After moving to the city a few months ago and going through a mad dash to find only a 3 month sublet (that would hold me over till I found a more permanent place), I decided before I repeat the process I need to have an efficient workflow in place.
To start, lets outline the previous system. The tools used where the following:
- Craiglist (there is a ton of turn over, and a large volume of rentals go through this site)
- Housing Maps (craigslist/google maps mashup)
- Google Maps
- Gmail (e-mail was the preferred method of Ã¢â‚¬Å“first contactÃ¢â‚¬Â for most posters)
- Pen and paper (to take notes on each of the properties)
The problems with the first system:
1) If you use a Ã¢â‚¬Å“craiglistÃ¢â‚¬Â e-mail to contact someone, and they reply with their personal e-mail address, then you have no idea who that person is or which craigslist apartment posting they correspond with.
2) Craigslist is not searchable by specific geographic location (until the Housing maps mashup came along), and it also does not require posters to be all that precise (as in address) in their location.
3) Craiglist also does not include a field for people to elaborate on the length of the apartment rental. Even if you manage to narrow down a list of apartments in the right area its quite possible that they are only renting a room at $1000 per week for 2 weeks. Convenient.
4) The Housing Maps site does not seem to have as many posts as craigslist does. I have not been able to research where it draws its data from, but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m assuming its only from posts that provide exact addresses.
5) There is no place within this system of apps to store the meta-data you collect from each apartment poster, through e-mail or phone calls.
The conclusion I came to after a couple days of using this system is that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all about the numbers. For you to get a decent amount of contacts that meet your criteria you really have to send out e-mails en-mass. Though this is horribly inefficient for you from a tracking perspective and for the apartment posters to get back to all the people inquiring, it was the only way to be sure that I was getting a steady source of apartments to go visit.
The solution(s) I found along the way:
1) I made sure to reference the post on craigslist that I was inquiring about, and to include the link to that post in the e-mail. Chance are that they were just going to hit reply, and I could find the corresponding post there within. I did run into some formatting issues with gmail, which caused me to loose those links. No explanation was found
This means that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m heading into my second encounter without having made many improvements on my system. My blood pressure can not handle a repeat of the Ã¢â‚¬Å“all out e-mail and google maps bonanzaÃ¢â‚¬Â that was coupled with sprinting across the city using subways and buses to try to be the first person to a particular apartment.
My system needs to be efficient (relatively quick to enter data) and mobile, with all meta-data stored in one location. To a certain extent, if it tied into my Treo, that would be great. When IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m Ã¢â‚¬Å“out in the fieldÃ¢â‚¬Â chasing apartments and I get calls from posters, it would be nice to know which post they corresponded with. One last requirement, is that its fairly accessible over the web. I am going to have roommates, and it would be good to collaborate in this process.
I welcome any feedback, tips, prayers in the meantime.
Apps that might be able to make this an easier process: