The Thought Process of Looking for an Apartment on Craigslist

Moving: the existential crisis you didn’t know you needed.


It’s 3 PM on a Saturday and I’m in the dark spare bedroom of my sister’s apartment. I’m completely horizontal save for my head, which is propped against the wall at an angle so ungodly it would make my Pilates instructor mother cry. My right hand is on its 5th hour of scrolling and clicking and right-clicking and back-clicking and copy-pasting from the depths of Craigslist’s “rooms/shared” section.

My laptop rests on my stomach and whirs at a cool 3,000 degrees (that’s Fahrenheit), making me wish I was on my period because at least then it would serve as a computerus instead of just a sweat-inducing torso prison.

But actually, I skipped my last period. Because I’m stressed. Because I’ve been doing this for six weeks now. Six weeks that have done little for me beyond teach me a painful lesson about the difference between requirements and preferences.

As in:

I require a room to sleep in; I prefer one that fits a full bed.

I require roommates that aren’t serial killers; I prefer ones that are nice.

I require four walls; I prefer one of them has a closet.

I require a bathroom; I prefer one free of rats.

See the difference? Clicking around Craigslist is the unpaid internship of tough love I never applied for.

My phone buzzes. It’s an unknown number.

An unknown number in a sea of unknown numbers because the only people I text now are 24-year-old leasing agents who aren’t sure they want to do this forever but like the flexible hours.

“im be there tmrw at 1:30 come if u want”

My text feed resembles that of a drug dealer. I start doing the math in my head. If I’m seeing another place at 1:15 PM, will I have time to get to — wait, where is this place?

I reread my original text, which unfolds like a madlib I now know so well I could type it from an anxiety-induced coma that might actually hit at any moment.

“Hi! I’m Haley, 26, a writer working in Soho. I’m looking for a room for me and my cat Bug and saw your listing for the place on Jefferson St  and-”

Got it. I map it. 43 minutes. That won’t do.

“How about 2:30 pm?” I shoot back.

“sry, wont b around then”

Rats! (But not literally.) (I hope.) I need to push my 1:15 up. I spend the next 25 minutes jumping back and forth between my phone and Craigslist and Google maps until I have 3 showings lined up with proper navigation-time allotted and a healthy dollop of cynicism applied because my expectations are somewhere between the gutter and Earth’s outer core.

I’m so profoundly bored.

Why am I even talking to all these agents? With their swindling and their fees and their bait-and-switches? I think about the hour I spent waiting for one on S. 4th Street last week where I imagined my future there like a hopeless romantic imagines a long marriage with the stranger across the bar.

I’ll go to that little coffee shop on Sundays, that bar on Fridays, that store for organic groceries because I’m going to learn to cook! And look! The bridge! I’m probably going to walk to work now because it would only take me like…80 minutes! Wow, I’m going to be in super great shape. This apartment is going to change everything.

When the agent finally showed, she quickly snapped me out of my fantasy and then promptly lit it on fire by way of an apartment that was significantly more murder-ish than its photos suggested and a bedroom the same size as the commercial-grade freezer my uncle jokingly locked me and my cousins in when we were kids. At least that one had ice cream in it.

I silently hated her and then asked her to text me if anything else popped up.

And then I cried.

But only a little!

I click over to my email to see if any non-agents have emailed me about rooms. Inbox says zero but in the worst way. I wonder why normal people don’t email me back so I read my 17 outgoing messages with a more critical eye. I said I liked “snacks and memes” — is that weird? Am I insane? I look at the photo of me and my cat Bug and try to spot an offensive dealbreaker that has heretofore escaped me. Like, I don’t know, cat shit in the background? I study my face. Do I look mean? Am I mean? WAIT A MINUTE, what do I even look like? Is my cat even cute?

Who the F even am I? Would I want to live with me?

The Craiglist-borne questioning of everything I knew started around week 3, peaked around week 6 as evidenced in the above, and carried me through to week 8, when I texted a woman who — no joke — was named Gift.

Gift showed me a four bedroom that didn’t have rats (good) or roommates yet (risky) but a roof (cool!) and one shower (okay). So maybe the kitchen is curiously placed 6 inches inside the front door and maybe we didn’t get hot water for the first ten days. Maybe the oven looks like it might be detached from the wall and the lease literally said “the basement should not be used as a room” while my roommate literally signed said lease on the basement as his room.

But to be honest: I’m in heaven. I’m home. And like a woman giving birth, I almost forget how awful it was getting here. I’d say I can’t wait to be re-acquainted with crippling self-doubt the next time I move but I have a feeling I won’t have to wait that long.

Love you Craigslist. Thanks for keeping it too real.

Collage by Emily Zirimis.


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  • Beatrice

    This is SO relatable but in the Bay Area everything is so expensive it might as well be literally ten million dollars

    • Yvonne Dunlevie

      Beatrice! I’m from the Bay Area — so is Haley. Just as bad in NY 🙁

      • Beatrice

        It’s all so bad lately 🙁 I relocated to Oakland and it is still total insanity. I wish you much luck in future apartment endeavors!

        • Yvonne Dunlevie

          I wish you just the same luck, Beatrice!

  • D:

    I’m just starting the NYC apartment hunt and haven’t even gotten to Craigslist yet, not excited, slightly terrified.

    • Haley Nahman


  • Emily Zirimis

    This whole thing is all too relatable. “im be there tmrw at 1:30 come if u want” !!!! Also accurate – “my expectations are somewhere between the gutter and Earth’s outer core.” Haley you nailed it.

    • Haley Nahman

      <3 u and good luck em….

      • Emily Zirimis

        <3 <3

  • Aydan

    Dreading my new apartment search this fall…….almost worse than moving itself…ALMOST

    • Haley Nahman

      I might argue it’s worse………….

  • Yvonne Dunlevie

    True story here — I am still giggling about Gift. I can’t stop.

    • Haley Nahman


  • Harling Ross

    “Like a woman giving birth” <– thank you for this

  • Callie Clemons

    I had a guy off Craiglist recently try to convince me of the merits of having a toilet in the hallway OUTSIDE the apartment. “Just think of all the extra closet space you are getting! And in Nolita!”

    • Haley Nahman


  • i’m beginning to think you guys can read my mind now. every thought i had the last like 3 weeks has been a story!!!! it’s getting FrEAKY. i asked my friend this morning how to look on craigslist for a roommate. THIS SEEMS TERRIBLE but HALEY! i love your writing. big fan.

    • Haley Nahman

      Thank you!!! And sorry this lacked any remotely helpful tips

      • TBH i wasn’t aware there was a section called rooms/shared so i guess that’s a good first step.

  • Pia Hocevar Mucic

    love this types of articles, they are so true and kind of funny!
    Fash ‘n’ fudge
    Fash ‘n’ fudge

  • Natty

    DYING at this… so real. also if you haven’t yet acquainted yourself with this tumblr, you must:

  • Rebecca Schiffman

    This is soo relatable..not in a good way, lol. Currently trying to find a four bedroom that isn’t in totality the size of my currently closet is proving impossible!!! When I told the broker I met at 1:55 pm (the only time he could meet) that the apartment was a little too small he yelled at me for being unrealistic. Sigh.

  • Amelia Diamond


  • Hannah

    Oh man. I’m so glad you cried too. I found the perfect place, but the property manager made me cry last week because he wanted the deposit immediately and like a normal person, I needed a day so I wouldn’t miss too much work/needed to make sure my old place was taken care of and then all of a sudden he was talking to me like I was a juvenile delinquent that was stealing from him. And he’s still giving us trouble trying to get first month’s rent way earlier than what I was told. He thinks I can just make a cashier’s check for essentially all my worth just appear out of my ass. In any case, signing the lease tonight but moral of all of these stories, it’s never over until it’s over!

    • Hannah

      Also. Gift.

  • Jolie

    Have you tried the Gypsy Housing group on Facebook? I know a few people who have gotten rooms through it. And good luck! Moving in NYC is the worst struggle. I once mistakenly thought it’d be a good idea to be a broker and burned out in about a month. I saw one too many crooked-floor basement dungeons.

  • Gift!! I recently saw a video about the housing crisis in my city, and there was a landlord called Krystle Klear. I bet her and Gift would be BFFs.

  • lily

    I am in this current situation and to extend the baby metaphor I am only 3 centimeters dialated after being in labor for the past week. I think I’m dying. Anyone looking for a roommate?

  • Amy

    Omg.. going through this right now, in Portland. Everything is either above my price range, too far away, or has terrible management reviews. It’s that “pick 2 of 3” thing! Why, oh why is that so applicable all the time… But it’s only week 2 for me so I have some spirit left for the crushing!

  • Dammit Haley I had to reread this because not only am I in the exact same state of (acid re)flux re: moving but I also just remembered this piece as I went to contact (probably) the same Gift. Wearing your story like a security blanket