As my friends and regular readers of this blog will know, I’m getting hitched in September and had to vacate my lovely Queen and Spadina house for someplace a little more suitable for two. The house was great, but a tad too expensive for just two people; the rent situation would be made worse by the fact that Wendy won’t even be eligible to work here for a few months. A couple of people suggested sharing the house with roommates. This is not a good idea — a married couple living with roommates is a good setup for a sitcom, but probably a disaster waiting to happen in real life.
Since my landlords J. and B. live in London (England, not Ontario), it would have been difficult for them to advertise the house and show it to potential tenants. They offered me a nice sum of money — enough to cover the expense of hiring professionals to move me to my new place — to act as their agent. I was given the additional responsibility of not only publicizing the place, but also to screen candidates for suitability based on J. and B’s criteria and my understanding of the house and the neighbourhood based on 6 years of living there and being part of the community.
After talking it over with J., we decided to use two different advertising media:
- The Toronto Star Classifieds. This is generally considered to be the best paper for placing classified ads in Accordion City, especially for apartment and hosuing rentals.
- Toronto Craigslist. A long-standing institution of the San Francisco Bay Area, Craigslist is a free city-specific online classified ads service. It’s now explanded to dozens of cities; Accordion City’s is at http://toronto.craigslist.org.
Here’s an approximation of the Toronto Star Classfied ad:
|QUEEN & SPADINA: 3 Bed, hi-end bi-level 2 bath a/c garage hrdwd floors laundry $2100/mo call 416-948-6447 firstname.lastname@example.org|
It’s the black hole of advertising: so dense that not even information can escape!
J. suggested that we spend a little extra money and pay for flourishes like the border and the white-on-black headline in order to stand out on the page. Seeing as the idea had some merit to it and we weren’t spending my money, I ordered these extras.
The ad got a total of 20 responses, leading to about a dozen viewings, which in turn led to 2 recommendations. Near the end of the week-long ad run, I was called and emailed twice each by an automated reminder system reminding me to book another week if I needed to.
The ad ran for one week in both the paper as well as the web site and cost $520.66.
Here’s what the Craigslist ad looked like:
$2100 / 3br – Great 3 bed 2 bath place near downtown (Queen and Spadina)
This place is takes up the first floor and basement of a historic brick house in the Queen Spadina area. It’s gorgeous, unusual, was featured on the “Love By Design” television show and you can roll out bed and land in Chinatown or Queen Street West!
The first floor features:
The basement features:
The house also has a back patio which leads to a garage shared with the upper unit. The current tenant in the upper unit does not have a car.
Want to see more photos? Take a look here.
Rent is $2100/month and water is included — you pay for Hydro and gas. Available July 15th, although you might be able to move in some stuff sooner.
Call Joey at (416) 948-6447 for details.
This conveys considerably more information about the place: its features, what it looks like, a bit of the history and it links to even more information.
In the same week-long period that the Star Classifieds ad ran, this adgarnered 55 responses. Since the ad was free, I ran it longer and it produced more than 85 responses, which was when I stopped counting.
In the three-week period during which the ad ran, it cost me $0.00. Nuthin’. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Honkis de konkis. In the words of my fiancee’s people: bubkes.
In the case of finding tenants for my old place, which is considerably closer to the city core (here’s a map showing a route from the old place to the heart of the financial district), Craigslist proved to be the better choice. It provided practically infinitely more space than the Star classified, provided an anonymized link to my email address and was free. Not only did it yield considerably more respondents; it also landed more suitable ones too: working professionals used to downtown living, who looked as though they’d take good care of the place. The Star ad drew in a larger proportion of people from the deep burbs who had that sort of attitude that the burbs was where one lived and downtown was a grittier kind of mall or playground where you could shop, get drunk, act like an idiot and start fights.
The winning candidate was someone who’d seen the Craigslist listing, not the Star classified. You should keep in mind that there are many circumstances in which the Star classifieds will beat Craigslist. As my housemate Rob and I have observed in our respective apartment-hunts, the farther from the city core you look, the better the Star‘s selection becomes. In the neighbourhood where I was looking (here’s a map showing a route from the new place to the heart of the financial district), the selection of places was much better in the Star than in Craigslist. I found my current place through the Star classifieds.
(Point of information: I also found the old place through the Star classfieds, but that was back in 1999. Internet use wasn’t as common as it is now, and Craigslist was still largely limited to they Bay Area then.)
For the purpose of finding tenants for my old place, Craigslist soundly beat the Toronto Star classifieds. It yielded considerably more candidates and was infinitely cheaper. Well done, Craigslist; I salute you with a filet mignon on a flaming sword!