Home hunting in Berkeley: Lamenting the listings

Berkeleyside contributing writer Kim Weisberg is looking for a new home to rent. Today, in the second part of an occasional column in which she reveals the dark underbelly of house hunting in our city, she dwells on the bottomless pit that is the Craigslist Apartment Listing.

"Funky" means gross, not hip.

I’ve developed a list I am calling Things All Listings Should Contain. Attention, landlords of the San Francisco Bay Area. This one’s for you.

Approximate location (and no, “Berkeley” is not specific enough).  Cross streets are great.  An actual address is even better.

Price. This may sound obvious, but some listings I saw were marked as $1, and then contained no other information relating to the cost of renting the apartment. I do not believe that your apartment is actually $1 per month. I do believe that you did not proofread before posting.


A descriptive title. “Apartment for rent” does not make me want to check out your ad.  Something like, “1b/1b, sunny, hardwood, washer/dryer included, walking distance to BART” does.  Let me know in advance so I can avoid opening 50 tabs only to find that none of the ads I clicked on are relevant to my search. Also, please do not re-post the same ad with a different title (Craigslist is supposed to prevent this, but it happens a LOT.  I’m lookin’ at you, Fourth and U!).  Help apartment seekers avoid what I call the “Oh YOU AGAIN!”, where you click on an ad only to see that you’ve already read it and rejected it several times.

Contact information/your name. Craigslist basically requires an email address, but it’s really nice when landlords include their name and phone number as well.  Even just a name helps, so that renters know who they’re talking to.

Square footage. After responding to countless ads, and seeing over 30 apartments in the last few months, I’ve learned that “cozy” means small, “charming” means small,  and “small” usually means under 400 square feet.  I am so very grateful to the landlords who include even approximate square footage in their listings.  (Side note: “funky” does not tend to refer to a cool, hip building.  Usually, “funky” means gross.)

Information about laundry facilities. Some listings will say “coin-op machines in the building,” which is great. However, some listings will say “laundry on-site,” which is not so specific (sometimes this means hook-ups in the unit, sometimes this means coin-op in the building, once this meant that there was a laundromat next door).  Be specific!

Information about parking. Is parking included? Is there ample, safe street parking? Will my car get broken into if I park in front of the building? These are things potential tenants might want to know.

Photos. Interior and exterior are great; interior is more important. And if your only interior photo is a close-up of a rusty sink, you can bet I’m not emailing you.

Bonus tip: Try using www.padmapper.com (also available for iPhone), which shows (as pin-points on a Google map) the aggregated listings from Craigslist, Apartments.com, and more.  You can make customized filters and set up email alerts based on the geographic region you have pulled up. I cannot tell you how insanely useful this website has been for me (and it’s free, and no, they are not paying me to say this.). Craigslist now allows you to select multiple cities (within one region), but when you are looking for a very specific geographic region (say, the Adam’s Point neighborhood of Lake Merritt) it is helpful to zero in on it (rather than seeing, say, every post for the giant area that counts as Lake Merritt).

Did I miss anything?  What are your listing must-haves?

Next installment: Listing scams and malapropisms.

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