By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
A swarm of anxious people surrounded the woman with the clipboard in the darkened bedroom. She handed out applications and people hunched outside on the stairs, filling them out. What were the "right answers"? Who would be chosen? An audition for an amateur porno might be less uncomfortable.
When my partner Tyler and I decided to get our first apartment together, the search took over our lives. Indeed, apartment hunting in the Bay Area, like job hunting, are practically part-time jobs. I'd argue looking for housing can be the more demoralizing search, because at open houses you're actually face-to-face with your "competition". And they're just other folks desperately looking for somewhere to live.
It's stressful stuff, not least because we both had to be out of our current places by the end of the month. So we tried to have fun, connecting with people we met along the way. After one depressing viewing, I struck up a conversation with the baristas at a little local café and they shared stories about their favorite East Bay neighborhoods. At an open house, we chatted with a man in his fifties, who joked he would probably end up in Walnut Creek where there was less competition.
When I connect with people socially, I feel happier and more at ease. I believe I brighten their day as well. These connections made apartment hunting a little more pleasant and I enjoyed getting the scoop on the finer points of Adam's Point and Temescal.
Besides being fun, it occurred to me that making a personal connection with the landlord or property agent was our best chance at actually getting a place. Because let's face it, someone is always going to make a bit more money than you or have a slightly better credit score. Landlords are people and if you're able to create a connection with them, at the end of the day that's probably worth more than a few points on your credit score.
So Tyler and I did our best to Jaunty the landlords. We used high status body language, made good eye contact and used humor. I threaded and used touch. But some property managers seemed very uncomfortable or were all business, and clearly didn't want to talk. That was hard, especially when we really loved their apartment. But I knew from Jaunty not to take it personally and wrote a nice note on the back of my rental application for these folks.
One day, after viewing a stunning Berkeley apartment with an especially socially anxious property manager, Tyler and I went to yet another neighborhood café to regroup. I struck up a conversation with the man at the table next to us who turned out to be...a landlord! Okay so he didn't have any properties for rent, but when I asked what he looks for in a tenant, he shared some very valuable information with us. When he put an apartment up for rent, a young family impressed him with a "renters' resume" – basically a formal document listing everything from employment and rental history, to references, a screenshot of their credit score and a smiling group photo. This showed them to be super organized, reliable tenants with their act together. They got the apartment.
That night Tyler and I created our own renters' resume which in connection to creating a personal connection with our future landlord, was how we found our new apartment. This journey has been a great reminder to keep our social skills sharp and ready to go.
We've been living in our sweet one-bedroom apartment on the Oakland/Berkeley border for several months now and are so happy about where we ended up.