Screenshot of Craigslist homepage on May 14, 2015. Taken by Jay Garcia.
No smoking, no late night parties, no overnight guest, light cooking preferred, no live in girlfriend or boyfriend, and no pets. These are the biggest obstacles when it comes to looking for a place to live in San Francisco. Now if you’re on a time crunch then desperation makes sharing a potential studio or in-law seem like it’s not such a bad idea that you would regret later. To make matters worse is the fact that this decision isn’t up to you, and every potential new home is an audition and has you questioning why you moved to San Francisco.
We all know that a room can easily go for $1,000 or more in neighborhoods such as the Castro, Hayes Valley and the Mission, but places such as the Sunset and Ingleside seem popular with the SF State students. Now the thing with Craigslist is that you must be very vigilant about what you’re doing and be checking throughout the day. When I moved from San Diego to San Francisco I noticed a trend of what yielded more responses and I thought I’d share some tips for room hunters who might not be too aware of the do’s and don’ts.
Attach a photo of yourself. This goes a long way and makes you memorable for a potential open house meet and greet. The way I like to position it is would you consider looking at a listing without any photos of the room? Most likely you wouldn’t and would move on, so keep in mind these landlords are doing the same.
If you say you’re “sarcastic,” show it. You’re in the ring and fighting for a room with potentially hundreds of other people so if you say you’re funny throw in a joke in the email. Imagine skimming through your inbox full of emails and they all sound the same and one of those makes you laugh. You’ll remember it and be more inclined to respond.
Bullet points are your friend and especially good when talking about the boring stuff that’s important. We’ve all heard: “Hi potential roommates. My name is (name), I’m an (age) year old (male/female) from (place). I’ve been in SF for (number) years, studied (thing) at (school), work at (job).” This will bore the landlord to death and cause them to delete your email and move on to the next potential candidate. They all start to blur together with the other emails, and since they’re so common and boring the poster loses interest, fast. The trick is to charm them in the first paragraph and then use bullet points for age, job, schedule, etc. This is not only easier to read but makes it more interesting.
Under no circumstances should these next four phrases be used: “Bring the party home,” “clean but not anal,” “hate passive-aggression” and “a glass of wine at the end of a long day.” These phrases are overused and they mean nothing. After reading so many listings with those words and “fun-loving,” “respectful,” and “considerate,” the actual definitions are lost. Saying something that indicates you are aware that hundreds of people are all saying the same thing makes it seem like you “get it.”
“Drama-free,” is the one thing you never want to mention in your email response either. This phrase is meaningless and points out that you are the one to cause drama. People who are relaxed don’t write things such as that and the thought doesn’t even cross their minds.
Now if you’re going to list your “likes” and “dislikes,” please make sure it’s something specific and refreshing that not all other humans like to do. Such as: yoga, listening to music, laughing, hanging out with friends, cooking or hiking. They key is to be charming-specific, “having the WiFi be spotty and not allow me to stream Netflix without loading” is a charming-specific dislike I shared recently with a potential landlord. Emails with such things, although seemingly silly to you, are seen as refreshing by the poster and bring something else to the table.
You’ve probably heard of “Okay, do you have any other questions?” This is your last opportunity to make an impression, so you better have questions. My go-to question is always “I’m curious about what you seek in a roommate,” because you can always align yourself and confirm that you are indeed a perfect fit for this living situation. Another question that will give you a sense of these people involves their pet peeves. This will either make it a really good living environment or an annoying one for you.
Lastly, make sure to follow up. Again, this is like a job interview and sending them a quick text or email after seeing the place and meeting the potential roommates will make it that much harder for them to say no.
One thing to keep in mind is that these are tips that I have had success with and have proven to be good for me. Some landlords might despise all my tips and delete your email, but in regards to finding a room in the Sunset district and University Park North I’ve been successful.