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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Open House Process Redux

I've received a bit of flack in the past 24 hours regarding the last entry. One commenter here called me an asshole and another elsewhere noted that I am self absorbed and whatever else. The group house screening process has received a lot of attention recently thanks to an article in the Washington Post. People regard it as being unnecessarily competitive and accuse those who run it of playing God. I used to agree with this statement, but having been on the other end several times now, I have alternative view of the process.

When you have a room available in a group house, especially one in a prime DC neighborhood (by prime I mean safe, near a metro and close to fun stuff to do, not prime in terms of prestige) you will probably receive at least 100 emails from people inquiring about the space. Despite having very clearly described the house, the rent, the move in date, the open house date, and whatever other essential info pertains to the situation, half of these emails will ask you for the very information you have already provided. Having spent most of yesterday slogging through such emails and corresponding with these people, I can tell you that it gets old. Fast. To solve this problem, I have crafted a well-written highly informative message with every single piece of information about the house that anyone would want to know. I cut and paste it into the reply and tailor accordingly. That's what people have been receiving as a response. Except for the kid who has the same last name as me. He received an extremely dorky "hey that's my last name too" message followed my a lame story about something I was said to somebody in college. He took it in stride.

Many houses establish firm guidelines for applying to the house because so many people inquire and so many people demand special arrangements. It's not that group house people are inflexible, it's that we can't make exceptions for people because everyone asks for exceptions and before long, we're working to accommodate 50 different schedules and sets of needs. I know it sucks but it's just the way it has to be.

I've heard people complain that attending an open house is like attending sorority rush. I refused to attend a college that even had a Greek system so I wouldn't know, but I do remember feeling like I was trapped in a popularity contest. Unfortunately, the Open House system is the most efficient way of showing the room and screening people. It's hideous, but a necessary evil. So grind in your heals, turn on your best fake smile and understand that they only way to beat that system is to be as nice and flexible as humanly possible.

A word about screening people. I think this is also something that gets to people. Have you ever lived with somebody you don't like? Yeah, it sucks. 'Nuff said.

Another aspect of the open house system that people hate are applications. Many houses will ask potential roommates to fill out information about themselves like where they're from and what they like to do. People say that you can't tell that much about a person based on their hobbies and their musical tastes. I tend to agree with this actually. I know tons of people who are complete asses who share my taste in literature and music. I put little stock in these forms, and merely use them as a means of keeping track of people. I usually take notes on them such as "cute boy from California" or "kick ass girl who bakes bread."

My point in all of this is that the system clearly sucks but nobody has yet found a way to make it any less painful for anyone involved. Those who attend open houses in search of a room feel like they're competing in a futile popularity contest run by self absorbed power trippers, and those who are running the open houses feel like they're being forced to cater to capricious, needy strangers in search of favors. You can see where the ire comes from on both sides. Regardless, I will be thankful for Saturday when all this is out of the way.

3 Comments:

Anonymous e2 said...

You know I am not the biggest fan of the Open House process...but I will agree that it is the most efficient way to find a new roommate in DC. I've been on both sides of this process and have only found it to be fairly humiliating and mostly depressing.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Lickety Split said...

I think that those sanctimonious souls who think that trying to obtain a scarce commodity will not place the buyer at a significant disadvantage are severely disillusioned with what life is.

When you are flooded with applications, you try to make the best decision with the information at hand and if every single application sounds the same,...it's not your fault. If you're forced to have roommates then you need to find one that is only mildly sociopathic and disrespectful. Those who would call you an asshole for that are definitely NOT roommate material and ought to seriously consider that they would likely do EXACTLY the same thing in your position. You aren't dangling the house as a carrot. You realize what the value is. You are trying to find a roommate. It's not a perfect process. Get over yourselves people. (not you HP, the other folks...)

Hope this helps you...

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never had to go through the "open house" process - (although the one "group house" I applied for I got right away. We hit it off pretty quick.) Maybe I'm just not as jaded because I think I'd stand a pretty good chance if I went to one of 'em. In general, I think I'm a pretty happy-go-lucky kinda guy who fits well with others.

Either way, if it was my group house, any applicants would have to jump through whatever hoops I could dream up. And if they make it to the household, then they get to propose more hoops for the next person. Bad chemistry in a house is about as bad as it gets - so applicants should realize why people are being so damn picky. And if you don't like it, grab a random roommate from CL, get a small apartment, and chill out.

- DS

- DS

11:52 PM  

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