September 1 is the day most rental leases turn over in Boston.
That means that up until late August, Bostonians scramble to fill rooms left vacant by roomies moving on to greener pastures—maybe they just graduated med school, or perhaps they’ve finally landed that high-paying job in NYC.
Craigslist is where abandoned roommates desperately post the ins and outs of their living situation, hoping that some hapless international or grad student will take the bait and live with them.
In order to make that Craigslist post as appetizing as possible, ad writers have to soften out some of the harder edges of their Allston or their Brighton or their Fenway crib. That closet-sized bedroom is “cozy.” That rust-rimmed kitchen sink? It’s “antiquated.”
But how do you craft the perfect roommate ad? What makes some ads more appealing than others? What’s so much more intriguing about the idea of living with a slew of artsy video gamers who describe themselves as “zany” and their apartment as “eclectic,” as opposed to living with the young bachelor who simply said he wants someone “clean” and “responsible?”
Turns out there is an art to writing a good roomie ad. The best ads don’t shy away from specificity. Instead, they overshare.
Watch, and learn. You never know when your current roommate will move up and out.
$716 Roommate Needed in 4 Bedroom—$716/mo (Brighton Center)
Rachel is a busy woman. She works as a purchasing agent for a chemical distribution company, and she also waitresses at a couple Boston area joints.
She and her two “4/20-friendly” roommates needed a fourth roommate by Sept. 1. Rachel said she was tired of the fourth room in their apartment being “somewhat of a revolving door.”
Rachel wrote an ad for their Brighton apartment and posted it on Craigslist. It stood out for a number of reasons: “There’s one cat in residence but he’s not a dick.” This line was humorous and showed Rachel doesn’t take herself too seriously. It shows that Rachel loves her cat, but also that she’s open to the notion that not all cats are great.
Rachel described the thought process behind her warm, engaging post: “I have a lot of Craigslist experience and I drew from past experiences. I’m not likely to respond to something that just says ‘4 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, looking for a young professional.’ I’ve never wanted my home to be like a hotel or a dorm. I want to create a community here – we’re dominant and energetic people.”
And energetic her post was. She wrote: “The two ladies are yogis who love music and sunshine. The guy is a fabulous, fun dog walker/ graphic designer…We’re an easygoing & completely fabulous collection of people.”
Rachel told Boston.com she aimed for a “conversational” tone, but wanted people to get a good idea of whether they would be a good fit with the outgoing bunch. “One girl said ‘I don’t party, but I’d love to have a book club,’ and I said, ‘Oh, honey, you would drown in here. There’s so much champagne and glitter. You’d drown.’”
Her realtor (a “total psycho,” she said), ended up finding the trio a roommate just in time, but Rachel said she has her reservations about the newbie since the young woman described herself as “reserved.” But they’re giving the girl a chance, with the mantra that “as long as you’ve agreed to live with us, you don’t have space to complain later.”
Rachel’s ultimate ad-writing advice? “It’s like writing a cover letter…you have to write a killer cover letter to get an interview. You might as well be honest.”
$1000 Room for Rent! Fun roommates, BEER! $1,000/mo (Brookline)
Cam and his roommate Alex need a roommate, and they need one by October 1.
The first line of Cam’s roommate ad is eye-catching. He wrote, “STOP BEING HOMELESS AND LIVE WITH US INSTEAD!”
He tosses around that imperative sentence like he owns the place, which implies he will be an honest communicator. If you’re neglecting to wash your dishes, this guy will probably call you out on it. And that’s something a lot of people might appreciate.
Cam said he tried to bring “lots of humor and sarcasm” to the ad. “I want to live with someone who has a good sense of humor. I don’t want anyone who murders you in your sleep,” he said.
Cam’s post is also direct:“What we’re looking for: A third musketeer, a third amigo, a brochacho. You should have a job with a steady income. You should enjoy beer when paired with a hamburger. You should know how to have a good time but keep it under control.”
This tells us that Cam, while employed, likes to have fun. He’s the frat boy who is finally settling down with some like-minded bros who just want to come home at the end of a long day and fire up the grill in peace.
Cam’s writing process was “Jack Kerouac stream-of-consciousness” style. Kind of. “I just sat on my laptop and kind of bullsh-t for 10 minutes,” he said.
Though he and Alex haven’t nailed down a roomie yet, Cam said they have received a lot of feedback from people saying the post was “hilarious. They’ve selected a few people to check the place out in September.
Their main criteria?
Besides having “similar schedules and interests,” Cam got to the main point at the end of the post. “If you own anything Ed Hardy you need not email us,” he wrote. Do you hear that, “Jersey Shore” wannabes? Need. Not. Apply.
$675 Awesome room in totally rad apartment Sept 15 (Somerville)
Amy and her “awesome” roommates had an open bedroom they needed filled by September 15.
Amy, a burlesque performer with Geek Girl Boston, wrote the Craigslist post. “We are some zany folk who love video games, delicious food, spaceships and sparkles,” her ad reads. Amy said she is a writer, and that the offbeat post wasn’t terribly difficult for her to craft.
“I just wrote the kind of ad I would want to respond to…I used humor in a way that demonstrates my personality but did not use humor to describe the apartment. I was more normative when talking about the actual space, but was funny when talking about the roommates,” Amy said. “Like I said everyone has a nice butt.”
She was also very specific in the post. In addition to mentioning that the new roomie had to be “LGBTQ friendly,” the ad specifies that the person had to be cool with science fiction and anime costumes lying around.
“Our mutual enjoyment includes Star Wars/Trek, anime, Shakespeare, interesting cocktails, going to nifty bars, staying in and pretending our apartment is a nifty bar, cooking tasty meals, battling space dinosaurs, keeping a relatively tidy home, and wearing awesome outfits while dancing to awesome music.”
Amy’s post seemed to work. She and her roommates secured a fellow Star Trek lover Wednesday.
Amy’s advice for writing an effective roomie ad? Don’t be mundane! “I didn’t respond to people who just sent me a laundry list that said, ‘I’m 25. I work in an office.’ I wanted a certain amount of creativity that was indicative of who they were and their level of interest.”
Her main stipulation?
“Not even sentient glow clouds,” she wrote. You could probably bring a Snorlax, though. They have one of the cream-colored Pokémon creatures in their living room.