Finding Our First Apartment: Rental Websites and Other Listing Sites Failed Us

Our First Apartment - Searching through listings

Photo credit: stevecadman (Flickr)

Jenny Le was ecstatic when her boyfriend, Eric Tang, slipped a sparkling diamond ring onto her finger on a warm August morning two years ago. It was the indication of a new beginning of their new lives together. They were ready to embark on a world of “firsts” together—one being moving out for the first time and finding an apartment.

Months before their wedding day, among the chaos of wedding planning, they kicked off their apartment search not knowing what to look for or expect. So they started their search where any member of Generation Y would start: the internet.

After hours of clicking links and frustratingly hitting the “Back” button hundreds of times, they found that many online sources were a disservice more than anything else. The failure of both online listing sites and property management websites caused the couple to resort to Craigslist as their best source for apartment listings.

No access to inventory information.

After digging through dozens of property management websites, they couldn’t get the information they needed most: available listings. Many websites had a “beat around the bush” type website, and didn’t provide specific information on what units were available.

“Some websites didn’t show whether there were openings or not,” Tang said, “Some even forced you to sign up for an e-mail to see listings.”

These barriers on property management websites were frequent and frustrating enough to turn them away from this method. It took too much time.

Other listing sites were inaccurate.

Le and Tang wanted to broaden their search and decided to use other online listing sites other than Craigslist. They went to multiple sites with listings including and Padmapper. To their dismay, many of the listings were old or had too many listings that were so similar they couldn’t differentiate one property from another.

Le said, “We tried e-mailing or calling about certain floor plans we were interested in, but people told us they were no longer available.”

“It was too much work to see if there were availabilities,” Tang said.

Inquiring using other listing sites became a huge miss, so they began to rely on Craigslist.

All about Craigslist.

Craigslist quickly became Tang and Le’s crux for new apartment listings. Not only were the listings more descriptive because people described in amenities in words rather than checked off boxes, but mostly because they knew that the apartment was likely to still be on the market.

“On Craigslist, we knew that the apartment was available, especially if the listing was posted a few hours ago,” Tang said.

The bottom line.

Renters are finding that it’s difficult to use property management websites and other listing sites because it’s not giving them the information they’re looking for. They’re also not fond of barriers preventing them from getting to listing information. All they want is information to help them find their next home.

Give them the information they need, and make it simple. If you have a rental website, make your availabilities easy to find and simple to read. Also, make sure that your site is up-to-date! Nobody wants to waste their time and effort on apartments that aren’t really available.

If you take the time to make these changes to your listings and website, you could win tenants before they resort to Craigslist.

Learn about how they judged property managers to decide on their future rental home in next week’s post.