These Vintage Rental Ads Prove Apartment Hunting Has Always Been Terrible

With Craigslist scams, insane deposits, and apartments that look nothing like the listing photos, finding the perfect rental is tough. With rents rising and the housing market getting crazy competitive in urban hubs, it’s hard not to feel like this is a terrible time to be a renter. Thankfully, RentCafe gathered up some of the worst, weirdest and oddly delightful rental ads of yore, to help us feel just a tiny bit better about how we rent today.

We’ve looked at the history of many aspects of modern living; from fire escapes to high rises to garbage, because it’s always interesting (and educational!) to look at how things became the way they are now. In that light, let’s peruse the old-timey listings together, shall we?

1798 ad in Gazette of the United State of Philadelphia

(Image credit: RentCafe)

Let’s say you’re looking for a place to live in Philly in the 1790s. This place has four chambers (great), a parlor (luxurious) and comes fully furnished (how did you get so lucky) with furniture that is yellow-fever free (um, rad?). Guess subletting in the modern age isn’t so bad.

1837 ad in the Morning Herald

(Image credit: RentCafe)

Well, here’s something nice. A large brick home in Manhattan that could be used for a family or turned into a “genteel boarding house” (this is how we will be referring to all Airbnbs going forward). Not only is there a ton of space and it’s an investment opportunity, you also get an arbor of grapes! Throw in those carpets and oil cloths and you have yourself an urban homesteader’s dream!

Ad in Madera Tribune 1935

(Image credit: RentCafe)

This Steinbeckian ad shows that just like that, you can go from maybe I’ll move out west, have a little farm, one horse, a few hens…who knows, to owner of a small middle school’s worth of chickens.

There are plenty more where these came from, so head over to RentCafe for more vintage ads.

Renting smarter in the modern age:



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