Apt hunting- DC style

Another common factor in the what is the worst that can happen theory to life is that vital decisions can be made without much thought or foresight such as moving in to a frat style house with three strange boys.  When I first moved to DC, I was living up in Friendship Heights in an apartment with a revolving door of roommates.  Come March I could handle it anymore- not the high rise building with frequent fire drills, not the miserable morning commute on the Red Line which forced me to listen to angry rap music and smoke cigarettes at 9AM, being far away from absolutely everything except a grocery store and post office.  I wanted to be in the action, closer then 15 minutes to a Metro station, off the mother fucking Red Line forever and needed a drastic life change to shake things up. 

Group houses are how most people find roommates and living situations in DC.  With so many people moving in and out of the city on a monthly bases, everything is temporary- living, friends, routine.  Even people that have lived in DC for years tend to find housing situations with strangers- the most popular being the group house.  Group houses are roughly defined as big usually falling apart homes with mismatched furniture and a bunch of people who met each other on Craig’s List or is a friend of a friend of a friend.  Some of them are roughly themed- seeking a roommate who is vegan, works in non-profit, is a Republican.  They get oddly picky about who and what they are looking for.  After they have posted the initial advertisement with details about the house (location, rent, etc.), you send them a witty e-mail.  My go-to e-mail was as follows:

Hi, my name is Rachel and I am responding to your ad on Craig’s List for the room for rent. 

A little about myself:  I am born and bred in the wonderful state of Minnesota.  I grew up in Minneapolis with 2 brothers, 2 dogs and about 37 first cousins in a 3 hour radius.  I went to DePaul University in Chicago for my undergrad and majored in political science and creative writing.  I moved to DC a year ago to worked for an educational foundation for six months.  Our contracts expired at the end of June— after a couple weeks of being overheated and sending out cover letters with no success, I ended up back in Minnesota for  2 months to lounge at the cabin, read books and hang out with my momma. 

I arrived back in DC this fall and after spending a couple months as a nanny, landed a “big girl job”.  I am currently working for an association (I have completely sold out…but they are going to teach me how to fly airplanes, which is dope) and for the next month am teaching at-risk youth from Baltimore and Washington DC how to snowboard on the weekends. 

I am a 9-5 girl, but during my free time I love to read books and newspapers, cook, spend time with friends, travel, go out to eat and explore the many neighborhoods, monuments and museums DC has to offer.  I think I am easy to get along with, have my moments when I am pretty funny and clean up after myself.  I live by the “work hard, play hard” mentality of life. 

Please let me know if you have any more questions about me in advance. 

I look forward to hearing from you,


The point is to sound awesome, but not too cool for school.  By telling them where you work, you are promising you get paid every 2 weeks and can always pay rent.  You want to show your potential roommates that you like to do activities, thus you will not always be posted up on the couch watching trashy TV 7 days a week.  That you have a social life but are not a drunk who will be banging in the front door at 2am on a Tuesday.  Plus other small things like you can hold decent conversations and will put your dishes in the dishwasher.  It is not an exact science, but there is a method to the madness. 

Following the mass sending of e-mails, you are given an invitation to interview.  Group house interviews are kind of like blind dates- the majority of the time, they really suck and were a waste of your time, but once in a while, you score.  If they are a kind group house, they will invite you over at a time convenient with everyone’s schedule to show you the house and chat with you- roommates to potential roommate.  If they are not kind, they will hold an open house, which I came to associate as punishment. 

If you show up to an open house for a particular awesome living situation, guaranteed that 15 other people also think it is awesome.  After a brief tour of the house, you are seated in a room with all of the other current and potential roommates.  The current roommates make bold statements about what they are “looking for” in a roommate, grill you on your wants, needs and dreams, while the other potential roommates desperately try to one-up you, proving that they are cooler people and would be the best fit for the house. 

You have to want to live there and they have to want you to live there- a delicate balance in which many are left by the wayside, forced to spend another month in their terrible high-rise apartment without a door.  Once you leave the group house interview, you wait.  After everyone leaves, the roommates will sit down and judge the hell out of you, rejecting you for silly reasons such as: we’d like to maintain the male-female ratio in the house, we don’t think she was green enough, she didn’t try my vegan muffins.  After a couple of days, you’ll get a thanks but no thanks e-mail that the house has been filled and thus continue on your search. 

I had been doing this for about a month when I came across the ad for the frat house in which I currently reside.  The long and short of the post was we are 2 blocks from the Metro; we are from South Carolina- so we are gentlemen and like bourbon; the house is super neat (read: cool, not clean); and the rent is so cheap, you’ll still be able to afford happy hour.  The absurdity of it all was such that I had to see for myself, so I agreed to show up one Tuesday after work, my friend Teresa in tow in case they had secret desires to cut me up.  I had googled the house and it didn’t look awesome- there were bars on the windows, peeling paint, but I was curious enough.

I arrived to the house to find 3 hungover boys- 2 that had called in sick after drinking a bottle of whiskey the previous night playing video games, with the 3rd taking a last minute joy ride to Atlantic City.  The house was clean enough, they seemed nice enough and my potential bedroom had TWO doors, which based on my current curtain situation, was miraculous.  We chatted for about 10 minutes before the we’ll talk soon conversation and Teresa and I departed to the neighborhood bar for hamburgers and beer.

A couple beers in Teresa had won me over- they are cute!  They seemed nice!  We’ll be neighbors, Rachel, NEIGHBORS!  So I drunk dialed, asked to move in and they agreed. 

10 days later I moved out of my apartment in Friendship Heights.  It was mid-month, I hadn’t found another sub-letter for my old place and was moving into a household in a relatively foreign part of town with 3 relative strangers.  But again- what is the worse that can happen?

Almost 9 months later, all of my worst case scenarios have not been realized.  While my roommates can be admittedly incredibly messy/dirty, they are very kind human beings.  I found a sub-letter for my old place.  They didn’t cut me up.  The house is way too hot in the summer and chilly in the winter, but the company is always excellent, we’ve got 2 televisions in the living room in the off chance there are 2 high priority sporting events on at the same time (told you- frat house), I love the neighborhood and there is really never a dull moment.  A total win for irrational decision making.


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