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And He'll Throw in the Spin Cycle at No Extra Charge

You knew the D.C. housing crunch was pretty tight. You knew people were shelling out preposterous sums for tiny hovels in awful surroundings. But if you were a blogger with the perfectly devious little mind, you could have some fun with the desperation of those seeking housing. D.C. Bachelor did, offering up his laundry room as housing and the results are hilarious, sad, frightening and well worth a visit.

I once lived in a room about that size, complete with a three-flight hike to the bathroom. But it was college and we were supposed to sacrifice ourselves like monks for our greater academic good. Anyway, for those of us who wonder why people end up living a 90-minute drive away from where they work and play, this is a revealing window onto the world of real estate angst.

But DC Bachelor was intrigued enough to up the ante, or, rather, squeeze the housing anxiety even tighter, so he posted a second ad, this time offering to rent his...walk-in closet. And yup, the people came a callin'.

It also tells us something about the Craigslist phenomenon and the difference between classifieds now vs. back in the day when paid newspaper ads had the field all wrapped up for ourselves: You're nowhere near as likely to play this sort of game when you have to pay for the ad as you are on still-largely-free Craigslist.

In any event, I'd love to hear from any of the folks who did respond to that ad. Where are you living now and how awful an abode would you really accept just so you could live in the District?

By Marc Fisher |  February 17, 2006; 6:21 AM ET
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"Having some fun"..... seems more like playing people for suckers for someone's own personal amusement. When exactly was this guy planning on telling people he was pulling their leg? Maybe right after they passed up other housing opportunities, waiting for his to pan out?

And it's not exactly news - people in urban areas have always tried to look for super-cheap housing alternatives. It's been happening since the creation of cities.

Granted, it was cute. But a bit mean-spirited, and was essentiall fairly thoughtless. I wonder if any of those that thought this was for real passed up other housing opportunities waiting for this fake one to pan out?

Posted by: Hillman | February 17, 2006 11:04 AM

While I don't doubt one or two of the responses were serious (and I did notice a couple mentioned enough detail to seem sincere), some of them certainly had not bothered to actually read the ad, including the two he was "concerned" about for having answered both ads. I can tell you as a person who rents to a roommate and advertises on craigslist that at least half of the responses I get are from people who have not bothered to actually read the ad before responding. Probably more, actually, but it's hard to be sure unless their introductory spiel asks a question that would have been answered by simply reading the ad.

Posted by: craigslist landlord | February 17, 2006 11:09 AM

Like craigslist landlord said, while we have found excellent housemates via Craigslist, at least half of the responses have been from people who haven't read the ad. It's simply a race to answer first because of how quickly moderately-priced rooms can go off the market. We've taken down ads after not even a day because of the response numbers. And if you think this is bad, there recently appeared a story about a group of guys who were bored and shoved a mattress into an open sapce above their door jsut to see if it would fit. It did. Then they put the space up for rent, but I don't think they rented it out in the end and believe it appeared in the NY Times.

Posted by: CM | February 17, 2006 11:52 AM

A place to sleep and run of a house in a nice area for $60 or $200 per month?

The responses aren't really so much commentary on the state of the housing crunch as they are on how people will jump at a bargain.

Posted by: Mark | February 17, 2006 1:10 PM

I could see two groups of people who the offer would make perfect sense for. I do not think people would enjoy it long for a permanent residence. But for a young single person who works long hours in the city and lives in the outer suburbs it really makes perfect sense. Even if they just used it twice a week it is probably worth the $15 to $50 a week to avoid two rush hour round trips.

Also it might appeal to those who live and work in the outer suburbs and who like to play in the city. It doesn't take many cab rides to make it cost effective.

Posted by: Jesse | February 17, 2006 1:55 PM

On February 3, 2006, the New York Times ran an article titled "Talk About Renting a Hole in the Wall", which described how a group of architecture students who were sharing a small apartment in Manhattan stuffed a mattress into a hole cut into the wall above a bedroom door. They then ran an ad on Craigslist offering to rent the mattress, and had a number of responses. The article described other similar situations where people rented out their living room couches, "bedrooms" delineated by shower curtains blocking off an alcove, and so forth. "DC Bachelor" probably got his idea from this article--only most of the Manhattanites were serious.

Posted by: Scott | February 17, 2006 2:27 PM

The poster does not live in DC, he lives near the Grosvenor metro in MD. That's much sadder.

Posted by: MIranda | February 17, 2006 5:39 PM

Before my retirement, I had asked a relative living in Alexandria if I could sleep on her sofa a couple of nights a week just to take the edge off my commute into DC. She turned me down. I would have gladly rented space in a walk-in closet or a laundry room if someone had offered it, just to keep from having to wake up at 4 in the morning. That's how bad the commuting from suburbs to D.C. has gotten. We have this "landed gentry" out here beyond Manassas that seems determined to block any highway construction. If someone were to start shooting horses on horse farms, and I were on their jury, I would vote to acquit.

Posted by: George | February 17, 2006 9:16 PM

I had to laugh about the person who wanted to see pics of the walk-in closet, but I thought this was all rather sad.

And quite real, too. I grew up in the Bethesda area. I checked the Washington Post listings today for a one-bedroom apartment in a managed building in Bethesda for $1000 or less. There were none.

I wasn't able to afford my own apartment in the D.C. area until after I went back to school for professional studies. Some of these makeshift arrangements would make sense for young people starting out.

Posted by: Ross | February 17, 2006 10:35 PM

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