Tips to navigating Craigslist to find an apartment

Although Craigslist can undoubtedly be one the most useful tools in searching for a new living arrangement, it can be a bit daunting at times.

Understanding how you can best utilize Craiglist to your full advantage will make your housing search slightly less stressful.

  • Figure out your non-negotiables: Before you even open your Internet browser, make a note of the things you are not willing to compromise on your search to finding a new apartment. The longer this list, the more challenging it will be to find exactly what you are looking for — try and keep it as streamlined as possible. Some factors you might consider:
    • Price
    • Location
    • Length of lease
    • Living arrangement: who your roommates are, how many there are, etc.
    • Access to public transit or availability of parking
    • Landlord’s expectations: limitations on pets, visitors, noise levels, etc.
  • Know where to look: Although the different categories under the housing section of Craigslist are intended to make your life easier, they can also get a little confusing. It is important to know what each group of postings is intended for in order to make sure you are looking in the right place.
    • Apts/housings: Listings for apartments or houses that are available for rent. You are more likely to find entire apartments, rather than just rooms for rent, in this section.
    • Rooms/shares: Where you would look if you are trying to find a room for rent in a house that already has people living in it or in any other kind of shared housing situation
    • Sublets & temporary: If you’re looking for a short-term lease or sublet, this group of listings will probably be your best bet. Even if you’re looking for a six-month lease, it’s worth your time to look in this section.
    • Housing wanted: Where you can post an ad about yourself and what you are looking for in a new apartment for people who have housing or rooms available to respond to
  • Be wary of scams: If you familiarize yourself with what a scam looks like, you are less likely to fall victim to one. Here are a few tell-tale signs that you are dealing with someone less-than-legitimate. The person who posted the ad…
    • Says he or she is out of the country or not available to meet in person
    • Asks you to wire money
    • Says that any transactions you make or money you pay is guaranteed by Craigslist
    • Asks you to provide financial information like your bank account number or social security number over the Internet
    • Asks you to drive by the apartment or house rather than meeting you to show you the interior
    • Asks for a background check or credit check without meeting in person first
  • Browse listings by city or region: Narrowing your search to listings in a specific area will help you find what you are looking for faster. Selecting the “San Francisco” tab will help you narrow your search to apartments located within city limits. Apartments or houses with “SF Bay Area” listed as the neighborhood are oftentimes fake or scams, so be careful.
  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is: Apartments or houses that are seriously underpriced for what they offer are usually scams.  Generally speaking, you are not going to find a garden cottage in downtown San Francisco with a yard and a picket fence for $700 dollars a month.