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How-To: Find an Apartment on Craigslist

Apartment hunting is a necessary evil. It's not fun, but you can't fake it either — unless you actually like crashing with your parents. Short of throwing money at a broker, there aren't too many secrets to apartment hunting; you've just got to search the local papers, classifieds, and online agency listings, cruise the neighborhoods you like for signs, and of course, scour Craigslist in depth. I'm sure you can handle most of this, but there is a method to the madness of Craigslist that you may not all be aware of. It doesn't guarantee you a dream pad for the price of a shanty, but it'll at least get you in front of what you're looking for. If you're looking for tips on how to up your credit score for a prospective landlord, you'd better check out SavvySugar. To hear my tips,


  1. First of all, if you're looking for an apartment from long distance, you should be extra cautious, demand to see many photographs and references, and don't sign a lease until you or someone you know has visited it.
  2. Moving on — no pun intended: You should begin looking for a place two months in advance of when you want to move. Most places are listed about a month ahead, and in big cities, apartments will go in a day. But, if you give yourself two months, you'll get a better idea of what's available, what you can afford, what neighborhoods you like, and how quickly things are going.
  3. You should already have an idea of what you're looking for. So write it all down in front of you, and don't be too picky; a penthouse apartment with maid, pool, gym, and ocean and mountain views for $700/month is never gonna happen.
  4. The wonder of Craigslist is that it allows you to add your search terms to your RSS reader. To do so, go to your city's site on Craigslist, click "Housing," then fill in specifics like keywords, rent, number of bedrooms, neighborhood, and whether you need a pet-friendly place. Then, choose "apt/housing for rent" from the drop down menu, and check off "has image." Then, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the yellow "RSS" button. This will bring up the feed and allow you to add it to your RSS reader. Try Google Reader or Bloglines, if you don't have one already. Just so you know, you can use this same method for looking for furniture, cars, or anything else on Craigslist. And, you can download an app to your Blackberry or iPhone for your reader so you can read listings on the go.
  5. If you're open to a range of living situations, neighborhoods, rents, etc., then your chances of finding a place are greater, but that also means you'll need to subscribe to more feeds. So go through the last step again until you've entered all the possible search terms and combinations.
  6. I have 118 blogs in my RSS reader (a lot!), so if I were apartment hunting, I'd want to compound them all. You can combine a bunch of feeds into one with FeedBlendr.
  7. If you're afraid to get dirty with an RSS feed, you can do it the old-fashioned way, by making methodical searches. Peruse Craigslist's various categories (apartments, rooms, sublets) the same way you entered a range of search terms. You never know: a temporary rental could last three years, or a shared apartment could be with someone who travels nine months of the year.
  8. Whichever way you'll be reading the listings, you need to do so routinely. Get up first thing and the morning and then look again every few hours. Set an alarm if you have to remind yourself.
  9. When you see something that you might like, click on the map link at the bottom of the CL page to verify its address (people lie about neighborhoods sometimes). Or better yet, use a Google Maps/Craigslist mashup like MapsKrieg, which allows you to see all the listings for your location on a map.

Stay tuned for tips on actually snagging the apartment you want once you've found it!


Join The Conversation
heatherhas heatherhas 8 years
I found a fabulous apt. to rent on craiglist! Granted, it took me almost 2 months of solid searching to find it, but it was a great score.
PeachyKeen19 PeachyKeen19 8 years
cawthraven, you live in Boston? That's where I am thinking of moving to (well, sometimes I think of doing that). I don't know if you'll come back to this post but I wanted to ask, how hard is it to find a place in the city? Any tips? I'm not sure what neighborhood I'd move to but I've got some family in the South End so that's one area I would look at. Ok then, thanks :).
PeachyKeen19 PeachyKeen19 8 years
Thank you Casa!
PeachyKeen19 PeachyKeen19 8 years
I don't know about craigslist (I'll use these tips of course!) but I'm definitely thinking a lot more about moving out of my parent's place and into my own. Hopefully, I'll get to do so in the near future. I really like these How-To's, they're encouraging and informative and I will definitely bookmark it for future reference :).
margokhal margokhal 8 years
Thanks for this, Casa! I'll have to start doing some long-distance apartment hunting in a bit [moving 1,000 miles away to grad school...yay], so I am putting this article on my bookmarks and am looking forward to the next installment!
cawthraven cawthraven 8 years
Unfortunately, if you wait until 2 months before in Boston, you will have a very hard time looking for an apartment. Also, GoogleReader allows you to make folders, so if you use that you can have all of your apartment-search feeds in one folder.
fakeplanettelex fakeplanettelex 8 years
i've unfortunately had HORRENDOUS experience with craigslist and roommates - but then again, having roommates is not my ideal situation. luckily when i was trying to get out of my last horrible apt situation, i found a great apt via craigslist - with a broker though, but the fees were extremely reasonable and it was 1 1/2 months in advance. not to mention, a great area & affordable rent (for ny). looking in advance and making sure you have that first/last you can drop to secure the place is the key. easier said than done, but then you won't have to settle for less and it makes the next month or so a breeze until you have a fab pad!
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