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How long does it take you to rent a Room? How to get more inquiries for Feb. 1?

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Mattie Covatch

Jan 15 '13, 02:15 PM


I have a nice house that's cheap and better than nearby rentals. Rent is comparable to nearby rooms for rent. Actually, it's a little cheaper than many.

I don't include photos on craigslist yet, instead e-mailing them upon inquiry.

I don't accept pets, want one roommate only, no evictions, and it's non-smoking only, so I'm eliminating a good chunk of the rental market already.

Any tips for getting more (and better) inquiries?

Should I reduce rent?

If so, how much? Should I knock $10 or $20 off and see what happens?
This room is "bills paid" already.

Should I allow rent?

Wait a while?

My room is occupied now, but I need to find a new tenant for February 1.

Do people often search for rooms so close to move-in?

Should I expect to not have a roommate for February? We're at the 2 weeks away mark, and I wonder if there's really any chance I'll find a decent tenant/roommate who can move in within 2 weeks that I want to live with.



John Mireles

Landlord from San Diego, California

Jan 15 '13, 05:38 PM
1 vote


Most people won't consider any ad that doesn't have photos. Craigslist even has an option where the viewer is shown only listings with photos. The number one thing you can do to increase your exposure is to add some nice, sharp photos that showcase your property. Listing a property without photos is like trying to play ping pong with one arm tied to a leg. It can be done, but why?



Mattie Covatch

Jan 15 '13, 08:20 PM


I've had responses without photos in the past. When I post photos, I get plenty of responses-- but bad responses. People try to say anything to live here. "Oh, I smoke, but only outside." "Oh, I have a dog but it's clean." It's like they don't even read the description when I include photos. I almost don't like to post photos for this very reason. People who aren't a good match claim to be just to live in a nice place. I want inquiries, but good matches. Not people who act like they meet the requirements, come look at it, then say "Oh, I smoke" or "Oh, I have a pet" and waste my time. It almost seems that no photos means people don't give me b.s., and I get more real inquiries who really read the listing description. With no photos, people seem to read.

It's worth a try to post photos to see if I get some good matches. But what else?

What else can I do to get good matches (non-smokers, employed, no pets, etc.)?

Should I have a lower rent price then have them split utilities?

Lower the bills paid price?

Are there better places to find *quality* roommates other than Craigslist?

Is it normal for Craigslist people not to read the listing at all?

Do quality tenants really just start looking for a place only 2 weeks before moving?



Ricks D.

Oak Lawn, Illinois

Jan 15 '13, 09:53 PM


Renting a room, I state in my description that it is females only. I get A LOT of calls from males who didn't read the post.

Basically, you need to talk to them on the phone to interview to see if they're a good match. That way, you're not wasting your time by meeting them. Tell them that you do a phone interview first, then if that goes well, you'll meet them in person... and they ususally don't object. You get more BAD hits with pictures because you get more hits in general, which is good because you have more people to choose from even if most of them are bad ones.



Ricks D.

Oak Lawn, Illinois

Jan 15 '13, 09:54 PM


Err... I phrased that badly.

You get more bad responses with pictures because you get more responses IN GENERAL... and on Craigslist, with or without pictures, you are liable to get more bad responses than good ones.



Mattie Covatch

Jan 15 '13, 10:03 PM


@Ricks D.

Ah, that probably is true that photos = more responses and Craigslist = plenty of crap responses anyway. I guess I'll try posting pics and filter out the crap responses again. I haven't phone interviewed yet either. Usually I google their name/email/phone before giving them the address, and e-mail them back and forth at least twice asking what they want in roommates/etc.

How long does it usually take you to rent a room?

I casually advertised it some in December, now advertise it often. I don't have someone for February 1 yet. Why, I'm not sure...



Ricks D.

Oak Lawn, Illinois

Jan 16 '13, 06:04 PM


At a reasonable price, with pictures, at a good time of year, I got about five serious-seeming calls every time I bumped the post. Most were couples or no shows. I showed that room four times. First one was transferred to a different office through work and couldn't stay, but I liked her a lot. Second asked us to hold the room, then ditched us. We learned to never hold a room without a deposit. Third wore way too much perfume and I am allergic to perfume. Fourth was a complete angel and has been in the room for almost 4 months without giving me any major issues whatsoever.

On the other hand, renting rooms in the winter can be torture. That time, it took me over a month to find someone but that was also because of the price of the room. It was more than a bit high due to its size. We've learned that big rooms only encourage long-term guests and have decided to rent a smaller one at a more reasonable price.

There is a big difference, though. Trying to find a place in the winter can be torture. No one is moving, especially around the holidays.

I basically cannot answer your question because it varies so much, but I think I'd have had the first room rented in two or three weeks if I hadn't stupidly held it for that one person...

The second one, for the price and the time of year, I was lucky to get someone within a month.

Good luck. Seriously.



Ricks D.

Oak Lawn, Illinois

Jan 16 '13, 06:05 PM


Err... I meant a tenant, not a place.

I'm curious how long you've been renting rooms. I'm relatively new to it.



Mattie Covatch

Jan 16 '13, 10:13 PM


5 serious calls each time? Ah. Good to know.

This probably isn't the most popular time to move either.

Maybe I'm getting the normal rate. I get so many junk replies it seems like I'm getting no qualified tenants. I get inquiries who googling their name brings up their court record. I don't even let them look at the property. I get smokers. I get pets.

I am alienating a lot of the rental market since I want someone with a job, a specific gender, and a non-smoker with no pets.

It seems like I got more inquiries last time, but I guess it wasn't winter then.

Ah, yes, the "hold it for me" never works. I learned the hard way on that one once too. They apply, get approved (or not), sign lease, pay rent and deposit.... then I'll hold it a few weeks.

Glad you found one good tenant out of the two.



Ricks D.

Oak Lawn, Illinois

Jan 17 '13, 12:10 AM


Five serious-SEEMING calls. They were real people who were interested.

One thing I can suggest that seems to filter out the BS is to not accept emails, only phone calls. If people email me, I reply "It's still available. If you'd like to discuss this further, my cell number is..."

I use a prepaid cell so that it can't be traced back to me and so that if I get someone creepy calling me, I can just ditch it.

I was likewise looking for nonsmoking females with no pets. I think fall and spring are the best times to rent. Summer isn't bad. Winter... ugh.



Mattie Covatch

Jan 17 '13, 06:01 PM


I've never accepted calls before. Adding a number could make my ad look more legitimate, so that's worth a try. I have a free local Google Voice number that I can use.

Usually I run an e-mail address to find their Facebook, Twitter, etc. before I even let them look at the place. And their name through court records. It's amazing how much dirt some people have.



Mattie Covatch

Jan 17 '13, 07:09 PM


I have a decent inquiry who is a good match, accomplished professional and verifiable.

One issue is... they are not in the country yet. I verified that they are doing a one-month professional residency here. It's not some Nigerian scam. I verified their name and local job here through a big-name, reputable local company that often hires internationals already. The company has this person on their website too. They're real. I obviously only accept money locally in person and, in this case, in cash.

My (allergy-related) "problem" is that they are from the Middle East. I have no problem that a tenant is from there -- it's just that I have rather bad allergies. Do most Middle Easterners cook with tons of spices that bother allergies? Would my kitchen never smell the same again? Is curry popular there?

I've had Asian roommates who cooked with spices before, and that didn't bother my allergies. The spices only smelled a short while after they cooked. Is it the same type of spices in Middle Eastern cooking? Has anyone been around Middle East cooking?

Like I said, I don't care where someone is from - I just don't want to be allergic to their cooking!

My stupid allergies hinder a lot of roommates, and I've never been around Middle Eastern cooking (no restaurants like that even) here so I'm not sure if that would bother my allergies. I've very allergic to cigarette smoke and have to ban smoker roommates. I'm allergic to cats and bunnies and all sorts of junk. It's a pain.



Mattie Covatch

Jan 20 '13, 05:58 AM


The foreign inquiry is a no-go. They're not even in the USA yet-- and won't be until move in day. (Yes, they really do work for a nearby large internationally-hiring company.. not a scam.) But, they don't have a car, and it's literally impossible to live here without one. Well, assuming you want to go anywhere.

Should I mention allergies in my ad? Or wait until a "roommate" discussion for that? I think I'll just handle it and ask any inquiry, "I was wondering what type of foods you usually cook... I've got a few allergies. Are you allergic to anything too?"



Ricks D.

Oak Lawn, Illinois

Feb 07 '13, 03:15 PM


I hope you found someone for February.

Foreign inquiries usually do not work out. I don't think I'd mention the allergies in the ad, but that's something that would come up in my phone interview. I usually do not mention my perfume allergy until I meet them in person so that I can say "For instance, nothing you're wearing now is bothering me," so that they get more of a feel for how selective my allergy is.

I do understand your frustration, now. I just had a 20 minute phone interview that was going very well and she didn't mention that she's a smoker until 20 minutes in. That really is aggravating.

She didn't have many questions because my ad was so detailed, however. That is always a good thing.

I did get two calls, one of which has already come to see the room and wants to move in (we're not 100% committed until we see money) and this was all on the first day that the ad was posted. My ads are apparently quite effective.

Details are important. For every person who doesn't want to stay there because of the rules you post in the ad, there will be someone who says "I hate living with smokers, too!"

The near-perfect roomie I have dislikes having animals in the house and she hates the smell of cigarettes, so the no pets and no smoking clauses were part of the reason she moved in.



Mattie Covatch

Feb 08 '13, 03:29 PM


@Ricks D.

I did find someone at the last minute, thanks for asking. I wasn't expecting to, but fortunately I got one at the last minute. They literally came, saw it, applied, and signed the lease just a few days before move in. It wasn't someone I would have usually considered-- outside my age range. But, so far (in a short week), so good.

I've had smokers come see the room too, then tell me a half hour into it that they smoked "outside only" (yeah, RIGHT. Not.). It is frustrating, isn't it? I've had others say they had no pets, they say "well, I have a dog... but it lives with my parents... can it stay here sometimes?" It's like... what part of the ad can't these people read? I guess they think I'm desperate and will take them if they seem otherwise fine. At one point I thought about it, but smokers just stink, outside or not. And, they usually end up smoking inside if it's cold. Maybe your smoker inquiries don't think their smoke would be a big deal if they seem pleasant too. Big waste of time for us. And pets.. I like pets, but not irresponsible tenants who don't care for their pets and let it destroy someone else's house.

I got a lot of inquiries of people with kids. They try to minimize it, saying that the kid will stay in their room. Um, NO way in hates. I'll never understand why people rent rooms in their house to people with kids. Kids cause damage, and the liabaility... sheesh.

You're right about the details making a match. If we hate smoker smells, someone else will eventually come along who does too. I also like a quiet house, and that's even a hard match to find.

It sure is a frustrating process to find people, but I've been fortune enough to find decent people most of the time after screening out the crazies, the smokers, the kids, the pets, and the people evicted. I've had a few months total of vacancy since I've rented rooms, but I enjoyed having one less person here.

I absolutely want to retire from the "rent a room" thing ASAP.



Ricks D.

Oak Lawn, Illinois

Feb 08 '13, 04:38 PM


Wow! I have never gotten pet inquiries like that. That is a good one!

Another large smoker issue is (like my nightmare tenant's homeless boyfriend) smokers like to smoke RIGHT outside the door with said door open a crack so that all of the smoke blows in, so your house ends up smelling like cigarettes anyway.

Then your washing machine starts to smell or get tar buildup in it, eventually. Ick. And their hair, clothes, etc, smell so if you rent furnished, the bed/couch/carpet starts to smell like smoke, anyway.

Speaking of my nightmare tenant, I found a bunch of scraps of food under the furniture in that room when I started to clean it all out. Yuck? Do we WANT vermin in the house? Thank God she was only here for 1.5 months. Can you imagine what kind of bugs we'd have if she was in there during the summer?

I think it's one thing if someone has an older kid and is divorced with every-other-weekend visitation, but then I'd be afraid of them taking advantage and trying to have the kid over all of the time. I've noted that if you give someone a tiny bit of leeway, they just keep expecting more.

Renting out rooms teaches valuable lessons about humanity.

I am currently enjoying having my house pretty much empty because the renter I have is never home, so I do know what you mean. Hopefully I'll find someone else who is just as busy and hopefully you'll be able to "retire" as soon as you want to.



Mattie Covatch

Feb 08 '13, 11:57 PM


@Ricks D.

My new roommate has been here only a week and already cleaned her bathroom. It's spotless. I haven't even seen her this week. So far, she's clean and quiet.

Ah, yes, the smoking outside the door thing. Yuck. Smoking is one thing I hate. I don't care if someone drinks or eats bon bons all day... those won't give me second hand effects and/or cancer. One person who came you couldn't really smell smoke on, but you're probably right about the washing machine eventually smelling. This person said she smoked "only sometimes and only outside" and her dog lived with her parents but she asked if it could visit some. Yeah, I said NO smoking and NO pets. Hah, tenants.

NEVER accept a kid in a roommate setting. Not bi-weekly weekend visits even. They WILL take advantage of it. Even a few nights a month of a kid could mean huge liability and plenty of damage. NEVERRRR. EVER. EVER. NO. Never accept a kid in a rent a room setting. They will end up staying the night more often, then they'll start coming over during the day more. Liability. Damage. Noise. And, if they get angry with you or a roommate, they could use their kid as leverage to claim you did something you didn't to get back at you. You definitely don't want kids. Talk about drama.

If they have adult children, it doesn't matter... unless there are grandkids they want to come stay. I say "no minors overnight."

When you give some leeway, they definitely take advantage of it. One roommate I had would have dates stay more nights than my rule (2 nights a month). Usually they went twice the limit. At least it's not more often, but still... gets old. I once had a roommate who would have her sibling stay a week every few months. That got very, very old and I had to tell her I expect this not to keep happening. My next lease will say "no overnight guests of any type, no exceptions." I'm done accepting overnight guests. Some are quiet, but... this isn't a hotel. They get the benefit of a cheap place and should be able to find somewhere else to take their date for a night. Overnight guests are just too much of an imposition in roommate situations. Some guests are quiet, but some hog the kitchen or bathrooms.

I'm glad you have a quieter house. Hopefully you can find another good match. I tell prospective tenants "we're very busy, and don't see each other often." I put "seeking tenant who works full-time or attends school full time outside the home, no work from home, and has a busy schedule and able to appreciate a quiet house." I don't quite phrase it like that, but that's the shortened version.

Here's hoping we both can retire from the rent a room thing soon!



Ilir Salihi

Residential Landlord from Washington, Washington D.C.

Feb 09 '13, 06:48 AM


It's worth a try to post photos to see if I get some good matches. But what else?

You HAVE to post pictures. Yes you will get more responses. But just because you get less responses without a picture, does NOT mean those are higher quality inquiries. Put yourself in the renter's shoes. If you were looking for a home, or car, or anything else on craigslist, wouldn't you want to see some pictures? If you wait until someone emails you to send pics, you're adding an extra step for yourself that is a waste of time.

I also don't make the pics too fancy. Just basic shots to give people an idea of what I'm offering. Then hopefully, when they see the place, it looks better than they expected...

Should I have a lower rent price then have them split utilities?

Test different price points. I don't know what your asking price is, but for example, does a $1299/month price pull more responses than $1300/month ad? Maybe something as little as $25/month cheaper (assuming it's priced competitively) makes a big difference in # of responses.

You mentioned that price includes all bills/utilities - with the above example, can you post the ad for $1150/month... then in the ad state something like "all utilities charge flat rate of $150/month -this includes tv, power, gas, etc... Then, so that there's no confusion, I clearly write $1150 rent + $150 utilities = $1300 total/month.

Is it normal for Craigslist people not to read the listing at all?

Yes, I don't respond to people that copy/paste the same generic messages to all ads or don't even bother to read them...

Do quality tenants really just start looking for a place only 2 weeks before moving?

I like when people email me who are looking 1-2 months in advance. To me, it's a sign that they're responsible. I get emails all the time like "Is it available now? I need a place by this weekend!" However, sometimes people do have real reasons that aren't red flags... Like - just broke up with a girlfriend & they want to be out sooner than later (for example)...

The great thing about Craigslist is that you can TEST ads for free. Post an ad, see what gets more responses. As you get questions (FAQS), you can edit your ad to include them. I keep a template in gmail for each property ad that I've slightly altered over the years...

This might not be a popular move with people in here- but when I just want to rent a room quickly, I'll post an ad on Monday morning with something along the lines of "HALF off first month's rent if lease signed by next Sunday!"

That's a good deal for the renter! It adds a sense of urgency for potential renters, and really it's just two weeks of rent... If your property or price is not sticking out much from the competition, it could easily take another two weeks to rent the place. It just gives a small edge over other rentals in the area.

The main thing is that you can test different strategies and find what works for you -and fortunately there's no cost to using craigslist.



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