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 – (This one is still my favorite!)
  • Wanted: Pony –
  • Free – International Ketchup Packet Collection –
  • 300 Stuffed Penguins Free to Good Home –
  • Wanted: Taxidermist who watches a lot of Kung Fun –

Navigating the World of Craigslist – Buy Used

Buying All Your (Slightly) Used Stuff

I love finding a good deal. Sometimes I think the pursuit of the best deal ends up being more enjoyable for me than the purchase of the actual item in question. At this point, Craigslist is my new eBay for buying used goods. I used eBay obsessively when I first started college but after several bad experiences and getting sick of losing bids at the last second (and realizing that my time was being drained on these stupid bids) I eventually gave up entirely on eBay. I still have friends that swear by eBay but I just can’t use it any more. Craigslist, on the other hand, is a perfect alternate for me. I can buy local, get stuff on the cheap, and the entire transaction doesn’t eat away at my time – a limited and valuable commodity. Of course, this kind of is negated by the fact that I spend so much on Craigslist in general but.. um… shut up.

I don’t really have many revelatory tips as to how to best buy stuff on Craigslist but these might help:

  1. Cash only.
    Seriously, don’t mess around on this one.
  2. Haggle
    Because you are dealing locally and have cash in hand, don’t be afraid of haggling. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no and stick with their original price that got you interested in the first place?
  3. Be patient and check regularly.
    If you have a specific item in mind and have to get it via Craiglist, then you may have to check the site repeatedly over the course of time before something pops up. There are far fewer options than something like eBay, but it’ll feel like you struck gold when you find the thing you were looking for.
  4. Check the next city over.
    If you don’t mind driving a bit and your geographic region allows for it, then remember to check out other cities near you when using the site. I live in the Santa Barbara area so that’s my go to, but I’m always in easy driving distance to Ventura, the next closest city listed on Craigslist.
  5. Do your research.
    Always do at least a basic search of the item you might be buying online. Companies often make a huge array of similar products with widely varying degrees of quality and their naming conventions can be tricky to navigate. For example, you might be on the hunt for a computer monitor on Craigslist and think you’ve found a great deal only to find out that the monitor  product number starts with E instead of F and it’s the crappier version of what you want. Or you may find that the monitor in question happens to be on sale brand new for just a few dollars more with free shipping.

Navigating the World of Craigslist – Job Hunting

Be a Job Hunting Expert

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’m a freelance web designer/developer (sometimes I describe as a graphic and web designer) and as such I find myself checking Craigslist all the time. The suggestions I make below can, for the most part, really be applied to anyone looking for a job through Craigslist, not just web related jobs.

Know this, intrepid job hunter – you WILL find a lot of job duds on Craigslist. Hopefully, with a few tips and a keen eye, you can weed out as many duds as possible and land some awesome gigs.  Keep in mind that some of my tips are simply basic suggestions, not strict rules, so take them with a grain of salt. For a much more thorough and detailed description of a web developer trying to effectively find work via Craigslist then I’d suggest checking out this.

If you’re applying to a job posted on Craigslist here are some things to keep an eye out for:

Avoid Applying to any positions that:

  1. Mentions or requests students.

    This essentially translates to them not wanting to pay someone what they are actually worth for their services. They are trying to get the work done on the cheap. Unless you are absolutely starving, then I would avoid this option like the plague.

  2. States there is a very limited budget.

    Everyone has a limited budget. Even Bill Gates can’t spend too many billions before he has to call it quits. Limits vary from project to project but if someone specifically states in a job that the work involved has a very limited budget then the part that is limited is what goes your way (most likely). These are the clients or employers that will nickel and dime you every step of the way. I’m all for wanting to get the most for your money but I also know that professional services are worth money and that micro-managing is rarely helpful for anyone, which leads me to my next point.

  3. Request you show the manager, director, etc EXACTLY how to replicate what you are doing

    This is either them wanting to use you to exploit your knowledge and then quickly ditch you or someone want to micromanage.

You wouldn’t stand over a car mechanic and stop them every step of the way would you to offer your opinion on something? Wait, maybe that’s not the best analogy. How about this one – you wouldn’t constantly interrupt a private chef who charged by the hour would you? How about that? Subjective work done to solve a problem. The professional is hired to solve that problem and is an expert in his or her field. That professional will take information you provide to fit your needs and tastes. They may even be able to quickly modify the thing they are producing with feedback from you. However, you wouldn’t have the gall to walk into a professional chefs kitchen (private or not) and stick your finger right in the middle of their quiche. Okay, enough of that line of ranting.

On a different note, one of my biggest pet peeves when looking at potential job/employers via Craigslist is when said employer doesn’t list who they are. Why would you not clearly state your company name or link to your company’s website? It seems downright deceptive. On top of that, it is even worse since so many scammers will use this method to try and coax important personal information out of job hunters.