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Behind the List

How to Respond to Real Estate Listings

By Emma McAleavy
February 11, 2021

Searching for a new art studio or a new place to call home can be exciting, but it’s a lot of work too. The first step, of course, is combing through listings and reaching out when you find a space you’re interested in. The email you send in response to a listing is the opening salvo of a potentially significant relationship. You want to stand out, and begin the relationship with openness and honesty. If all goes well, the person receiving your email may end up being your roommate, landlord, or studio mate. With that in mind, in this article, we’ll outline our advice for sending a strong listing inquiry email.



Read the listing carefully before you respond


The first step when writing a listing inquiry is reading the listing. You don’t want to waste the lister's time by asking questions they already answered in their listing. Additionally, it’s best to take a listing at face value. If a space comes furnished, it’s unlikely that it can be rented unfurnished. If the listing says no pets, they probably aren’t going to be able to accommodate your pet. Finally, if the listing asked that you share specific information (like your work schedule or your favorite 80’s sitcom) make sure you include that information so the lister knows you actually read their listing.

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Photo by Ana Jahannes

Share who you are


A great listing inquiry shares a number of important details about a potential roommate or tenant, while also giving you a sense of their personality and idiosyncrasies. If you like to rock out to music in the kitchen until 2 a.m. every night making chocolate chip cookies, you should include that in your inquiry. If you are more an early riser, that could be relevant too. If you are extremely neat and tidy, say so. But if you’re not, don’t pretend that you are. It’s important that you find real compatibility with your roommates. If you are communicating with a potential landlord, that individual may want to know a little bit about your personality as well. Listers often share how they are as a roommate or tenant, how they prefer to share space with others, and how they want to communicate. You can also mention past living situations that worked well for you, your hobbies, or where you work. If you're comfortable doing so, you can share your social handles, as well.

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Photo by Steve Montgomery

Be clear about what you need


It helps to share any specific, non-negotiable needs you have. Maybe you're looking for an art studio that can accommodate your heavy-duty welding equipment. Or maybe you are in a band that’ll need to practice in the basement twice a week. Or maybe you have three cats and are planning on fostering two more kittens in the near future. Whatever your specific needs are for the space, it helps to ask if those needs can be accommodated up-front. Looking for a new home or art studio space can be exhausting, and if the space isn’t suitable for welding equipment or band practice, you’ll be glad you didn’t waste your time.

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Photo by Kate Kelsey-Sugg

Share specific times you are available to see the space


Looking for a new home or studio space is a logistically complex endeavor both for the people looking for space and for the people looking for a roommate or tenant. We recommend listing out two to three dates and times that you could see the space. It helps to indicate that you can be flexible too, and work within the lister's schedule. If you’re comfortable doing so, feel free to share a phone number so that the recipient of your email can contact you in whatever way works best for them. We recommend confirming your viewing appointments the day of, via email or text. If you can’t make a viewing appointment, you should contact the lister right away to cancel.

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Photo by Heather Tal Murphy

Include a salutation and check your spelling


We’ve all received the listing inquiry that begins, without salutation, “is this space still available?”  In a community like ours that values the human behind the listing as much as the listing itself, we find that less definitely is not more when drafting your inquiry.  You’ll have more success if you include a salutation (Hi or Hello should work) and the recipient's name, and a valediction (Best or Sincerely are fine). It also helps to check your spelling and grammar and format your email in a way that makes it easy to read. Of course, you don’t need to be too formal. Feel free to communicate in a way that feels authentic to you, and don’t be afraid to add some warmth to your email; in an ideal world the recipient may end up being a landlord, a roommate, or maybe even a friend.



Check your spam folder and follow-up


If you haven’t heard back about a space you are really interested in, feel free to follow-up. Some listers get inundated with responses and things can fall through the cracks. Just make sure you give the lister a few days before following up with them, and gently remind them of your initial inquiry when you do. It’s also a good idea to check your spam folder prior to sending the reminder; important emails can and do end up there.

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Photo by hailey desjardins

Trust your instincts and take care of yourself


At Listings Project, our equity and inclusion statement and community agreements, which all listers must agree to, are designed to ensure that all listers treat one another in an unbiased and anti-oppressive way. Additionally, we carefully vet listings for discriminatory or biased language. That being said, once you are communicating with someone via email or text, we no longer have visibility into what either party is saying. If, as the lister who posted the space or the inquirer, you encounter discrimination or bias, please let us know. Additionally, if a lister communicates rental requirements that are unlawful and discriminatory, we would like to know that as well. If a lister violates our policies, we will take appropriate action based on the severity of the infringement. As you communicate with other listers, only share what you are comfortable sharing. If you feel uncomfortable with the way someone is communicating with you, trust your instincts, cease communicating, and set boundaries that feel appropriate to you.

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Photo by Jordan Omohundro

Finally, as you respond to listings, keep in mind that the listing that first entices you may not end up being the perfect space for you after all.  And other listings that don’t immediately seem perfect, may be just right. Don’t be afraid to cast a wide net. Searching for a new room, apartment, or art studio can be an exploratory process. The inquiry that you send is the beginning of the process of determining if a space is right for you. So listen carefully to yourself, be patient with the process, and know that the right space is out there for you.



Feature image by Linda Wang


Emma McAleavy, our Growth Editor, works to bring the stories of our community to life. Emma’s writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Outside Magazine, and Architectural Digest. You can follow her on twitter @emmamcaleavy.

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