle
    This isn’t the same as haggling over a purchase. The haggling is more likely to revolve around monthly rent rates, location to the pool, or the duration of the lease terms, but it’s always good to keep an eye out for an opportunity to get a better value for your money.
  4. Look at School Districts
    Even you don’t children and have no intention of ever having children, you should still keep the quality of schools in an area in consideration. If you are purchasing a home then the quality of schools can impact property value and if you plan on renting, it may indicate the quality of the neighborhood you may be moving to.
  5. Scams
    As mentioned in the first point, there are scams on Craigslist. Some people are out to steal your money and/or identity. Be mindful of who you send your confidential information. Don’t just send anyone your Social Security number in the pursuit of finding a cheap apartment rental. And don’t forget the age old tip – if it looks like it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.

This has been entirely too much discussion about a site that is essentially a digital replacement for the classifieds, at least at it’s most basic level. I hope that you have gotten something out of all my rambling about Craigslist over the last few days though I suspect that most people have only learned that I’m on the site entirely too often.

Be sure to go back and read my other posts about Craigslist if you haven’t already.
Oh, and as a lil’ bonus, here are few links to some of my favorite Craigslist posts. Some of them are absolutely hilarious.

  • 1325 Pope Hats – http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/phx/1258405496.html (This one is still my favorite!)
  • Wanted: Pony – http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/anc/1272471632.html
  • Free – International Ketchup Packet Collection – http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/nyc/1167074545.html
  • 300 Stuffed Penguins Free to Good Home – http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/aus/1208932583.html
  • Wanted: Taxidermist who watches a lot of Kung Fun – http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/phx/1190484174.html
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