Behind the List
How and Why We Vet ListingsBy Emma McAleavy
September 3, 2020
Note from Stephanie:
When Listings Project first began 17 years ago it was just me on my teal green iMac G3 with a dial up connection. I would receive listings via my yahoo email address, cut and paste them into a Microsoft word doc to format them, and then cut and paste them back into my yahoo email address to send to my artist friends. Eventually, I began editing the listings and asking follow up questions about them, too, to make it easier for members of my community to find space to live in.
That same hands-on, curatorial approach is still a part of how we vet listings today. The foundation of Listings Project is personal listings sent out to personal people. In this article we’d like to tell you about how we use our vetting process to preserve this intimate and communal approach.
We hope that learning more about how and why we vet listings will help you connect with and feel at home in our community.
How and Why We Vet Listings
One of the things that make Listings Project different from every other real estate service is how carefully we vet our listings. Vetting is at the core of what we do. It’s how we take care of and protect our community. It’s part of why Bettina Makalintal noted, in her story on Listings Project for Vice this summer, that our listings “seem to all have a real person who cares behind them.”
Our goal with vetting is to make sure that every listing you see on Wednesday morning is thoughtful, inclusive and personal. We also want to make sure that the spaces themselves are what we would consider a welcoming home for a lister. Whether you are looking for space, or are hoping to find a tenant through Listings Project, our vetting process sets a high bar for how we treat each other as we search for and share space.
The first thing to know about vetting at Listings Project is that a real person reads every single listing and corresponds individually with listers. For the last three years, Jordan Delzell has been the person reading every listing, responding to every lister inquiry and reaching out during the vetting process. All of the images you see in this newsletter are of Jordan's Listings Project remote work spaces. This is where she has read your listings for the last three years.
Now, though, our customer support team (pictured above) is growing. Travis Brace joined us in August from Kickstarter, and Mahayla Laurence will be joining us this month from The Wing. Our expanded customer service team will grow and improve some aspects of the way we operate, but one thing will stay the same, and that’s the thoughtfulness and care with which they’ll vet each listing.
When it comes to vetting a listing, the first thing we do is read through it. If you’re a first-time lister, we’ll take a look at your personal website (if you have one) or other publicly available online profiles. We don’t allow third-party entities to profit off the real estate transactions that we facilitate, and we don’t allow brokers, professional management companies or corporate landlords on our site in New York City. So, part of our customer service team’s job is making sure that each listing we share is eligible for inclusion on the list. “I like to find something that is connected to a real person out in the world,” Jordan said about the way she researches new listers.
Once we’re confident that you have an intimate relationship to the space (as a landlord or a tenant looking to sublet), we review your listing to make sure it meets our standards for equity and inclusivity, clarity and adherence to important local tenant protection laws. We check to see that you’ve been clear about what you are looking for and that the listing is in the right category, there aren’t any typos, and the photos are clear. We also make sure that the price doesn’t wildly deviate from market rates (that’s always a red flag). If we have a question or a concern we’ll reach out to you to ask you about it. After we hear from you and learn more about your listing, we may ask you to modify your listing, depending on the situation.
In checking that your listing adheres to our equity and inclusion statement we also make sure it doesn’t include any discriminatory language. For example, we have a policy not to use the word “safe” in our listings. This is because the word “safe” has a long history of being used in a coded and discriminatory way in the real estate industry. Instead of using the word “safe,” we’ll ask you to use a few sentences to describe what you like about their neighborhood or street, this helps contextualize what feels safe to you. We also check to see that the listing complies with the Tenant Protection Act, specifically when it comes to the deposit. Per the Tenant Protection Act, in New York State, landlords can only request one month's rent as a deposit, as opposed to a deposit in addition to first and last month's rent. It bears mentioning, because we sometimes get asked, that even those listers who are only looking for space—as opposed to posting a listing—must agree to our equity and inclusion statement before they can use the list.
Emma McAleavy, our Writer/Content Manager, works to bring the stories of our community to life. Emma’s writing has also appeared in The New York Times, The Brooklyn Rail and Outside Magazine. You can follow her on twitter @emmamcaleavy.