Apartment hunting on Craigslist can be a bit like online dating. You have no idea what you're going to get until you meet in person. Similarly, you may schedule an appointment to see a spacious, two-bedroom condo with a city view posted on Craigslist only to realize that it's a studio with a large closet and a "city" view into your neighbor's living room. We get it; gone are the days of driving around in search of "For Rent" signs and knocking on doors. Our entire lives have been streamlined by the internet and apartment hunting is no exception. While there’s nothing wrong with opting to save your hard-earned cash by using a free listing site such as Craigslist, this option can come with a hefty price if done carelessly. Here are some simple yet effective ways to avoid a major renting disaster when apartment hunting on Craigslist.
No Pictures, Big Problem
Going back to the online dating example, if you wouldn’t agree to meet someone without a profile picture, why wouldn’t you have the same standard when checking out your future home? If a renter can’t bother to upload pictures of the property (inside AND out), it’s either because the apartment is aesthetically-challenged or they didn’t care enough to go through the trouble. Either reason is a good reason to NOT pursue the posting any further. Additionally, be cognizant of photos that don’t provide a straight-forward visual of the apartment (blurry, too close-up or far away) as this could be the renter’s strategy to mask underlying issues they’d rather keep under your radar.
Don’t Rush The Process
This isn’t bargain shopping; this is the roof over your head! While apartment hunting can be exhausting, make sure you don’t rush through the process. You should never feel forced to settle for a place because you didn’t secure any other options. Start your search at least a month and a half in advance as most renters will start advertising vacancies approximately two months ahead of the move-in date. Planning ahead will give you ample time to research the renter, check out the neighborhood and what it has to offer.
Deals That Are Too Good-To-Be True Are Usually Scams
It’s hard not to get excited about a luxury condo in the heart of downtown renting out for $900 per month. However, we must snap you out of your beautiful daydream because this is most likely a scam. We aren’t saying that it’s impossible to have incredible luck and timing but this is more of an exception than the rule. While it is possible to find a great deal on Craigslist, if a deal just doesn’t make sense, it’s safer to stay away. Also keep in mind that even if a great deal IS legitimate, there may be other factors contributing to the “unbelievable” price. Things such as a dangerous neighborhood or poor public transportation are just some of the reasons why the renter may significantly mark down the price.
They Don’t Need Your Life Story
Some Craigslist ads will woo you with fancy words, amazing photos and an equally amazing deal but with one catch; they will ask you for information that goes well beyond a need-to-know basis. These scam artists will deceive you into thinking that a great deal justifies them asking you for personal information such as current address, full name and even a “holding” deposit. However, proceed with caution and don’t provide anything other than your first name, contact phone number and general inquires. It is not unheard of for identity thieves to post fake ads, obtain personal information from apartment hunters and use it for illegal purposes. This is one of the biggest downfalls of using an unregulated site such as Craigslist and being aware of such scams is vital for your online safety.
While we are just grazing the surface of online safety when apartment hunting, these tips are a good starting point for when you embark on your Craigslist hunt for the perfect apartment. If nothing else, ALWAYS go with your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.