Why does nobody answer my e-mails for their housemate-wanted ads on Craigslist in San Francisco?
July 10, 2012 5:37 PM   Subscribe

Why does nobody answer my e-mails for their housemate-wanted ads on Craigslist in San Francisco?

I'm looking for a place to live in San Francisco, and in the last twenty-four hours I have sent out perhaps 30 e-mails to people advertising on craigslist that they have rooms for rent in shared houses or apartments.

I have received exactly zero answers.

Now, I understand that some people are flaky, and some people don't constantly check their e-mail, and some of these rooms have already been filled, and so on. But zero? Really? Could I be doing something wrong, or is this just yet another way in which SF is weird?
posted by madcaptenor to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Man, it's only been one day. People are busy with their lives. Give it a couple days.
posted by egypturnash at 5:43 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

What do your emails look like? You're sending out more than one an hour - do they read like a copy-paste job "Hello, I saw your ad on craigslist! I am X Y Z please get back to me"?

If so, that might be the problem? When I put ads on Craigslist I get super, super pissed when people obviously didn't even read the ad, or are obviously not a match (me: "no cats, please" them: "my cat is super-sweet!"). Make sure you note the actual location and features of the apartment.

(again, I'm just guessing)
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 5:44 PM on July 10, 2012

It's really hard to say without knowing what you're putting in the introductory emails. Can you post a redacted version here?

Anyway, there was some good advice in this thread.
posted by lalex at 5:46 PM on July 10, 2012

Hi! See you at the meetup on thursday?

So, you already know the rental market here is really tight, and getting tighter. Anecdotally, what worked for a co-worker who recently moved here was to keep her emails bare-bones short. She gave an age, gender, and employment status (and I think a salary range, something like "I make more than X/month"). And she bugged everyone she even kind of knew to spread the word about how she was looking for a room.

It's rough. If you want to memail me a sample email I'll give it a look-see, though it's been so long since I looked for a place or a housemate that I don't know how much help I can be.
posted by rtha at 5:46 PM on July 10, 2012

What worked for me in Seattle was to put in a 'Room Wanted' ad, and have them come to you. After weeks of fruitless searching, I switched tactics, and the first hit was the best one. Have been living here happily for over 3 years now.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:49 PM on July 10, 2012

Whenever my roommates and I put up a Craigslist ad for a room in our house here in SF, we receive about 150 emails about it within the first hour. We can't possibly read and carefully reply to each one- usually we pick ten or fifteen at absolute random and invite them for interviews. I'm sure it's the same for everyone. Keep sending those emails- your best bet is to saturate the market. There are a LOT of people looking for rooms right now.
posted by DSime at 6:09 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

All the above advice is good... But also, the market in SF really is that hard right now. Just super, super competitive. When I was looking I kept Craigslist open all day and refreshed and sent emails every half hour or so.
posted by alaijmw at 6:10 PM on July 10, 2012

Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth -- they're semi-copy-and-paste, but I'm actually reasonably picky about who I send them to, I'm not sending to just everybody. (Like with applying for jobs, customizing things too much seems painfully difficult when most of these emails are going into a black hole.)

rtha: as you point out, I'm going more bare-bones with the e-mails.

spinifex23: I may give the "room wanted" thing a shot. I'm not sure if that works around here, but it's not like it would be terribly hard to write something.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:29 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're certain all the ads you responded to were current, right? It's easy to find an ad that looks great and not realize it's a week+ old, which might as well be a year in Craigslist time.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:31 PM on July 10, 2012

I live in Seattle and used to live in a very well-priced house with interesting roommates and lots of common space in a nice neighborhood. Whenever we would look for a roommate, we'd get so many emails. I imagine it's 10x worse in SF.

It was always really hard to sort through all of them, and it often wound up being a bit of a crapshoot when it came to who we would respond to.

The best advice I can give you is to be really careful about tailoring your response to the ad. If they ask for specific info, give it. Even if they don't, try to mirror the tone and content of the ad. Do each of the roommates give a short bio? Then you should too, and try to mirror what they talk about too (ie, hobbies and communication styles, or age and occupation?). Is the tone chatty or business-like? And so forth.

I think the best email gives your name, basic info (age, occupation, gender, plus anything else that seems relevant from the ad), expresses interest in the house, and an inquiry about showings. This takes up a minimum of the recipient's time and gives them a quick way to respond to you. Don't ask questions at this point unless it's something super, super important. So for instance, I might write:

Hi, my name is Lunasol. I saw your ad on craigslist and it sounds great! I'm 34 and just moved to SF for a new job (I work at COMPANY as a COOL-SOUNDING JOB).[INSERT OTHER DETAILS BASED ON AD] I would love to come look at the place - are you showing it this week?


But yeah, keep sending those emails. Good luck!
posted by lunasol at 6:33 PM on July 10, 2012

Sometimes people have taken a few days to get back to me, even with ads that said NEED ROOMMATE RIGHT NOW IMMEDIATELY (paraphrased.)

I've gotten rooms via "room wanted" ads in the Bay Area.

Also, not having a job is a strike against you in many people's eyes. Sometimes that's about perceived financial stability, but it can also be about how much you'll be home or what hours you'll keep if you don't need to be at a job at 9am.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:53 PM on July 10, 2012

If you are answering ads that go to an effort to decribe the place and the people "We're two young professionals in a lovely victorian! We're pretty quiet, but we like to have people over occasionally... etc etc",) they are probably looking for emails that somewhat mirror that style. ("I just moved to the city and am looking for a place close to downtown; i tend to be out most evenings because of my tae kwon do training")

When people are selling crap on craigslist they just want to know that you have money. When they want a roommate, they want to know who you are, if they should even be comfortable having you come over to see the place and meet them. If you're going with very bare-bones emails, you're probably not crossing that threshold.

Treat your responses like a job application. In the same way that you'd read a job description and then customize your cover letter, make sure you're matching the style/tone of your email with that of the ad.
posted by Kololo at 8:18 PM on July 10, 2012

Are you quoting a credit score? Can you offer first & last upfront? A friend of mine's a realtor, and that was her advice to me when I was desperate for an apartment in the city.

Painful suggestion: Does it *have* to be SF? I grew up on the Peninsula, lived in SF proper for nearly 10 years, left ONE year for school and found myself priced out of the market despite a substantial raise at work. It's freaking RIDICULOUS in SF right now. I understand the siren call of The City, but I ended up having to look on the Peninsula & East Bay after two months of searching. Would have done Oakland, but the commute was just too awful for the part of the city I'm working in--North Bay ended up being cheaper even with bridge tolls...who'd have thunk? It's definitely not the same at all, but there are positive trade-offs as well as negative ones.
posted by smirkette at 9:12 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Over the last year, I've signed two leases. One was 1.5 months ago, and the other was 6 months before that. Here's what worked for me:

- I sent out on average 3-4 emails a day.
- Lists seem to work pretty well.
- Always include something that indicates you've read the post.
- Both apartments took about 2-3 weeks to find.
- People who were a bit older than me (I'm 23, they're 27+) would usually be awkward at the in-person interviews.
- On the other hand, I've had a 100% success rate with people my age (22-23).

Sorry you have to do this! For what it's worth, it kind of sucks for everyone involved but definitely more for the apartment hunter. When I was applying for places, I would joke that the perfect Craigslist roommate is a left-leaning 25-year-old vegan tech artist-entrepreneur-writer who makes furniture in his spare time. He probably also has half a cat, half a dog, and a passion for chore wheels.
posted by yaymukund at 9:24 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Update: decided to customize the e-mails a little more. (If I can't figure out how to do that, that's probably a sign that I shouldn't be asking them anyway.) Got a reply! Am less freaked out now. Thanks.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:58 PM on July 10, 2012

Before I relocated to the Easy Bay (yay Oakland!) my roommates and I looked for a housemate in the Mission. We had our ad up for a week (granted it was for a very very cheap room in the mission) and we got over 100 emails within a few days, at LEAST. This happened in April and since then the rental market in SF has gotten even worse. The person who ended up getting the room told us that he literally sent out emails to every single room he saw within his price range, which ended up being over 100 rooms at the least. So my suggestion would be to send more out!
posted by ruhroh at 10:00 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Relax a little: they're probably getting a ton of emails, plus it's been less than a day since you sent them out.
posted by easily confused at 2:56 AM on July 11, 2012

The last time I was looking for a roommate was during one of the boom cycles and the market was hard on renters. My roommate wanted post resulted in 129 responses in the first hour. NUTS. I gave it a day before starting to even sift through them and with that many I could be brutally nitpicky. It helped if the people seemed mature, gave me a little info about themselves, assured me they were employed and stable (fiscally and emotionally - I'd just ditched a crazy lady) and had something I thought was interesting. I'm not going to lie, the guy who said he'd be out of town 80% of the time traveling for work was appealing, as well as the one who offered that his family had a big skihouse at Tahoe. So anything like that would probably help in this market!
posted by marylynn at 9:26 AM on July 11, 2012

I lived right off of Lake Merritt in Oakland, and it was lovely. I highly suggest that you check out some stuff near SF, since renting in SF is so tight.

Look for places on the A/C, SamTrans routes, or even places like Daly City which might as well be SF. (Down by SFSU and into the city on the N Judah).
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:14 AM on July 11, 2012

In case anybody cares: people did start answering my e-mails. Then I started answering them back. Now I have a place to live! Thank you for helping to calm me down.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:01 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Congratulations, madcaptenor! Yay! :D
posted by yaymukund at 11:03 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

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