Get your dream home with these Craigslist hacks and negotiating tactics

Listen to podcast: #7: Getting Your Dream Home Sooner & Cheaper

Towards the end of the film Limitless, the main character purchases a gorgeous, high-rise penthouse in Manhattan. Part of living Limitlessly is residing in your dream home and it can actually be significantly less expensive and quite a bit easier to do than you may think. Whether it’s a huge house, a classic residence with lots of personality, or a luxury high-rise condominium this article will outline the steps to getting and saving a fortune on the kind of home you’ve always wanted. Even if you live on a modest income, have limited time to shop, mediocre personal credit, and no down payment.

In 2011 I moved into my dream condo in downtown, Denver. A gorgeous, luxury high rise that I got using the techniques and methods described below. Check out this video tour…

Watch: Tour of Jonathan’s Swanky ”Crib”

Rent from a private owner

One of the most important parts of getting a great deal on your dream home is to rent it through a private owner who will be your landlord. There are several reasons why this is advantageous…

  • If you are buying a home or renting from a property management company (or apartment community) your upfront costs (in the form of deposit or down payment), chances of qualifying for the home, and your ongoing payment depend highly upon your personal credit score. If your personal credit is anything less than excellent your chances of getting your dream home are very low. However, when renting from a private owner your personal credit often has very little to do with it. Many private owners do not even run the credit of their prospective renters.
  • Private owners most of the time are renting out homes that they lived in at one point and their decision to rent to you is often based more upon the impression you make on them as opposed to your personal credit or rental history. Think of it as a job interview; a lot of success in job interviews is not due to the qualifications or history of the applicant but how much the interviewer likes the candidate.
  • A lot of times you can rent a beautiful home well below its market monthly rental value because the owner’s payment is well below the monthly rental value and the owner just wants to cover their mortgage payment. Compare this to dealing with property management companies, real estate developers, or realtors whose profit margins are paid for by you every month!
  • A lot of times since private owners don’t run your credit they won’t ask you for an application fee.
  • A lot of times private owners will give you a break on the deposit to move in.
  • In the current real estate economy (at least here in the United States) you need to be prepared to put a 5%-10% down payment on your home. Let’s say your dream home costs $300K (which is probably a low number), you will have an upfront out-of-pocket cost of $15,000 — $30,000.
  • Not only is it going to cost a lot up front but it’s going to be between weeks and months of negotiating, paperwork, and the stress of dealing with banks to secure a real estate closing. Most of the time when dealing with a private owner you can move in right away.
  • If you want to own your dream home you can negotiate a rent-to-own agreement with your landlord.

Finding your dream home

To get your dream home you are going to need to act quickly and use the power of the internet. The fastest way to find a great rental deal on your ideal home is to use the real estate section of Craigslist. Craigslist is the first place the private owners will advertise their rental property. However the search function of Craigslist is stuck in the late ’90s, it’s time-consuming and cumbersome to find what you are looking for.

Using Craigslist to set up a real estate monitor

1. Set up a Feedly Account

Feedly is a customizable dashboard of RSS feeds. It also has Android and iPhone apps. Head over to www.feedly.com/‎ to set up your free dashboard.

2. Get Craiglist Search URLs

Now it’s time to head over the real estate Ap/Housing for rent section of Craigslist for your city. In the search field enter some criteria of what you are looking for, such as; neighborhood, price, description, etc. You will notice that each result creates a unique URL address. For example, a search for Denver high rise produces this URL: https://denver.craigslist.org/search/apa?query=Denver+high+rise&availabilityMode=0&sale_date=all+dates
What’s cool is that as new properties are added that match this search description, this URL page will update to show the new properties instantaneously. Identify 3–5 search phrases that target the neighborhood, price range, and property description of what you want.

3. Get Craiglist Search RSS Feeds

Now you have to get the RSS feed that corresponds to this search query. Craigslist is trying to make this a little more difficult on us but it’s still pretty easy to hack, you can generate RSS feeds from a URL with a tool like RSS.app.

It will look something like https://rss.app/feeds/z0OuMww6B42KR5Wu.xml

4. Add the Real Estate feeds to Feedly

Now go back to your Feedly dashboard and click Add Content in the upper left-hand corner. Copy/Paste the RSS feed into the field, and it will show up directly below the field that says Discover Feeds, click on the feed, and the Real Estate listing will then show up to the right. You are almost there! Click the green button that says Follow. Now for Title enter a short description of feed (Downtown condos), and add it to a Collection named something like Real Estate Monitor. Click add and voila! Now a real-time feed of the most recently added properties matching the search is going to be in your Feedly dashboard.

While this might sound a little complicated to set up it’s actually pretty easy to do and it saves you a huge amount of time over searching through Craiglist’s real estate section. It takes literally just a few seconds to glance at your Feedly dashboard and see the new properties posted in the last few days or hours. This also works in the roommate search or commercial real estate sections of Craiglist. A few other things to keep in mind…

  • Respond immediately to postings that you are interested in. Craigslist’s real estate section gets a huge amount of traffic so you can be sure that a lot of other people will see the property you are interested in. The faster you can contact the private owner and arrange to see the property the better your chances are of getting it. If a listing contains a phone number always call that first before sending an email.
  • If a property listing on Craigslist is professional-looking with lots of good photos and bullet-pointed listing description chances are it’s been posted by a property management company or realtor who you will have to deal with instead of a private owner. I’ve found that the best deals on Craiglist are unprofessional-looking postings.
  • Look for a property that is available for move-in immediately or very soon.

Dirty Trick: If you see a particularly good deal come across your real estate monitor you want to minimize your competition from other renters. After you respond to the posting you may want to flag (upper right of the posting) it so that Craiglist deletes the posting. Flag it from your browser, then use a website like Pagewash.com to block your IP address and flag it again, you may also want to flag it from your smartphone browser or a friend’s computer to ensure it gets removed from Craigslist.

Get it furnished

Buying high-end furnishings to complement your dream home can be expensive and time-consuming. I highly recommend trying to find a place that is furnished. A lot of the kinds of privately owned high-end properties we are discussing come partially or fully furnished.

Negotiating terms

When dealing with a private owner there are several important things to keep in mind when negotiating your lease…

  • As I said above private owners will often make their decision to lease their property to you based upon if they ‘like’ you. So make it a point to reveal some of your personality and be friendly with your prospective future landlord when you tour their property.
  • The one thing that is almost always an important aspect of a private owner’s decision to lease to you is your immediate ability to put down money. All but the very most experienced and savvy private owners will rather rent to a less qualified tenant who can put down money now over a more qualified tenant who is weeks away from writing a check.
  • If you are decently qualified, have rapport with the property owner, and are ready to write a check to move-in you may want to negotiate the deposit amount. The deposit is a more negotiable variable of the transaction because the deposit is essentially a risk insurance policy the private owner has against you beating up the property or not paying rent. If you can convince your landlord this is not a risk with you a lot of times they will decrease the deposit amount.
  • I recommend doing your property shopping around the middle of the month. If you find a place and are ready to write a check and move in immediately a lot of times the private owner will give you a month free. You can get up to two weeks of free rent his way.

If you have bad credit…

To a professional property management company, bad credit is usually a deal-breaker, especially at a high-end property. When dealing with a private owner this is not always the case. When it comes to bad credit history, honesty is the best policy, in today’s economic environment very few people have spotless credit.

  • To counterbalance your bad credit history, emphasize your stability of income and current employment.
  • A private owner is always going to be concerned that their tenant can afford their rent (especially if you don’t have good credit). Preempt this concern by bringing proof of your income (bank statements, pay stubs, etc) to the property tour to show them, a lot of times they won’t even look at it but that fact that you thought to bring it makes you seem very responsible.
  • You may even want to pull your credit online before your tour, print it out, and bring it to the tour. This saves your future landlord the time and expense of running your credit and background report.

As a personal finance lifehacker, you’ll want to acquaint yourself with the art and science of negotiation, read Never Split the Difference or at least check out my review of the book…

Listen to podcast: Never Split the Difference [Book Review] A Must-Read for Ethical Social Engineers

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Jonathan Roseland

Jonathan Roseland

Adventuring philosopher, Pompous pontificator, Writer, K-Selected Biohacker, Tantric husband, Raconteur & Smart Drug Dealer 🇺🇸