If the internet’s earliest skeptics were concerned about cyber safety and online anonymity they would flip shit when it came to finding a home on Craigslist.
I’m a Craigslist casual, meaning that I know my way around the site, but don’t scour its postings regularly. I’ve sold a couple vehicles and occasionally browse the “for sale” section with no intention of buying anything. Craigslist is mostly normal people looking to offload a couch or something, but its depths know no boundaries.
After unsuccessfully trying to find a place in Portland through word of mouth, I dove headfirst into the Portland Craigslist pit by making a fairly revealing profile about myself and even included a photo and my phone number. Basically, all the things that my parents told me not to do when I first learned how to access AOL on our family Windows desktop.
Now that I’m fairly sure my roommates won’t be murdering me, I think it’s time I share my experience in finding a home in a new city and the lessons that I learned.
1) There will be no lack of options!
While the housing market can seem sparse, there are actually many people in their 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s around the city who are looking for someone to split rent with. The key is to be the right amount of picky. I was more than willing to share a bathroom but not down to sleep in a basement with someone else.
2) The attention can be a little nice.
Think about it like this: You’re back in elementary school, about to start a pick-up game of soccer and both team captains are arguing over who gets you on their side. Not who HAS to take you but who GETS you.
I’m not one to fall into superficiality, but it’s scientifically proven that social media can have a dopamine triggering response. In a new city with limited contacts, having those two captains, or various strangers trying to avoid paying their rent in full, can take off some of the cold intimidation.
3) Como se dice “Hell No”?
As with anytime you put yourself out there in public, there may be gross people responding. A man (maybe) who was texting me in Spanish asked if I wanted to move into his trailer in Salem. I tried to explain that it was too far away and then he began asking weird questions. I had to use the Google Translator app and I realized they were asking me to be their boyfriend for submissive activities. Times like this are why iPhone has the block feature.
4) What’s a New Seasons?
Reading a description of a Craigslist post can give you insight to what the Poster might be like. For example, if there are quality pictures and plenty of information on the place, you can hope that they are genuinely looking for a compatible match. If they state that all genders, races and religions are welcome, you can infer that they are generally accepting. If they tell you how close the nearest bar is — things can go two ways.
One thing that caught me off guard was that nearly every post mentioned their proximity to a New Seasons. I had no idea what this was but since investigating, I’ve determined it’s similar to Whole Foods in that you can find a $16 jar of peanut butter but more laid back, in that the person making your bagel sandwich will serve you with complete indifference.
5) For all the shitty people there were far more nice people!
I got other creepy responses. Unsolicited nudes, random people telling me to fuck myself and even one guy (?) who said he was passing through on his way to Alaska and looking for a body to stay warm next to at night.
Blocked, blocked, blocked.
However, despite all the weirdness there was an overwhelming amount of seemingly nice folks just looking to fill a room. People in areas like Vancouver and Beaverton were some of the most frequent responders to my postings. Though I always declined, stating that I wanted to be located Portland proper, they were very understanding and wished me luck finding a place. Nothing is better than a warm exchange in a cold new place.
6) Oh yeah, Roomster can eat shit and die.
The networking app is supposed to help connect people in relative proximity so that they can post profiles of themselves for finding houses or profiles of houses that need a tenant. Basically a streamlined Craigslist that ditches the anonymous aspect by requiring users to verify with an email.
However, the free app might as well be worthless because you can’t message people about their postings. In fact the only messages that did come through were automated messages from the app trying to get you to upgrade.
More than a dozen people saw my post on Craigslist and texted me links to their houses on Roomster. Each time I would try to follow the link I would just be taken to the homepage and tech support told me that they weren’t responsible for third party interactions.
Yes, I left them bad App Store reviews.
In the end, I found a cool place and some pretty cool roommates. The calls and texts have stopped flowing in and things worked out for the best. If you’re willing to navigate the creeps and scams of the internet, it might be a good option for you too.
However, it should go without saying that not everyone should do this.
Originally published at elistillman.com on January 28, 2019.