Good room renting sites, or making ads work better on Craigslist?
April 8, 2015 4:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm leaving my apartment at the end of the month. I need to find someone to take over my place (yes, I've talked to my landlord about this), and I posted an ad on Craigslist. It's a pretty nice room, especially for NYC standards, and I've only gotten one hit from Craigslist, even though I've posted several photos and listed all the good points of the apartment.

I have no idea what's wrong, but I'd like to branch out to other sites. What are other good sites for renting out a room? Alternatively, what can I do on Craigslist to get more people interested in seeing the place? Thanks for any help.
posted by EggplantPizza to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can you link to the ad? Hard to get a good explanation for this without seeing what could be the problem with the ad.
posted by kmennie at 4:28 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Every time I've used Craigslist to list a room in NYC, I've gotten dozens of emails about it. I agree, we need to see the ad.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:37 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Here's the link:
posted by EggplantPizza at 4:44 PM on April 8, 2015

Your photos look kind of... depressing. (It also seems a little expensive for being that far out, but you can't change either of those things, so focus on the pictures.) Clean up the clutter (or just shove it under the bed or into the closet), open the curtains and blinds, and take photos during the day. Show the rest of the apartment (kitchen, living area), and the outside of the building if possible. Photograph the dishwasher and washing machine, those are selling points.

Also: this is for a situation with two roommates? Describe them. No one wants to take a total gamble on strangers without even knowing what they might be like.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:50 PM on April 8, 2015 [13 favorites]

You don't have an address in there (it doesn't have to be exact, but put in the closest intersection), which is both annoying and means it doesn't show up correctly on sites like padmapper.

Agreed on nicer/cleaner/brighter pictures, and pictures of the rest of the apartment (kitchen especially, plus living room), and saying a little more about the roommates (ages, jobs, etc).
posted by brainmouse at 4:52 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

You're missing an exact date - "early May" is a little vague if I need to move by the 1st.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:56 PM on April 8, 2015

From my perspective (as a female who is looking for housing not in your area):
1. Some of these pictures just seem to be of piles of stuff/mess.
2. Add pictures of the rest of the apartment. I ALWAYS want to know what the kitchen and living room look like.
3. Take a better picture of the bathroom. While I can technically create the layout in my head from another pictures, I shouldn't have to.
posted by smangosbubbles at 4:58 PM on April 8, 2015 [7 favorites]

It comes with a dresser but nothing else and the dresser is ugly (and, one fears from the pic, covered in a layer of dust and goo from the products on top) and... That's not a feature. Delete "dresser" and discuss leaving it or taking it to the curb with the prospective tenant. Yes on better pix and more of them (balcony -- tiny patch one can barely find room to sit on, or party-worth property?)

"Paying rent + utilities (gas/electric/heat, internet/cable)" doesn't scan -- I think this means you are paying utilities on top of rent, but it could also be interpreted as 'the rent pays the utilities as well.'
posted by kmennie at 5:12 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, sorry but step 1 is clean up. I realize that you're moving, but no place shines when it's a mess. And getting rid of the clutter will make it look even bigger. Also, I realize this is moving from cleaning to staging, but if you have or could borrow a lighter coloured comforter, that would brighten up the picture. (Also, opening the windows as others have suggested).

Step 2 is put in searchable terms, including machine searchable info for people browsing via API services: location, date. You say it's close to 2 subway stations, you should say which ones.

Step 3: More about the kind of people the roommates are and the kind of person you're looking for: Neat freaks or "easy going"? Work from home? Always traveling?

Step 4: Available May 8? Who needs to move May 8th? People want places the first of the month. If you can't provide that, then can you sweeten the pot? REduce the rent the first month? Can you move out early and stay somewhere else for a week? The problem is that you're not showing up for people searching for May 1st and people searching for June 1st don't want to pay an extra 3 months of rent.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:14 PM on April 8, 2015

If there's a nice room under there, you'd never know, all you can see is junk. I would literally take everything out of the room except the furniture. All you should see is a bed, dresser and side table or whatever other furniture is in there. Use a white quilt cover/sheet on your bed, it makes it seem brighter and the room larger. Clean up the other areas of the house in exactly the same way, removing all the clutter and just using furniture and clean surfaces except for maybe a vase of flowers or an ornament. Open the windows, let the light in and use nice, clear shots of the kitchen, living areas and bathroom and make sure they're sparkling. Make the place look like somewhere you'd want to live instead of somewhere you're leaving.

Describe your room mates, making them sound like people you'd like to live with. Basically you need to sell the place because at the moment, the only people who will be interested in your place probably won't be anyone your room mates will want to live with. A few hours work and this place won't be recognisable.
posted by Jubey at 5:17 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Get rid of the 3rd picture with the pile of stuff and the 6th picture with the desk - what could these possibly be showing prospective renters? Add pictures of the kitchen, living room, outdoor area, etc. etc. Maybe retake the pictures of the bedroom horizontally during the day time - the vertical aspect is cutting it up into sections. Zoom out the picture of the bathroom so they can see the sink. Include info as to whether pets are allowed.

Also, tidy up - I know you're the one moving out, but since there are no other pictures of the apartment it would lead one to believe the whole place is just as messy.
posted by majesty_snowbird at 5:19 PM on April 8, 2015

To get more specific...

To prepare for the new photos that you absolutely must take:
Take the office chair out of the room. Remove every single item from on top of every single surface.
Remove everything that isn't furniture from the floors.
Straighten the curtains so they are symmetrical, and open during daylight.

Don't try to capture every inch of the room (I'm assuming that's why we are seeing the weird picture of the shoe pile. Instead, try climbing on top of a chair in your doorway to get an angle that shoes MORE of the room in fewer photos.

Simple pictures of the spotlessly clean common areas.
posted by waterisfinite at 5:22 PM on April 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

As someone who has sublet a lot of apartments/rooms off of Craigslist/AirBnB/etc., I echo above recommendations. In particular:

- The pictures are not good. It looks like they're taken at night, and the room looks dark and depressing. Take them during the day, when it is sunny (ideally take them to coincide with direct light coming into your window - e.g. if your window faces east, take them in the morning).

- Empty your room of stuff and clutter. The room really looks unappealingly messy, and some of the pictures look like they're simply of piles of clutter. Take all of that out of the room before you photograph it.

- I want to see far more pictures of the bathroom and the rest of the apartment (ideally also looking neat and attractive, like your room).

- In your ad, tell me more about your roommates, and really sell the place, the roommates, and the location to me. I don't have any sense of why I would want to move into your room. (E.g. "One thing I especially love most this apartment is the big east-facing window in the bedroom: I hardly even need my alarm clock because there is so much sunshine pouring in in the morning. There is also a big park a block away where I like to walk my dog Rocky and decompress after work. You'll also love ¡Sombrero!, the Spanish tapas place one block north, and the little cafe one block south that sells delicious lattes and doesn't mind if you stay all afternoon. My two roommates - Jane and Ellie - are working professionals who are quiet but friendly. We all usually keep to ourselves during the week, but sometimes on weekends we all make dinner together or go and try a new ethnic restaurant in our neighborhood." (etc.)
posted by ClaireBear at 5:24 PM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

What everyone else has said:

Agreed that the price seems a bit steep for that far out and for that quality of space.

Also, the pictures are truly awful. All I see is ugly, and junk.

And 'two women' is not enough to go on. Talk about some interests, jobs, personality traits, etc. It's important to know who you are living with.

Other than "room for rent" you haven't said why someone would want to rent it.
posted by greta simone at 5:26 PM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Spacious bedroom in a 3 bedroom apartment on May (date). Your room has a private bathroom, built-in air conditioner & closet.

Common areas include Kitchen (with gas stove, dishwasher, microwave), Living Room (with its own built-in air conditioner), Dining Area and Balcony.

There is laundry in building.

Located 5 minutes from the (specific) E/F station, 6 minutes from (specific other station).

Utilities will be split between all roommates (gas/electric/heat, internet/cable).

We are both female working professionals who enjoy (reading, drinking, cooking, loud music at 3 am, underwater basket weaving). Female applicants preferred. NO COUPLES.

Please email with a few details about yourself.
posted by waterisfinite at 5:29 PM on April 8, 2015

Best answer: Looks like a nice room, but your photos could be much better. To take better ones; here are some suggestions:

1. Daylight, windows open. All lights turned on.

2. Buy a plant or some flowers and place it in the shot.

3. All clutter into boxes, out in the hall. Clear off the back of the door, top of the dresser, piles on the floor, etc. It will probably take over an hour to stage the place to take these photos- invest the time. Take all the little pieces of artwork down too- one big piece of art per wall will photograph better. Avoid "unfriendly" elements like the back of the giant black chair (feels like Darth Vader is sneaking in to attack me)- get the dark chair out of there, use a smaller brighter chair instead (kitchen chair? borrow from roommate?) for the photos. Bright colours, no clutter, open spaces, natural light.

4. Once the room is staged, stand in a corner facing the window and hold the phone or camera horizontally. Frame the open window into the shot. Tap the phone screen on a dark item in the room so the photo becomes bright- the window should look blurry white. Not a dark window like this, but a bright white window like this. You want the room to look flooded with light- natural light is the number one thing that makes a room look nice.

5. Now that the staging is mostly-done, take a couple horizontally-oriented photos of the room. Then stop and look carefullt at each photo- does anything look messy? Anything need adjusting? Make adjustments to hide clutter and pretty things up, then go again. Here's a before-and-after example- that room is still a bit messy and cluttered but see what a difference some tidying up and the open door/window makes? Make sure to include the bright white window, or the plant, or something bright and pretty in each shot.

It would be good if your ad also included a couple photos of other rooms in the apartment, and a few nice summery green photos of the area around the apartment (nice restaurant patio, the park, etc- just google).

Next, your written copy can be clearer and broken up better, it's a bit chunky and hard to read, and it sounds too unfriendly. I can't imagine what it's like to live there- use more descriptors and paint a more appealing picture of the home and area.
Maybe something like this (I made up some details, adjust as needed)

Bright, spacious bedroom in shared 3brdm apartment, for May 10:

I got a job, so I'm leaving my lovely apartment!
Seeking someone to take over the remaining 6 months of my lease on a beautiful bright bedroom in a 3-bedroom apartment in Forest Hills.
Move in any time after May 10.

Beautiful spacious room
Private bathroom with shower and full-sized tub (luxury!)
Big window = lots of natural light
Built-in air conditioner
Painted 2 years ago
Lots of closet and storage space

Second-floor-walkup in a safe, friendly building
Largest bedroom in a 3-bedroom apartment
Shared kitchen has gas stove, microwave, dishwasher
Shared living room with air conditioning
Shared dining room for dinner parties!
A second bathroom that's shared by the other two tenants
Good sound privacy
Friendly neighbours
Laundry in basement
Beautiful balcony

5 minute walk to __ Station
6 minute walk to __ Station
25 minutes to Penn Station- very convenient!
Amazing neighbourhood: 5 minutes from Corona Park, lots of delicious food- Indian, Italian, and a cute ice cream parlour. Library, bodega, gym, and groceries are all in walking distance.

$959 + utilities (gas/electric/heat)
Option to share Internet and Cable with other tenants

You'd share the apartment with two friendly professional 30ish women.
Women preferred, sorry no couples.
No pets please, due to allergies.
The roommates like to socialize a little, and also hang out independently.
Really nice people.

Please email with a few details about yourself- hobbies, job, what celebrity posters you had taped over your desk as a teen, whatever! Thanks so much!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:54 PM on April 8, 2015 [16 favorites]

I would switch "PRIVATE BATHROOM" from all caps in the title. When I scan craigslist ads, I subconsciously autoflag anything like that as spammish and a likely waste of time, and thus would probably not even click on your ad unless I was really desperate.
posted by threeants at 5:56 PM on April 8, 2015

Similarly, you really need to sound more friendly and human in your ad. Even though you're not the roommate, the impersonal tone makes me feel neutral to negative about the two otherwise unspecified female beings I would be living with. Further, apartment seekers are absolutely evaluating the person posting the ad, to hopefully avoid a business interaction with someone who is potentially unhinged, untrustworthy, flaky, rude, etc.
posted by threeants at 6:00 PM on April 8, 2015

A note on the clutter - aside from being visually a turn off, the big problem is that it tells your audience there will not be enough storage to store all of their stuff and hence it needs to stay strewn around the room. Even if that's true, removing it all (ie, making it looks like a compulsive neat freak lives there) will give the impression that there is loads of closet space to store a whole life's worth of stuff and keep the place neat.
posted by cecic at 6:04 PM on April 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody! I can see I have some work to do to make the place look more attractive, and I'll retake photos once I've done that. I appreciate the tips!
posted by EggplantPizza at 6:14 PM on April 8, 2015

I have read here from multiple people on mefi that a bowl of fruit in a real estate photo can do wonders for your response rate. Might be worth a try.

May sound crazy, but it apparently works.
posted by megafauna at 6:35 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I know the point has been made, but the impression I get from the clutter is that the whole apartment looks like that.
posted by rhizome at 6:37 PM on April 8, 2015

Long story short: You're moving. You need to pack your stuff anyway—might as well do it before taking photos!
posted by limeonaire at 6:38 PM on April 8, 2015

What are other good sites for renting out a room?

Have you considered the Listings Project?
posted by merejane at 7:07 PM on April 8, 2015 - but follow the suggestions above first.
posted by Schadenfreudian at 10:24 PM on April 8, 2015

I would not bother to read the text after seeing the photos. Quick suggestions:

- Change the bedspread, or fold it in half. You can perhaps borrow some pillows or quilts from your roommates to stage it the bed better. I know the bed is not part of the rental, but it will help in making the room more appealing. Open the curtains and photograph in daylight (unless there's a really bad view out or something).
- Take that first photo of the bedroom from the corner or a bit outside the door so the room appears larger. Don't let the chair in the bottom right into the frame.
- The second photo with the dresser is cluttered, and it looks like there's something on the floor near the wall. The angle also makes it look cramped, since the bed goes right up to the dresser. Take the picture facing the dresser instead, and clear out some of the stuff on it.
- The third picture is kind of pointless since all it shows is the door. Go inside the bathroom to show the sink, or get rid of that picture.
- Pictures of the common areas (living room, kitchen, dining, the beautiful balcony etc.) are necessary. They sound more appealing than just the room by itself (which is perfectly nice, but not particularly unique).

I'm going against the grain in this thread to say that I wouldn't want to read through more details about the roommates in the post, nor would I want to spend energy crafting a long, cute e-mail showing off my personality (remember that tenants are looking at tens of ads). That level of communication is better done after the initial e-mail contact is made. But it looks like some people would want the opposite, so I guess you could try both!

Finally, does the new tenant have the option of leaving after 4 months, or are they expected to commit for a year and 4 months? It would be nice to spell that out.
posted by redlines at 11:32 AM on April 9, 2015

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