craigslist > about > press > electronicedge

from Newsday, April 30, 2004

Electronic edge
by Janice I. Dixon

In the hunt for urban housing, craigslist and other Web sites become key

Finding a place to live in New York has always been about connections. But you don't necessarily have to spend weeks cultivating a network of doormen and other insiders in the hope of getting early word on the right apartment. These days, getting wired can mean just that: connecting to the Internet.

Real estate Web sites are fast becoming the preferred means of getting an edge in the hunt for the right apartment or condo. One such site, San Francisco-based http://www.craigslist.org/, has become an essential insider's guide for many Web prowlers looking to get a foot in the door of New York real estate.

When Zaidee Rose, 26, a publicist for the publisher Penguin Group, wanted to move from a railroad apartment into a larger space, she turned on her computer and punched up the site, which she'd heard about from her brother in California. Dozens of apartment listings in New York filled her screen. After checking out about 10 postings, Rose and her roommate signed a lease for a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan on East 81st Street for $1,850 a month, spending $50 less than they had budgeted. The search was free.

Rose's co-workers have used the site as well. Gretchen Koss, associate director of the publicity department, sold her Village co-op by posting on the site. "I saved so much money by not using a Realtor that I bought a new car," she said.

Craigslist has become an Internet phenomenon, with the name used as shorthand advice to people looking for something -- and not just housing. Need concert tickets? A second-hand sofa? A job? Craigslist.

Simple, and no ads

For all the buzz surrounding it -- there's even a documentary film, "24 Hours on Craigslist" -- the site itself is surprisingly simple and low- key, as if the Pennysaver were posted online, but without the commercial advertising. It's just list upon list of categories, with links to postings for vacation rentals, collectibles, musical instruments and online discussion groups.

The home page lists more than 50 cities the site covers, from Anchorage, Alaska, to London. During the first three months of this year, craigs list.org maintained an average ranking of 145th among all sites viewed on the Internet, according to Alexa.com, an Amazon.com company that tallies Internet traffic. Among viewers going to the craigslist.org site, 20 percent click on the New York page.

And yes, Craig exists. Craig Newmark, 51, grew up in Morristown, N.J., but left after high school. Much of what he knows about New York today he got from TV: "I learned from 'Friends' that finding affordable housing in New York can be difficult," he said by phone from San Francisco.

Apartment owners and apartment seekers find craigslist equally appealing because the service is free and ads are posted within minutes. Brokers and owners charging a fee can list on the site, too, but in a separate area. (Newmark and chief executive officer Jim Buckmaster said craigslist makes enough money to stay healthy by charging San Francisco-area employers $75 for each 30-day job posting. They are considering charging New York and Los Angeles employers the same.)

The site averages 18,000 apartment listings each day for the New York metropolitan area, according to Buckmaster, who is 41. He boasted the site has supplanted traditional favorites like The Village Voice as the way to find an apartment in New York.

Before moving to New York from Miami, Kamini Tee.lucksingh, 23, planned a one- week trip to find an apartment. She came armed only with craigslist. One-bedroom apartments and studios, she discovered, were out of reach. So she put an ad on craigslist seeking a room, while checking out postings by people looking for roommates.

There were enough ads for roommates that she was able to see six apartments one day, but nothing panned out. The day before she returned to Miami, Teelucksingh clicked onto craigslist one last time and discovered a new listing for an apartment to share on East 66th Street for $800. She was the first to respond, and signed on that day.

Getting "a steal"

"It was a godsend; it was a steal," said Teelucksingh, an administrative assistant at Icon Clinical Research in midtown.

Teelucksingh and her calico cat, Mr. Bojangles, moved into the apartment and two months later her roommate moved out, as agreed in their arrangement. Teelucksingh assumed the lease without having to pay a broker's fee. Since then she has found two other roommates by posting on craigslist.

At craigslist, it is not just where you live, but how you live. Mara McGinnis, 29, senior editor at the alumni magazine for Columbia University, is using craigslist to find an apartment nearer to her job on the Upper West Side.

That's after using the site to land a freelance reporting assignment on Fire Island, a favorite haunt, and to sell tickets to Dave Matthews' concert in Central Park last summer to college students from Michigan. McGinnis and her roommate also found someone in Paris willing to swap apartments over New Year's, although ultimately everyone made other arrangements.

"It's so comprehensive you can find anything -- a girlfriend, a boyfriend, or someone to go have drinks with tonight," she said.