Dear PoPville – Why No Interest in my Rental?

“Dear PoPville,

Help! I’m getting married and moving away and need to sublet my place. This is the second week I’ve had the listing on craigslist, and I’ve gotten really limited responses. Can you and/or your readers help me figure out what’s wrong? Is the price to low? Do people think I’m a scam? Or does no one want to move to Petworth? Or does no one sublet? I think it’s a great place, and I’m just confused about why I have gotten so little interest.”

The Craigslist ad says:

“This is a great corner apartment with lots of light. I wouldn’t be giving it up except that I’m getting married and moving away. I am looking for someone who can take over the last four months of the lease–Dec 1-March 31. Rent is $1100 for the entire apartment, which includes all utilities (not cable, telephone, or internet). Deposit of $1100 is required. Photos here.

-1920s building, quiet neighbors, and on-site manager
-Coin-operating laundry in the building
-Close to transit (10 minute walk to GA Ave/Petworth metro, 2 minute walk to express bus–79, local bus at the corner)
-Convenient to Columbia Heights mall area–Target/IHOP/Staples/restaurants (20 min walk/7 min bike)
-On-street parking (no permit required)
-Easy commute to downtown DC/Takoma Park/Silver Spring
-Walk to library/Yes! Organic market/farmers’ market/Safeway/CVS/restaurants/Qualia coffee

What I’m looking for in a renter:
-Employed (must show proof of employment)
-Considerate and relatively quiet
-Willing to provide references/have background check
-Familiarity with Petworth

If you are interested, please email me with a little bit about yourself, where you currently live now, and what you like about Petworth. The sublet dates are December 1st – March 31. If you need a longer/shorter period of time, you may email, but I will give preference to folks who want exactly 4 months. Thank you.”

I think there are a few problems. First, even though you provide a link to photos the two photos you embed on the actual craigslist ad are pretty bad. Second – as you suspected – I don’t think there are many folks in the market for a 4 month rental. I also think the requirement of emailing “a little bit about yourself, where you currently live now, and what you like about Petworth.” is a bit excessive. Why do they have to say what they like about Petworth? Seems a bit much to me. Though for the record, I think the price is a great deal.

What do you guys think?

67 Comment

  • I agree with PoP. The price seems right, but the pictures showing on CL are pretty irrelevant to what people want to see. Who wants to see the view? I would want to see the kitchen and maybe the bedroom first and foremost.

    Also, asking people to give you their story as part of the application process is pretty intrusive. You come off as extraordinarily picky; I’d probably be thinking “if I don’t answer what I like about Petworth correctly, she won’t pick me.” A background check and rental history are all well and good, but you probably won’t get a feel for the prospective tenant until you meet them.

  • I personally just would not want to live there. It looks depressing. The price is decent though.

  • 100% agree with what PoP had to say. Plus, might help too if you spell out the scenario at the conclusion of the lease … does the new renter have to move out? can they stay in the apartment, etc?

    • Bingo. This is your biggest problem. Very few pople will want to put up with the hassle of moving somewhere if it’s only going to be for 4 months, no matter how good the price is. Maybe you can ask the landlord to add their name to the lease as a roommate and then have yours taken off in four months? This would give the prospective the option of staying there longer.

      • I take that back. Adding to the lease only makes sense if you’re living there too. Otherwise, that would be too risky.

    • No one wants a 4 month lease…now. Over the summer it would be a different story, with interns etc. But I doubt interns would want to move to Petworth…location is the second problem…pictures the third.

      You’re not by chance in Democratic marketing/messaging are you?

  • I’d say:

    1) It’s a bit weird, you sound like you’re being really selective for no apparent reason. Why do you want to know a little bit about me and where I currently live?

    2) I doubt there are many people who are looking for a 4-month lease.

    3) That part of Petworth isn’t bad but if I were a single person looking to rent an apartment I would look in many other neighborhoods first.

    • And as others are saying, I’m wondering why the only two pictures show me the *outside* of the apartment and a blank wall with a table. What does the actual apartment look like?

  • I agree with PoP, and add the following: (1) 4 months is a random period. I’m assuming you won’t be back. Do they have an option to renew with the landlord for the same rental amount? (2) For what they need to provide, remove everything but responsible, employed, and willing to have a background check. They don’t need to explain how awesome they are or how much they love Petworth. (3) List the name of the building, the cross-streets, and the management company. Better to know who runs the show and exactly where the building is located (4) Better photos. Those photos aren’t all that appealing.

    You also might want to try placing the listing with one of the local schools, if you can deal with a college student or grad student. Good luck!

  • why must the tenant have an interest in petworth or be familiar? and why must you know why they like petworth? that has no relevance whatsoever…

  • me

    The biggest thing would be the 4 months. And it’s not just that it’s 4 months (because if it was in the summer, you’d have better luck), but these 4 months are just a deal-breaker.

    And anyone who loves Petworth would be looking for something more long-term as well.

    • me

      One more thing… why is one of the qualifications “a familiarity with Petworth”?

      • Someone who doesn’t know the area might decide to move out mid-lease because they don’t think the neighborhood is safe enough or convenient enough or whatever. I’m helping a friend manage a rental property in Virginia and that just happened to her.

        Even if they don’t sign on to a lease, they’re wasting her time if they go to see the place and then realize they don’t like the location.

        Of course, I don’t know how a prospective renter would prove that they know Petworth really well.

  • I’m with several others. I think the fact that you’re looking for someone with “familiarity with Petworth” (why?) and the fact that you want to know where the person lives now and why they like Petworth are turning a lot of people off. I also agree that the photos could be a little better. And, I’m with PoP on the price; I don’t think that’s your problem. It’s a good price, but not low enough that it would make people think this is some sort of scam.

  • There’s only a slot to access the sink due to stove location. Reaching under the cabinets there would require lying on one’s side on the floor, too.

  • Thanks for your advice. I’ll neaten up the ad accordingly and try to get better pics.

  • I’ve never been in the market for a sublet, and I’ve never been interested in living in Petworth, but if the price is reasonable I’m stumped as to why this isn’t getting many responses. I think the photos are absolutely fine and give a good idea of what the apartment looks like. I also don’t think anyone should be deterred by you asking them to answer a few questions about themselves. And you mention that you’re flexible with the timeframe. Perhaps you should mention that part right off the bat, so someone who can’t commit to four months doesn’t get discouraged and not read the whole thing.

    I’m wondering if a furnished apartment would be more appealing to a short-term renter. Is that something you could do?

    • Prince Of Petworth

      The photos linked in the picasa ad are not the problem – the two photos embedded in the craigslist ad are the problem, in my opinion.

      • Yeah, but I actually think those two are ok. The interior shows that the apartment really get sa lot of natural light, and the view is a big selling point. However, since CL allows up to four photos she might as well add two more to the ad since people don’t always feel like clicking on links.

      • Ah, see I skimmed the ad and missed the link to the additional photos (yes, I also missed it in the post above.) My fault, but I suspect many folks do the same; I still think you should put more interesting photos right in front of people’s faces.

  • Is the price for the ENTIRE 2 bedroom apartment or to live with a roommate? You should make that more clear.

    • “Rent is $1100 for the entire apartment”

      I think one thing we’re learning that people don’t thoroughly read things!

      • Anyone who’s reading this is reading dozens more every single day. It’s in the interest of the ad’s writer to present the information as clearly as possible (and in multiple locations). Yes the number of bedrooms is in the title, but it should also be in the body.

        • There’s a floor plan too.

          As the landlord I’m not sure I’d want to sign a contract who doesn’t notice stuff or read things carefully.

          • Yeah, but the floorplan is only in the Picasa photo set, and it’s easy to miss the link to that set. (I did, and so did GDopplerXT.)

            Yes, once you get to the contract stage, you want your subletter to be reading things carefully… but if you don’t even get a potential subletter’s attention because the important information being difficult to find within the ad, that’s a problem (esp. since the OP is already advertising during the off-season for apartment-hunting and hasn’t had much success so far).

  • (1) No enough information about the actual apartment. How big is the kitchen? Does it have central AC? How new are the appliances? Are the floors carpeted, wood, or fake wood? Is it a studio? A one bedroom? A two bedroom with a roommate who hasn’t been mentioned? Are cats and dogs allowed? From the ad, I have no idea about any of these.
    (2) No intersection. Give the name of the building, and definitely the intersection.
    (3) Since it’s a 4-month sublease, asking for a deposit is ridiculous.
    (4) Better photos are needed.
    (5) The ad asks for a lot from the potential subleaser, but people have said that already.

    • The title of the Cragislist ad clearly states it’s a 2-bedroom.

      I do agree that a full month’s deposit should not be required. Most people know/expect to not get that back when they move out, and giving up over a thousand dollars for less than half a year is pretty daunting. I understand that you want to protect your apartment from possible damages, but you’ll have to just take that risk, raise the rent slightly, or at least ask for a smaller deposit. This is another reason why you may want to rent it out furnished– most damages happen when furniture is getting moved in and out. On that note, is the building management ok with all that extra moving going on?

      • I agree about the deposit being very large — particularly for the time period.

        What if the deposit was held, and then used as the last-month’s rent? (If the lease is renewed, it’s held over.) I had a landlord that used to do that, and it was _fantastic_. Especially as it helped me when moving out for the deposit, move-in fee, etc at my new place.

  • I agree with most of what was said above but would also add the approx size of the apt and number of bathrooms. Those are usually pretty important to a renter. Also, definitely add if the subleter would have an option to sign a lease after the 4 month sublet is up.

  • Could also be the reference to the “squishy toilet seat”.

  • Rather than advertising a sublet, you might consider telling the landlord you’re looking to move and that you’d be happy to assist in finding a new tenant. That way you could advertise for a year and not deal with any of the sublet issues and the new tenant could sign a lease directly with the landlord getting you out of the middle of things.

  • I used to rent (as a landlord) in SHaw (east Shaw, 1st and N) and eventually also would put “you must be familiar w the hood) in the ads because otherwise people had way too inflated expectations and it was always a waste of time. they would ask, where’s the whole foods? and stuff like that.

    I think you need to explain that after 4 months they can stay but have to negotiate a new lease. Maybe get the landlord’s agreemnt on the new rent so you have that info for the sublettor.

  • you don’t say anything about automatic options to renew the lease for the 1 year period immediately following the expiration; plus what PoP said.

  • what everyone else said, but i think there needs to be a more prominent link to the additional photos too. also, info on renewing lease or what happens after the 4 months is up, is very important.

  • Now is not a very popular time of year to move (and it’s going to be a tough sell b/c all you offer is a 4-month lease). I would check with your landlord to see if finding a new tenant to sign a year lease would be sufficient to absolve you of responsibility for the remainder of your lease. (That way you don’t have to worry about a subletter at all! Also, does your lease say whether you are allowed to sublet? Some landlords don’t allow it.) One suggestion – given that the price is low for a 2BR, you could additionally try advertising it on CL as a 1BR+den just to get the attention of those in search of a 1BR. Good luck!

    • My thoughts exactly regarding timing. Fall/Winter are not good times to be advertising because thats when people are settled, busy at work after the summer, plus holiday mayhem. Most people don’t move then, and I always structure leases to avoid transitions during those months. And yes, some better photos would be helpful.

  • The picture of the kitchen is the only useful one in the CL ad. Try to post pictures of entire rooms (or as much as you can possibly get). A picture of a window or a table gives people no sense of the space. Otherwise it looks like you’ve followed most of the advice given and it’s looking better.

    • Agreed.

      I didn’t see the ad when it was only two photos, but I don’t think the current four photos are all that helpful, other than the kitchen one (and maybe the bedroom one).

      The OP is probably at work now, but taking photos on a sunny day might help. Part of the reason the apartment looks depressing in the photos is that it was apparently a bleak and depressing day outside… but because the interior isn’t all that inspiring as far as furniture or decor, there’s not much to distract from, “Wow, looks bleak outside.”

      BTW, I’m not criticizing the furniture/decor and not expecting it to be staged like a house/condo sale… just pointing out that a so-so photo + bleak view + serviceable but uninspiring furniture doesn’t do much to “sell” this place. At the very least, get better photos — does the OP have a friend with a fancy camera, or maybe (s)he can hire a PoP photo-poster cheaply?

    • Now that I see the set of photos on Picasa, my thoughts are:

      – The lighting is better overall in those than in the Craigslist photos (although the bathroom looks dark).
      – Why no pix of the second bedroom (the non-corner one)? It looks like there’s some clutter visible from the doorway; is it being used as a storage room?
      – The photo of the hallway (currently in the Craigslist ad) ought to be replaced with one of the other ones from the Picasa set, maybe the bathroom one.
      – The floor plan is helpful, although the scale of the closets looks iffy.

  • These are your problems, and in this order:

    1. Time of year: Yes people move every day but no one looks to move around the holidays.
    2. Length of Lease with no clarity as to what happens after?
    3. Location. .7 miles north of Petworth = no everyones bag.

    4. White lie in your add that is easily verifiable and unfortunaetly way too common in ads like these. So its a 20 minute walk to DCUSA huh? 4 seconds and 3 clicks of the mouse and google maps this stuff out for you. You are 1.6 miles from DCUSA, which google has at 32 minutes walking.

    Sure, different people walk different speeds and maybe you do power walk it in 20 minutes, but streeeetching the truth in things like this make me skip the add and go to the next.

    • RE: .7 miles north of Petworth. that’s wrong, it is smack dab in the middle of Petworth.

    • Agreed…the poster is much further for both Petworth Metro and DCUSA than she’s implying. I’m a fast walker and I have my doubts that you could walk that in less than 30 to Target.

      • Yeah. It’s 9 blocks from the Georgia and Buchanan to the Georgia Ave.-Petworth Metro, and Google Maps says it’s a 14-minute walk.

      • I live on New Hampshire just a tad further south it takes me about 25 minutes to walk to Target. And about 10 minutes to the Petworth Metro.. I don’t think the poster is wildly off base on the walk.

    • Does anyone else think it’s odd that the ad requires a familiarity with Petworth, but a large part of the ad describes features of the location/neighborhood that someone familiar with the area should already know?

      Personally I think it’s best to keep that stuff at a mimimum because prospective tenants either know it already, can look it up, or would hopefully walk/drive around the area a little and figure it out.

    • Well, I just mapped it and it says 1.3 miles or 25 minutes so Google isn’t always the end all be all of accuracy.

      The first time I mapped it had me going a weird way like all the way behind DCUSA to get to Target and it said 1.6 miles or 32 minutes…

      • sorry was supposed to be a response to [email protected]:05

  • The winter and cold weather is almost here. Who wants to rent an apartment for 4 months and then have to go through the process of moving again? Moving can be very stressful and costly. I’ve been living in my same apartment for 33 years. It’s been a Cooperative for 25 years. I moved around enough in college. I never had plans to get married or have children. I am happy living in my one bedroom apartment for 33 years.

    • “Who wants to rent an apartment for 4 months and then have to go through the process of moving again?”

      – Just moved to the area and therefore don’t want to commit to a year lease.
      – Will be moving out of DC soon and couldn’t extend their current lease.
      – Thinking of buying a house soon and therefore don’t want to commit to a year lease.
      – Are temporarily employed in the area and only need a few months of housing.
      – Are on the waiting list for a hard-to-get apartment building and need someplace to stay in the meantime.

      And so forth… these situations are why the temp/sublet category on Craigslist exists.

  • Since we’re all being helpful here, my take:
    (1) Time of year is a huge problem. No one wants to move then, especially just for 4 months.
    (2) Indefinite as to what happens after 4 months.
    (3) Photos — CL lets you upload 4, so use all 4 in the ad.
    (4) Location — yours is not great, but even worse, the ad doesn’t give it.
    (5) (and this is, I think my only non-cumulative contribution) Add in that the REASON you would like the information is that this would be a sublet, and you’d like to be a in a position to find a solid tenant since your name is still going to be on the lease. Or just take that out altogether and only explain that/request the info once someone responds to the ad. It’s a reasonable request, in my mind.

    And btw, “rent too low” is NEVER a problem with a failure to draw interest.

  • I would give it some serious consideration if I knew I could stay after 4 months at the current rent. Looks like a decent enough place for sure. I think that’s the big turn off, not making it clear whether staying longer is an option or not.

  • As some who just spent months looking for a decently priced 2 bedroom you’ve got several fatal flaws.

    1: Missing cross streets – I want an exact location.

    2: No information about heat, A/C, gas vs electric, number of bathrooms, size of bedrooms, pets being allowed, etc.

    3: Dubiously useful information about how far away it is from things – give people exact cross streets and they’ll figure it out themselves.

    4: Is it good for roommates, better as a 1 bedroom plus den?

    5: WHAT happens in April? Can I negotiate with the landlord to renew my lease? Will I be kicked out?

    In general you have too much information about the neighborhood and about what you want. You need more details and better pictures of the apartment.
    And yes, it seems so cheap that it’s a scam or there’s a fatal flaw.

  • It’s a (relatively) short-term, unfurnished sublet–not very appealing. If the rental term took place over a full semester (or summer), there would be more interest

  • I suspect if the person’s impressed with an applicant and their story, (s)he might consider staying and not “getting married and moving away”

  • Looks like OP made some updates to the ad, but not one of the most important ones which explains what happens at the end of 4 months. Option to continue lease or not?

  • I’m surprised nobody has stated the obvious … price.

    If the market doesn’t respond to the price you’re asking for, you have to lower it.

  • All of the above (especially time of year and weird knowledge of petworth) plus –

    1. Headline offering 2 bedroom at $1100.00 does sound like a scam – remember 50% of CL postings are scams.

    2. Offer it furnished!!!

    3. Look daily in “housing wanted” on CL especially for people attending Walter Reed AFIP.

    4. Furnished!! Even if it is air beds, Ikea & some basic kitchen stuff.

  • I really wish the OP had clarified more of what was behind the inital ad because I’m actually quite curious as to the thought process behind the “must have familiarity with Petworth” condition! Oh well.

  • Maybe she could give some clarification for the pricing — perhaps she’s lived there for a while & it’s rent controlled? Maybe she’s covering part of the rent to attract sub-leasors? I would definitely be skeptical of a two-bedroom for $1100. I automatically think of roaches, broken stuff, lead paint flaking off of walls, etc.

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