Pittsburgh's Craigslist Apartment Guide

Some of the apartment ads on Craigslist will make you wanna say WTF, Pittsburgh?

Apartment searching in any city is a pain in the ass and Pittsburgh is no exception to the rule. If you’re just moving to the Burgh or seeking to upgrade your current living situation, you might find yourself browsing the classifieds on Craigslist. Because it’s free to post, this has become the most popular way to find private or commercial space. Whether you’re interested in buying, renting, or sharing living quarters, Craigslist is constantly updated with options.

…But enough with the sugar coating. This article is about apartments in Pittsburgh. First thing to know: apartments in Pittsburgh pretty much suck. Second thing to know: finding apartments in Pittsburgh on Craigslist pretty much sucks just as bad. WTF, Pittsburgh?

Read on to find out why apartment hunting on Pittsburgh’s Craigslist is boring.

Scams

Before we get started, you should know that there are a lot of scammers running around on Craigslist. If you are savy, the scams are obvious right away. But if you’re a newbie, or easily excited, you could become the next victim. Hopefully the scam posts will be removed before they have a chance to get you. For example, while putting this article together, this was the first title in the Pittsburgh housing section:

The link above was an obvious scam since there is no such thing as “the heart of the action” in Pittsburgh! Clicking the link took us to this page:

Craigslist: This posting has been flagged for removal.

Saved by the flag.

Tip: When you see a swimming pool with clear skies and flowers neatly planted along the walkway, it’s probably a scam. Try not to get your hopes up. Stick to what you know Pittsburgh really has to offer – clouds and snow.

Seriously, does this look like Pittsburgh?

You should know better! That's not the Burgh, Toto!

That’s not the Burgh, Toto! You should know better!

Desperate Landlords

We’re not saying these posters are desperate, but caps lock is sometimes regarded as a sign of desperation in any internet situation.

  • $650 / 3br – WOW!!FULLY-RENOVATED!!!SPACIOUS INTERIOR!!TENANT JUST MOVED OUT!!! – (WILKINSBURG) img

Telling people to look here and check this out could also be interpreted as being borderline desperate:

  • $530 / 1br – LOOK HERE!! + – (Wilkins Twp, PA ) img
  • $710 / 2br – Check This Out~~ – (Swissvale, PA) img
Note:Must See” used to work very well, until people got to the apartment and realized there wasn’t much to see. Must see could be a potential sign of desperation.

Even worse is telling people they must see, but not including pictures for them to see:

  • $500 / 2br – A MUST SEE !! – (Monroeville/Pitcairn)

Closet Space Galore

For some unexplainable reason, Craigslist posters think that closet space is the number one priority for a renter. Sure, most Pittsburghers could use a little extra closet space for their man Uggs and Steelers jerseys, but don’t title your post with “Closets Galore!!!” and then show zero closet pictures.

  • $2195 / 4br – CLOSETS GALORE IN THIS NEWLY REMODELED HOME, PETS WELCOME, GARAGE, YD – (Mt. Washington, South Pittsburgh) img
  • $710 / 2br – Do Big Closets Make You Smile?~~ – (Swissvale, PA) img
  • $629 / 1br – Large Apartment with Hardwood Floors and Tons of Closets! – (North Hills) img
  • $629 / 1br – *Many Closets in a Spacious One Bedroom!* – (Waldorf Park) img
  • $729 / 1br – This Closet Is UNBELIEVABLE! img
  • $940 / 2br – Do you DREAM of WALK-IN CLOSETS? – (Monroeville) pic

Refrigerator and stove, oh my!

$399 / 1br – Spacious 1 Bedroom Apartment in North Versailles! img

The unit has air conditioning and an equipped kitchen with a stove and refrigerator.

Craigslist posters love making a big deal about kitchens that have stoves and refrigerators. Maybe 50 years ago you had to supply your own oven and ice box, but in the new millennium this doesn’t make your apartment special.

Daily Re-posts

Sometimes you will find the same apartment posted over and over and over. If these places were so “terrific” they wouldn’t be reposted every day for 3 months. It would be better if they at least deleted their old posts to make it look fresh and newly available – instead of stale and unwanted.

If you spend enough time searching for apartments (or if you tend to move every time your lease is up) you’ll start to recognize the same offerings (from the same landlords with the same pictures) year after year.

Convenient and Close

You will find that about 90% of the apartments in the Pittsburgh Craigslist are convenient and close. True, the Burgh isn’t enormous, but it’s impossible that everything is so close to everything else. Be cautious of these key phrases (especially people just moving here that don’t yet have a sense of distance or direction in Pittsburgh):

  • Close to Pitt
  • Close to CMU
  • Close to Hospitals
  • Close to Downtown
  • Close to EVERYTHING
  • $575 / 1br – CONVENIENT TO EVERYTHING! – (Mt. Lebanon)
  • $510 / 1br – Cozy but convenient – (Troy Hill) pic
  • $790 / 3br – convenient location,new carpet – (greenfield)
  • $525 / 2br – affordable,free heat,convenient,!!!! – (trafford-near monroeville)
  • $525 / 2br – sweet deal!free heat!convenient,nice! – (trafford,near monroeville)
  • $445 / 1br – Spacious and Convenient – (East Pittsburgh)

Seriously folks, how can Mount Lebanon or Monroeville be convenient? And it’s impossible to be close to everything. If you have to take a bus for 15 minutes, the place isn’t close to universities. Close to universities would mean you could walk to class!

No pics

Avoid posts that don’t have pics. If they don’t even bother to post pics then the poster is either too lazy or the place is too nasty. Both are qualities that you don’t want to deal with. It’s 2011, no pics equals boring!

Questionable Pics

Experienced Craigslisters know attaching pics will increase their listing views. But don’t take all pictures for face value. Did you see several different apartment posts with the same pics? Are the pictures dark or blurry? Is there a pic of the yard, sky, exterior, and equal housing logo – but none of the actual apartment for rent? These are all signs that something isn’t right.

Craigslist Quick Reference Dictionary:

Charming –  this word is too ambiguous and almost always used in a manipulative way lol.

Quaint – Another way of saying “this place is so small, you have to go outside to change your mind.”

Cute – See ‘Quaint’

Closets – Read the section about closets above.

Free Heat – Means the landlord controls the heat and they also decide when to activate it. This could also mean that the thermostat is controlled by a temperature activated thermometer that is constantly set to 68 degrees and locked behind a steel box located in a part of the room that doesn’t provide an accurate reading. In this case, you might have to rig a contraption to attach an ice bag to the steel box…

Close to universities – this is one of the sleaziest gimmicks in the Pittsburgh apartment scene. Tons of apartment seekers fall for this one every year. Google map it and see just how close it really is.

Equipped Kitchen – this is refers to the kitchen having a stove and refrigerator. Two appliances that are pretty much expected in any apartment, especially in overpriced neighborhoods like Oakland and Shadyside.

Don’t get your hopes up by these other adjectives: Terrific, superb, incredible, fantastic, HUGE, lovely, convenient, spacious, wonderful, roomy, perfect, bright, updated, awesome, stunning, great, cozy… you get the point.

More attractive keywords:

  • Balcony
  • location
  • Loft
  • Elevator
  • Available now
  • Close
  • Affordable
  • Beautiful view
Note: In addition to keywords and phrases, the more exclamation points the better!!!!!!1

Stuff to Keep in Mind:

  • Apartments in Pittsburgh pretty much serve as cash cows for the building owners since new college students arrive every year. As a result, they can pretty much get away with very little maintenance and still have a surplus of tenants (often inexperienced college students happy enough to be on their own) who are willing to rent the first place they come across.
  • If you look at an apartment on a warm day in the summer, spring, or fall, keep in mind that you might be freezing your ass off when winter arrives. Find out who controls the heat and what type of heat it is. Also, look at the windows to see if they can keep the heat in and cold out. If the ad is proudly boasting “Free Heat,” the landlord probably doesn’t turn the heat on until they absolutely have to. It would suck to pay $985 for a small 1 bedroom and have to wear three layers to bed at night as a cold front passes through in mid-October.
  • Sound insulation: always knock on the walls to see how hollow and thin they are. You could fall in love with a place that you looked at for 5 minutes while the rest of the building was at school or work, but during the first night you might realize that you can’t sleep there because the stomper above you is running around their apartment until 3:30 in the morning. Likewise, you could hear the neighbors next door doing the nasty every night.
  • “Furnished” probably means that the previous tenant left all their crap and the landlord doesn’t feel like dealing with it so they found a way to turn a negative into a positive. But remember, if you rent a furnished apartment, you never know what happened on that furniture before you moved in. Think about it.

Tips for searching on Craigslist:

  • Use the “Title Only” option for keywords that are important to you, such as neighborhood or starting date.
  • Type in a minimum/maximum rent to avoid being distracted by apartments you can’t afford or places that don’t meet your standards.
  • If you have cats or dogs, check the boxes to avoid uber disappointment.
  • Like to see how shady the landlord is before contacting them? A great way is to examine the pictures they provide. You can check the “has image” box to make sure all the results have an attachment. a lot can be discerned about your future landlord by the pics they choose to share in the listing.
  • Note: these search options could possibly limit your options and should be used in conjunction with normal searching/post skimming.

This is not even the busiest time of the year for local apartments, so you can only imagine how much worse it gets from here.

Disclaimer: Boring Pittsburgh is not insinuating anything about the specific titles chosen for this post. The titles in this post were randomly included as examples only.

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