How to Sublet Your Apartment

You’re in the middle of your lease but you need to move, and you don’t know what to do. Luckily, the solution is simple: you have to sublet your place. This means finding someone else to live in your apartment until your lease expires. It’s a relatively common maneuver – and here’s how to do it.

The first step is talking with your landlord. Some people advocate going it alone, but it’s far easier to sublet with your landlord’s knowledge – particularly because your landlord will probably figure out what you’re up to anyway. And you don’t want an angry landlord who feels deceived. Plus, if you’re leaving for good, your landlord will likely allow your subletter to take over your lease entirely. This is preferable: you won’t need to worry about collecting rent from your subletter, or helping them fix things – you’ll be done. And that’s how you want it. So call your landlord.

The second thing to do is advertise. First, email all your friends, get on Facebook and message people, tell your Aunt, tell your co-workers – just tell everyone you know that you have a sublet available. Someone might turn up – if so, this person will be connected to someone you know which means you can get the inside scoop on them, and you’ll have saved yourself some trouble.

Now, if asking around doesn’t get any results, the next step is posting an ad online. Of course, do Craigslist, but don’t stop there. Alissa and I (we just sublet our place), also put our advertisement on Domu, which is a Chicago-based apartment hunter’s website. It cost us $20 to post our listing, but of the seven people who came by to look at our apartment, six found us via Domu. What does this mean? Shelling out a few bucks to list on a local premium site is probably worth it – you’ll get more responses than you will from freebie sites.

About those ads. Here are some tips:

  • Post photos. Without photos, no one will be interested – they’re simply a must in today’s apartment-hunting world.
  • Clean your apartment. This means before you take the photos – you’ll get fewer responses if there’s a pile of laundry in the middle of your bedroom photo, and empty Fritos bags on the floor of your kitchen.
  • Take in-focus photos, one for each room. And make sure the photos encapsulate the whole room: A crooked close-up of your couch will not cause anyone to fall in love with your living room. A blurry image of a sink and a half-in-the-frame toilet helps no one. We’re not asking for Ansel Adams here – basic competence is fine. Get the lighting right. Position yourself so you can capture the whole room. Pay attention to frame composition. And, unless there’s something special about your bathroom, you can leave it out.
  • In the body of your ad, foreground the basics: Location, size (studio, 1bdrm, etc), rent, utilities included, availability, and amenities. Be succinct. A couple good adjectives, or maybe a sentence or two about why you like the place is all the extra adornment you need – if you’ve posted accurate photos and a clear description, people who want the type of apartment you’re advertising will find you.
  • Check your ad for spelling and grammar mistakes. Poor grammar and sloppy spelling are a turn-off.

Once you put up an ad, you’ll start to get responses. This can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Here are some basic tips:

  • Clean the place – (again, I know!) this means not just throwing away trash and straightening pillows. It also means mopping, cleaning the bathroom, and putting away stray books and empty boxes. Compose your apartment in its optimal position – put away the spare folding chair you had out, and the order you have yet to return. When potential subletters come to your place, you want them to see your apartment’s potential.
  • Dress well – this doesn’t mean put on a suit, but it does mean wearing nice, clean, matching clothing and being well-groomed. Think of this as an informal job interview – you want to give off a good impression.
  • As trusting as you may be, hide your jewelry box and iPod and other small valuables. Someone might pocket them if they’re just lying out on your dresser.
  • If you’re uncomfortable allowing strangers to walk right into your place, have a friend with you when you show the apartment. You’ll feel better and you’ll have someone to get your back.
  • Give each visitor a one-pager of the apartment stats and highlights, so they can refresh their memory after seeing 10 other places.
  • Don’t hound the potential subletters. Be on hand to answer questions and point out features – but also give them space to look for themselves and to think things through. No one likes a pushy salesperson.

With these tips  and some luck, you’ll find a subletter with ease. Remember, we’re currently in a landlord’s market, so the process should be relatively painless: in most parts of the country, there are more potential renters than available units.

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Author My First Apartment

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Alex has rented in Minneapolis, Queens, Brooklyn, and now Chicago. He can kill rodents and roaches when required, and loves picture-hanging projects. If you're ever in town, give him a shout.

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