Why is nobody replying to my sublet emails?
May 2, 2012 7:20 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to find a summer sublet in Portland on Craigslist. I have sent out a handful of responses to ads, but so far, I haven't gotten any responses--not even a "sorry, it's been filled" or a "sorry, you're not what we are looking for". Is this standard when looking for sublets in a major city, or should I be rethinking the wording of my contact email?

I've never been the person posting the ad for a sublet before. Do posters usually receive so many responses that it is simply impractical to respond to them all (sort of like online dating)? I'm not sure how to interpret the lack of responses. I mean, I'm not taking it personally or getting upset, but I want to make sure that I move forward in a positive manner so that I do successfully find a sublet. I think my reply email to the ads is pretty good--I tailor it to what is said in the ad (based upon sort of a template description of myself), and I think that it is straightforward, slightly witty, and makes me sound like a positive individual to live with. However, since I haven't gotten any responses, I am starting to worry.

Another factor that may be working against me is the fact that I am not actually IN Portland right now--I am hoping to secure a sublet from my current location for when I arrive in Portland in a month. I state this fact in my response (since most ads say that they want to meet you) and offer to "meet" them via Skype. I realize that not everybody will consider this acceptable, but I still sort of expected someone to reply with "sorry, no way we will consider without meeting you in person".

So, overall, I'm trying to figure out why I'm not getting any responses to my emails. I'm certainly not expecting a 100% response rate, but I'm a little surprised by the 0% acknowledgement rate as well. Is this just how the housing search game is played out? Or, should I address the fact that the common factor in each of these non-responses is me?

I've got a fantastic internship this summer that I got based on a lead from my previous AskMe question, and I couldn't be more excited. However, I've got to live somewhere, and I dislike the idea of showing up in a new city with no place to live.
posted by wondercow to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I used to live in a desirable neighborhood in a major city. I told my roommate ever week for two months that I was moving. A week days before I left he said "okay, okay." He posted an ad to Craigslist, went to the store, took a shower, and came back to over 40 responses. I can assure you that he did not write out 40 "sorry, dude" letters.
posted by griphus at 7:28 AM on May 2, 2012

"A week few days before I left..."
posted by griphus at 7:28 AM on May 2, 2012

Don't give so much info when you respond - ask the basic questions - is it available? Then proceed from there. The renters market is pretty tight here right now, especially for affordable places. You may just be getting "pre-screened."
posted by amanda at 7:30 AM on May 2, 2012

You might want to head out in person first to hunt down a sublet. Portland sounds like a city where demand outstrips supply, and few people are going to want to give someone sight unseen a leg up over the dozens of locals flooding them with inquiries.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:35 AM on May 2, 2012

It's hard to answer your first question definitively because so much depends on the market and the town. Say, for instance, if you're in a college town, summer sublets are 100% a buyers' market because there are far fewer summer-school students than people wanting out of their lease early. If you're in NYC, though, it's a seller's market because so many people want to move there, especially during the summer for internships. I suspect Portland's a little like that.

But this is doable, trust me. Here's some advice, culled from two improbable last-minute apartment finds (both long-distance, too!)

- Apartment hunting is different from online dating in one huge respect: it's totally kosher to send a follow-up email if you don't get a response. People can say they've taken the sublet but flake out, emails can get buried or lost, it happens. I know this seems like a huge shot in the dark, but that's actually how I found my current apartment.

- If you can visit Portland at all, even just for one day, this will be really, really, really helpful. Airfare might make this impossible, but still.

- Otherwise, if you know anyone in Portland willing to make visits and scope out the area, do so! This is partly for the roommate's benefit (it makes you seem more legit if there's an actual person involved and not just a name on an email) but mostly for you -- neighborhoods can vary WILDLY, sometimes from block to block, and there's no substitute for visiting in person.

- If all else fails, you can always crash on someone's couch for a couple days and apartment-hunt in person. Last resort, but it's done.
posted by dekathelon at 7:49 AM on May 2, 2012

When I was trying to remotely find an apt last summer, a lot of people never responded or dropped communication midway through. Doesn't sound as bad as your situation, but I imagine Portland is a more difficult market. I used to send a email that sounded a lot like yours, and I offered to add people as friends on facebook to let them get a feel for what I was like, you might consider that.

In the end though, in a moment of desperation, I posted myself on craigslist explaining my situation and making myself sound awesome and I actually had more luck with that-- that's where my current awesome living situation came from, I don't think it was ever posted on craigslist, I just had one of the roommates email me and ask if I was interested. You might try it, can't hurt.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:59 AM on May 2, 2012

In the end though, in a moment of desperation, I posted myself on craigslist explaining my situation and making myself sound awesome and I actually had more luck with that

This is exactly how I found my first sublet in NYC.
posted by kimdog at 8:16 AM on May 2, 2012

Craigslist Housing wanted can work very well, since there are plenty of people that don't want to wade through a billion emails. My mom uses housing wanted CL ads to find boarders at her house, and I have successfully used it maybe a half-dozen times for short-term housing needs.
posted by rockindata at 8:31 AM on May 2, 2012

I have advertised a sublet, and I had enough responses that I could not respond to them all. Same goes for furniture sales. Also, sometimes I didn't respond because I had a list of people, and I didn't want to say "no" to someone because I might say "yes" if the first person (or first 10 people) fell through.

I would not worry about the ones you have no response from, and keep sending out responses to other ads. Some of the ones you have already contacted may still get in touch with you, but you don't have any commitment to them.
posted by jb at 8:35 AM on May 2, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the helpful advice and words of support so far. I hadn't considered proactively posting an ad myself. If I do that, would the hive mind recommend that I be upfront that I am not in Portland in person, or is that still a kiss of death / way to get scammed?
posted by wondercow at 8:53 AM on May 2, 2012

If you can't be physically there to look at the apartment within a day or two of being contacted, you need to let them know.
posted by griphus at 9:35 AM on May 2, 2012

i'm in portland. i rent my furnished guest room out on short term bases (1-3 months), and i advertise on craigslist. summer is usually the time i get the most responses. most of the respondents, like you, tailor their inquiries to my ad. i reply to every one of them, even if i have already filled the room for the requested period. the only ones i don't reply to are the ones that sound potentially nutty or the ones who write only a sentence or two.
posted by violetk at 10:20 AM on May 2, 2012

Finding a place to rent in Portland sucks. No, you aren't doing anything inherently wrong or turning people off. As griphus points out, these people get hundreds of replies to every post. It's kind of nuts.

It would be helpful to be here simply because most people renting are looking for the easiest, quickest, least hassle situation. Portland can be kind of a lazy town, people post open spots last minute and then they want to meet you that night and see if you are a good fit to move in the next day.

BUT, it is possible to do it remotely, you just have to keep being aggressive. For sure post an ad for yourself and say when you'll be moving to Portland. If you have a job or solid way of paying rent lined up, I might mention that. I think it may turn off some people to accepting someone remotely because they're worried about rent payments. There are a lot of sort of, how to put this, travelers here who want to crash for a while and don't have any funds to pay for rent, etc.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:03 AM on May 2, 2012

Hi, I live in Portland and I'm looking for someone to rent a room in my place this summer. Memail me and we can see if the details line up. I haven't even posted an ad yet because theses things happen so quickly in this town!
posted by Atalanta at 12:51 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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