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May 7, 2012 5:06 PM   Subscribe

Please teach me Apartment Showing 101 so that I can end my lease and move far, far away.

We live on the top floor of a 1910-era house divided into 4 units in Oakland, CA. We're moving, but our lease isn't up yet, so to not be liable for the remaining 6 months, our landlord says we'll need to find a replacement party to sign a new lease*. Long story short, I'd like to clean the place up, take some pictures, and hold a showing by Memorial Day weekend with the hopes of having the place rented by July 1 (we're leaving end of June). I'm looking for best tips and ideas for what we should we do to maximize our chances of securing a renter - in Craigslist ads, photo taking, cleanup, packing and/or donating furniture either before or after the showing, etc.

Possibly relevant details:
- The house is old and in OK but not great repair, but boasts original windows, wood floors, and great architectural details & built-ins
- Our unit has a (Bay Area-rarity combo of) washer, dryer & dishwasher
- The location has a 97 on walkscore
- We've got a dog (he'll be out of the house for the showing)
- Our style (such as it is) is half a notch above grad student chiq

*It's possible there are legal avenues around this, but for now, we have the time & inclination to work with him on this front.
posted by deludingmyself to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
as to whether to donate/pack before or after showing your place- pack up all the excess, but leave enough furniture (particularly the nicer furniture) and some of your stuff. basically, 'stage' the place so that it looks elegant and they can easily imagine how the apartment effortlessly translates from empty to a really great place to live. a lot of people have trouble envisioning how nice a place can look without this stuff. if you have plants and flowers definitely keep these while showing the place. All clutter and excess furniture you can pack away.
posted by saraindc at 5:16 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Be sure to include these in your ad:

- washer, dryer & dishwasher in unit
- original windows, wood floors, and great architectural details & built-ins
- the location has a walkscore of 97 -- daily errands are all within easy reach

As for showing the apartment, since it's a rental, all people expect is that it's clean and neat. Make the bed, be sure to empty the sink and put away dishes, etc. Have all the lights on and windows open. It might be nice of you to have an info sheet printed up with the details about the apartment and who needs to be contacted to officially apply as a renter. (I would not include photos on this sheet, or dates; you don't want someone to be able to use the sheet to case the apartment for a burglary.)
posted by ocherdraco at 5:21 PM on May 7, 2012

Also include these in your ad:
-State that this place can be offered or unfurnished
-Mention which places such as universities, grocery stores, office buildings, tourist attractions are close to the house
-Use positive words like "charming" and "character"
-Dogs are allowed
-Non-smokers (if you two didn't smoke, of course)
-State which bus routes are close to the house

AND lastly, take photographs of each room with great lighting, this makes a HUGE difference
posted by livinglearning at 5:28 PM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

saraindc's advice about staging the place is what I've always heard too, especially when helping my mom & stepdad sell their house. They moved a lot of stuff into storage and kept just the very nicest pieces of furniture/rugs/art, to open it up but also help potential buyers imagine living there (like, prospective buyers don't want to feel too much like someone lives there already, but they need to be able to imagine that they could be living there right now). They kept it scrupulously clean. And the little details of neatness, brightness, warmth, good smells, etc., were very important. For instance, my mom (who used to work as a maid) wouldn't just make the beds--she'd make them in an extremely crisp, neat, and luxurious style, for all the world like a top-end hotel. Apparently people can really use the help in envisioning just how comfortable and attractive a place can be, rather than having to use their imaginations too much. Anyway, it seemed to work for her.
posted by theatro at 6:54 PM on May 7, 2012

-Use positive words like "charming" and "character"

Be careful with words like this -- when I was looking for apartments I learned that, generally, "cozy" means "small", "charming" and "character" both mean "old". Positive words are great, but positive words that are known code words for negative characteristics should be avoided.
posted by brainmouse at 6:55 PM on May 7, 2012

People get used to how their own home smells. After you've cleaned, ask a friend with a decent sense of smell to come over to do a sniff test. I have decided against renting a place because it smelt like cat.
posted by kjs4 at 5:57 AM on May 8, 2012

Pack up everything, storage units are cheap. Keep enough furniture to stage it, empty never shows as well as with furniture.

Hire someone who deep cleans for moving. They'll get the baseboards, clean your stove, basically sterilize your house for you.

I can't imagine that with a Washer, Dryer and Dishwasher, that you'll have any trouble renting. How's the Parking?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:15 AM on May 8, 2012

I'm a landlord and in Oakland, in fact. Here are my tips:

Rather than setting individual appointments I highly recommend you have an open house for a set amount of hours. I usually do 10AM-4PM on a Saturday or Sunday. I've always had great luck renting my units this way. If you are female please have someone else there with you. The open house saves you from having to set appointments, keep your house ultra tidy for 2 weeks, wait on people over and over, all the phone calls, etc.

Seriously - Have LOTS of copies of the application available! I don't know why, but in my experience every.single.person who looks at a unit feels compelled to take an application even if they know this is not the unit for them.

It doesn't really matter how you decorate, but make sure the place is clean and tidy.

In your ad:

A) state that you have an animal that currently lives there (heads up for those who might be allergic.)

B) Include a few sunny, attractive pictures - The outside of the building, living room, Kitchen usually suffice - but whatever rooms have the most interesting features is also helpful. Make sure the place is tidy & don't include pictures of your large, plasma TV and you'll do fine.

C) Be sure to state the square footage.

D) Make an easy, bullet point list of the features and benefits of the unit. (Washer Dryer, Dishwasher, 3 blocks to Whole Foods, etc..) If your landlord is going to allow the new tenants to have pets, state this in your title. I rent to pet owners and in my experience there are tons of animal owners who are desperately looking for a rental.
posted by trixare4kids at 9:16 AM on May 8, 2012

Oh and regarding positive words:

Granite, Stainless Steel, Dishwasher, Washer/Dryer, Hardwoods.

Crap you don't need to bother with:

Charming, Spacious, cosy. Those are crap and don't help at all.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:18 AM on May 8, 2012

And another thing.

If you do an open house. Bake cookies. I use the premade kind from the refrigerator case. Also, play light music, smooth jazz, piano tinkling, etc.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:19 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if anyone addressed the dog....take him to doggy day care or have him stay with a friend for the showings. Also, bathe him everyday to get rid of the doggy smell.
posted by jmd97 at 2:30 PM on May 8, 2012

Thanks to everyone for the answers. As a former resident of a city with a much less competitive housing market and where practically all apartments come with washers, dryers and dishwashers, I was clearly overthinking this. Over a dozen people were lined up outside our house 10 minutes before the showing, and the place was leased within the week.
posted by deludingmyself at 5:04 PM on June 8, 2012

posted by ocherdraco at 6:37 PM on June 8, 2012

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