New PoPville Contributor Jeremy Barr Shares His Experiences Trying to Find a Group House

Photo by PoPville flickr user Rich Renomeron

Jeremy Barr is a writer and journalism student. A native of suburban Maryland, he now lives in Mount Vernon Square.

At first, it seemed easy. Craigslist, I was told, is the best way to find a room to rent in this city. Intent on finding a moderately-priced option in a “good,” “pretty good,” or “up-and-coming” area, I scoured the site, sending introductory emails when listings met my criteria.

And then I waited. And waited. I soon realized that the process of getting into a group house in D.C. is as painful — if not more so — than landing a coveted job. Such was my experience in the three separate times I sought housing over the last two years.

I may have only scored a 2 on my Advanced Placement microeconomics exam, but I understand the concert of supply and demand. And in D.C., there is significantly more demand for rooms than there is supply.

As such, in the same way that job seekers are told to “stand out” in cover letters, so to are prospective roommates when emailing listers. The goal, I learned, is to check all the boxes — “correct” age, employment status, etc. — while also putting yourself outside the box. So, while I was happy to report to prospective housemates that I attended a “name-brand” university, was in my early/mid 20s, and was gainfully employed, I was sure to weave in my time teaching English in Hungary and backpacking through Eastern Europe.

I learned quickly to cast a wider net in my search than I would have liked. In one ad I responded to, for a house between Mt. Pleasant and Columbia Heights, prospective roommates were informed that they might be compelled to engage in a foot-race to “win” the room. Ultimately I decided that I could find less insufferable (more sufferable?) people to live with, and, more importantly, that I probably wouldn’t win the race if it came down to it.

Continues after the jump.

More so than to entertain your readers, the goal of these emails is to get an “interview,” a chance to see the room, see the house and, most importantly, meet the housemates. As the saying goes, for every 10 resumes you send, you get one interview. The same is true for Craigslist housing interviews. In my three housing searches, I estimate that I sent close to 250 emails and only heard back on about 20-25 of them.

In one experience, an “interview” turned out to be less personal than I was lead to believe. At 9:00 p.m., I showed up at a group house in Adams Morgan. I ended up being one of five guys, all a little startled and surprised to see one another. After a cursory tour of the house’s dusty and rundown ground floor, I headed for the door. As I turned to leave, a roommate asked me why I was ducking out early. “You already have several of me here,” I said, having noticed that almost all the prospective roommates had boxy glasses and facial scruff.

The eight or 10 interviews I did were strikingly similar. After a 10 minute-long room and house tour, I sat down in the living room with my potential roommates. I normally was given a chance to make a short opening statement — just the basics — before the roommates started posing questions. “What do you like to do on weekends?” “What are your hobbies?” “Do you cook?” I quickly learned the importance of being able to say “yes” and “no” to every question. ‘Yes, I cook (read: I am a foodie and will watch ‘Top Chef’ with you), but not every day (read: Don’t worry, I won’t clutter up the kitchen all the time). ‘Yes, I like going to bars on weekends (read: I have friends and social skills), but I don’t go out much during the week and don’t get too drunk (read: I am responsible, mature and won’t vomit on our couch).

After an interview, I would send a “thank you” note, just as I would after a job interview. And even when I did well, it generally wasn’t enough to get me into the house. On several occasions I was told that, while the roommates liked me, they ended up giving the room to a friend of a friend. Or a third cousin of a roommate. And, while I wanted to, I couldn’t blame them. Picking a known entity seems safer than picking a likable person you found on the internet.

In my case, after months of frustration and emails, I lucked into the same situation. In January, a colleague informed me that she had a room opening in her group house in Mount Vernon Square. After a quick chat with the roommates, I was in. No need to answer questions about my politics, relationship status or social sport preferences.

Recent Stories

photo by Jeff Vincent You can talk about whatever is on your mind – quality of life issues, a beautiful tree you spotted, scuttlebutt, or any random questions/thoughts you may…

1400 Meridian Place, NW Back in February we learned that Trinidadian Cuisine would be coming to Columbia Heights with Trini Vybez. This space was formerly home to Karibbean Kitchen and…

Sweet City Ride

Thanks to Marjorie for sending this “cool 4th generation Lincoln Continental (don’t quite know what year, but 1960s era.) Old car, new wheels.” Sweet City Ride is made possible by…

photo by Emma K Alexandra Ed. Note: If this was you, please email princeofpetw[email protected] so I can put you in touch with OP. “Dear PoPville, On Memorial day (Monday) afternoon…

Cherry Blossom Healing Arts is Washington DC’s best acupuncture and herbal medicine clinic. Located in Woodley Park, DC, we practice integrative medicine and take a personalized approach to your healthcare needs. We have helped thousands of busy Washingtonians improve their health and quality of life through treatment in our clinic.

Cherry Blossom Healing Arts is delighted to announce Xudong Wang is joining our team as an associate acupuncturist and herbalist. She utilizes all modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) including acupuncture, herbal medicine, moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, TCM food therapy, and wellness planning to address a wide variety of health concerns. She is accepting new patients and you can schedule online with her by clicking here.

You deserve to feel better! We are here to support and guide you on your way to vibrant health. We also accept insurance and are open 7 days per week.

Submit your own Announcement here.

The Emma’s Torch Brunch Club, Summer 2023

Ready to experience the magic?

Enjoy a prix-fixe menu, family style. And the food? It’s oh-so-good while doing good.

The mouth-watering dishes will be made by our 3rd cohort of DC-area students, who will showcase their culinary skills and gain

Neighbor to Neighbor Day

Learn, serve, and celebrate! Join A Wider Circle for Neighbor to Neighbor Day: a day of learning opportunities (including a panel discussion featuring WAMU’s Michael King and Morgan Baskin), special volunteer projects, plus carnival games, arts and crafts, delicious food


Subscribe to our mailing list