Has craigslist really destroyed the local paper's rental listings? What now?
September 29, 2006 3:14 PM   Subscribe

Is craigslist now the only place to search for apartments in urban areas of the U.S.? What does this mean for the significant share of the population that is not computer literate?

Four years ago, I did all my apartment hunting through the local alternative weeklies and the Sunday section of the daily paper.

I need to move again, and I've discovered that one of our local alt weeklies doesn't even have an apartments section any more. The other seems only to list places way out in the burbs. The Sunday paper mostly has big complexes, and very limited selection. I've only been able to find nice-looking close-in stuff by going to craigslist.

Fine for me. But I spend enough time around people from other cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds to know that there are a LOT of people who don't have a clue about computers, the internet or craigslist. It seems that people in this demographic are the ones who would most benefit from quick, easy access to information about inexpensive rentals and rentals accessible by public transportation.

What am I missing? Are computer-illiterates being screwed on the rental market? Have the listings migrated somewhere else that they can find?
posted by croutonsupafreak to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A lot of people just drive around and look for "for rent" signs, then write down the phone numbers on the signs and call them.
posted by interrobang at 3:22 PM on September 29, 2006

Yep. Also I've noticed a bunch of "free apartment finders" in my area, which are hired by apartments to drum up residents.
posted by muddgirl at 3:23 PM on September 29, 2006

I don't know where you are, but I think you are missing something. Most cities that would appear on craigslist have printed apartment guides that are available at libraries, grocery stores, video stores, etc. I always see signs in front of places for rent.
posted by Frank Grimes at 3:23 PM on September 29, 2006

Rich people can afford brokers that actually look for apartments and do work, as opposed to the rest of us who just get stuck paying a few grand to the guy who paid $25 to put up the Craigslist ad.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:23 PM on September 29, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, I've picked up those printed apartment guides. They only have mega-complexes, and they tend to cost a lot more than the smaller mom-and-pop rentals.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:26 PM on September 29, 2006

Response by poster: I'm in Portland, by the way. I don't think you have to pay $25 -- or anything -- to advertise on craigslist here. And I've never heard of people using brokers to rent anything, either. The market's not that tight.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:27 PM on September 29, 2006

Chicago's "alt-weekly," aka The Chicago Reader, has a huge apartment section, which is easily searchable online.
posted by MrZero at 3:34 PM on September 29, 2006

those printed apartment guides... only have mega-complexes, and they tend to cost a lot more than the smaller mom-and-pop rentals.

Agreed. I would say, only new mega-complexes, those with a lot of empty units ('cause they cost too much). And it's not at all my impression that Craigslist has the only listings. My impression is the smaller "mom-and-pop" landlords are not a progressive lot -- they do what's worked all these years, don't have much incentive to change with the times, and aren't exactly tech-savvy.

And this issue probably may wide regional variations.
posted by Rash at 4:17 PM on September 29, 2006

...probably may have wide regional variations.
posted by Rash at 4:19 PM on September 29, 2006

posted by Rash at 4:26 PM on September 29, 2006

One of the women I worked with this summer (who was supporting herself and two young sons on about $8-9/hour) was using those free Apartment Finder magazines. She was able to find something that she liked quickly, without moving to a new part of the city. This was in Atlanta; YMMV.
posted by anjamu at 5:13 PM on September 29, 2006

New Orleans still has listings in the paper, but in the right areas of town, i.e. the dry ones, all you have to do is stick a sign in the yard and you'll get more calls than you know what to do with.

TheOnlyCoolTim: "the rest of us who just get stuck paying a few grand to the guy who paid $25 to put up the Craigslist ad."

If someone can afford to pay a couple grand to someone to find them an apartment, they're not part of "the rest of us" as I understand it.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:44 PM on September 29, 2006

many people get apartments the way many people get jobs ... they either pound the pavement for one or a friend tips them off

never underestimate the power of word of mouth ... if joe ordinary tells his friends that he's looking for an apartment, he's going to get a few leads to follow up on
posted by pyramid termite at 7:02 PM on September 29, 2006

What I've noticed at the bottom of the market in NYC (and this is likely true in many other urban centers) is that many room-rental agencies have sprung up to connect renters with people who have extra rooms in their apartments. The people with rooms (at least the ones I've lived with) often have limited to no contact with computers, but the agencies act as intermediaries between them and the Craigslist users, in exchange for a one-time fee like $125 or $150.

I've used three of these agencies so far at various times, and they have had various issues/annoyances, but all have resulted in me finding a good, livable room. You find them by looking in Craigslist rooms for rent section; there are always four or five different agencies advertising with subject lines such as "rooms for 125/wk." They will send you to different rooms, mostly in Harlem & Washington Heights, until you find the room you like.
posted by lorimer at 11:59 PM on September 29, 2006

Of the two apartments I've lived in over the last three years, the first I found through Craigslist. The second I found by hitting the pavement on a sunny afternoon and cold-calling For Rent signs. Craigslist is an important font of rental listings — but certainly not the only one.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:47 AM on September 30, 2006

I've found that weekly papers in most cities I've lived in have good apartment listings.
posted by Melsky at 4:32 AM on September 30, 2006

Response by poster: That's what I've always found in the past, Melsky. But this week I was shocked that one of two local weeklies has completely discontinued its rental listings, and the other has a very diminished listing column compared to what was there before. That's partly what inspired this question.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:50 PM on September 30, 2006

« Older How do I bake bread with great crust?   |   Has an economist ever calculated the worth of... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.