Apartment Hunting in Los Angeles

Apartment Hunting in Los Angeles

Finding an apartment in LA can be frustrating. As my boyfriend and I look to find a new apartment, I’m reminded of all the trouble we had finding our current apartment in Los Angeles. For two weeks, we made finding an apartment in LA our full time job, and it was stressful! If you’re moving to LA, these tips may help you find your first apartment without the headache.

1. Be aggressive.

Apartments in LA don’t stay on the market for long, especially apartments that are on the cheaper end. If you find a place you like, call and ask to view it – don’t wait for an open house.  We lost an apartment because we waited too long to call. Learn from our mistakes!

2. Use your online resources.

Many home owners/landlords/apartment managers list their apartments online. Since LA is such a hot place to live, these apartments don’t stay vacant for long. It’s much easier for a landlord to post their listings themselves than go through a realtor or apartment company. Here are a couple of websites you might find useful during your apartment search:

  • Craigslist: It may sound sketchy, but in LA, Craigslist is actually a great resource for apartment listings, and it’s not uncommon to find an apartment through Craigslist. Craigslist has an extensive list of apartments available for rent, and you can find some great apartments exclusively posted through the Craigslist community. With that being said, Craigslist also has a lot of span listings, so it’s important to proceed with caution. It takes a lot of patience to comb through apartment listings. I wouldn’t trust a listing that didn’t have pictures or whose amenities looked too good to be true for the price. Use your best judgement when sorting through listings.
  • Westside Rentals: This site is another great resource. When we first moved to LA, you had to pay to see all of Westside Rentals’ listings. Now, Westside Rentals has a great free version. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of subscription service, but you can see many available apartments and what they include. Some rental companies only post listings on WestSide Rentals because of its exclusive nature. They realize people who pay for a subscription service may be higher-quality renters than those who can’t afford to do so.  With Westside Rentals, you also don’t have to worry about spam listings the way you do with Craigslist. Westside Rentals makes sure all the listings they post are legit. For this reason, it is a good solution for people who may be looking for apartments in LA but don’t live here yet. My boyfriend and I found are current apartment through WestSide Rentals.
  • Apartments.com: My favorite apartment-hunting website is actually Apartments.com. Through writing this post, I learned that Apartments.com recently acquired WestSide Rentals so many of the listings from WestSide Rentals are here as well. Apartments.com actually aggregates listings from multiple websites, making it a good one-stop shop. All services (that I’ve used) on Apartments.com are free, including contact information. Lastly, Apartments.com is very user-friendly. Its search and filter options are much more advanced than Craigslist and Westside Rentals’ free subscription. I have definitely spent many hours looking through apartments on this site and have found some great apartments here.

3. Actually view the apartment in-person.

While the internet may be your friend, it can also be a big, fat liar. My boyfriend and I saw a place that looked great online… only to find dead cockroaches in the kitchen when we actually went to view it. Listings are made to sound attractive, so it’s important to actually see the apartment that you are considering. When you go to view your apartment, pay close attention to the details. Approach apartment-viewing like a detective and really look for the problems.

Here are some good questions to ask yourself while apartment-viewing:

  • Does it look like there are a lot of people loitering around the neighborhood in the middle of the day? At night?
  • Are there paint stains on the floor?
  • Does the piping under the sink look new or rusty?
  • Do the locks on the door look old?
  • How far is the apartment unit from the laundry room? And how many washers/dryers are there?
  • Is there a lot of light inside?
  • Are the light fixtures/switches/kitchen cabinets in odd places?
  • How many units are in the apartment building?
  • Does the building look like it is kept up?
  • Do the other tenants seem nice? or too noisy?
  • Is there chipped paint?
  • Do the drawers open and close properly?

Also, it is a GREAT idea to check the appliances in the apartment. The first place we viewed  didn’t come with a refrigerator, which apparently is not uncommon for LA. I would make sure the apartment comes with all the amenities you are looking for.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to view the apartment before you buy, I would consider having a friend in LA view the apartment for you.

4. Find an apartment close to your work.

If you’re moving to LA, finding a place to live close to your work can be the key to your overall happiness. Being a transplant is difficult, so why make it more frustrating by dealing with a two-hour commute? As you search for apartments, plug your desired apartment’s address into Google Maps and link it to your work. Make sure you see what the average commute time would be during your peak commute hours.

Finding a place close to your work will save you lots of time each day that you can spend exploring your new city and making new friends. If you find a place close enough to your work that you can walk or bike, you can save lots of money on transportation. This was honestly the best tip here we were able to follow. My boyfriend can walk to work, and my work is only a 12-minute bike ride away!

5. If you have the luxury, stay in the area you are thinking about moving to.

My boyfriend moved to LA for work, and we purposely chose to arrive two weeks before his start date to find an apartment. We rented out an Airbnb for this period and dedicated our time solely to looking at apartments. Since we had only been to LA before on vacation, it was nice to be here with the mindset that we were going to live in LA. We were able to explore the Westside, our chosen area of LA to live, and see which places we liked and didn’t like. We explored the farmer’s markets, local libraries, and groceries stores. It was a great time for us to become more familiar with the area we wanted to live in before we actually found an apartment.

If this is something you don’t think you will be able to do before making the move, I would suggest looking up neighborhoods online. My boyfriend and I actually spent a lot of time on Wikipedia reading about each area before we decided on the right place to live.

6. Consider areas/houses that are under rent control.

Apartments in LA can be expensive. If you are planning to settle into your apartment for a long time, it may be a good idea to prioritize a rent controlled apartment. What this means is that, after  you sign a lease, your rent can only go up a certain amount year-to-year. Many people end up staying in their rent-controlled apartments for a long time, and consequently, pay way below market-value rent. In my current apartment complex, there is one couple who is paying a third of what we pay!

In LA, some buildings are considered to be under rent control, especially older buildings. I would ask the landlord or apartment manager if the apartment is under rent control, or check the address on this site . It’s a little confusing to use, but essentially you plug in the address you are considering and then check to see if there is a “Yes” next to “Rent Stabilization Ordinance”. If there is, you should be good to go. You can learn more about Los Angeles rent control policies here.

Areas such as Santa Monica are known to have strong rent control laws as well. To check if your apartment complex in Santa Monica is under rent control, you can go to this site and look up your address. If the address that you are considering has a $0 MAR, it is not eligible for rent control. Interestingly enough – on this site you can also get a good idea of how much your neighbors are paying in rent.

Many things about apartment hunting in LA surprised me right away, and I wish I had these tips when I was first looking for places on the West Coast two years ago. However, I hope this post helps YOU find your first LA apartment. What about apartment hunting in LA has surprised you?

Happy Hunting!

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