I've been getting TONS of emails on this topic lately, so I figured it was time to really dive in. There is a great neighborhood breakdown in the ebook, which I plan to elaborate in a future podcast. But let's get down and dirty here in the blog.
How the hell do I find an apartment?
I can not stress enough how important it is to BE HERE to find an apartment. Sure, there are certain circumstances in which it's doable (i.e. you have a ton of friends or family already here). But for the most part, you just need to be in Los Angeles to find an apartment in Los Angeles. You need to be here for two main reasons:
- Landlords won't rent to you when you're not in the state. They won't trust that the money is good when you're so far away. Plus, it is so much easier for them to fill the unit with a local who can give them a payment TODAY.
- You need to drive by: a) for safety reasons, make sure there aren't homeless people camping out front, and b) for sanity reasons. You should get an idea if you could see yourself living there because every neighborhood is so different from each other.
So, yes, this means moving to LA and crashing on a couch for a few weeks, OR use Airbnb (which I highly recommend) while you look for an apartment. It may suck for a little bit, but it will be a distant memory before you know it, and it's a stepping stone for the LA journey—we've ALL done it! You can do it, I know it.
You can definitely still search for an apartment from home (without following through and trying to book one), and I encourage you to do that. It's good to start getting an idea of what's out here. Speaking of searching...
I'm seriously obsessed with Zillow because I love using the map feature. There are certain patches of LA that are a little shady or less desirable, and the map feature helps you eliminate that quickly. Whereas if you're just using Craigslist, you'll end up finding a place that says it's in one location, then you map it and find out that's a big fat lie.
I just discovered Padmapper. It's pretty fantastic. It collects listings from a ton of major sites (rent.com, craigslist, etc.) and puts them all on one map. One of my other loves is The Rental Girl because although they show limited listings, it's organized by location (clumps of neighborhoods that have similar vibes), and they usually have video tours and tons of pictures.
Whenever I take a walk through my neighborhood, or drive by others (usually looking for parking, oh LA), I always see Westside Rentals signs. It seems that most buildings are still using Westside Rentals to post available units. Now, I personally have never used WR, because I was cheap (ok, poor), when I moved here and didn't want to pay the $60 fee. But everyone who uses it says that it weeds out the shady listings. Everything on the site is legit. It's definitely a safer search option. As for the fee, people usually split it with roommates, or ask around to see if anyone currently has an account. Sharing is caring.
Another bit of advice I have for you is to act quickly when you find a place you like. Apartments don't stay vacant for long around here. If you wait on it, you'll probably lose it. That being said, don't feel like you have to rush your decision and then ultimately end up unhappy with your choice. But keep that time ticking in your mind.
Rent has certainly been rising since I've been here. We had one period of time where rent was super cheap, but that time has ended. Here is a very general breakdown of rent prices:
Studio: $800 - $1100
One Bedroom: $1100 - $2000
Two Bedroom: $1700 - $3000
I know these are wide ranges. It all depends on location. Anything near the beach is usually more expensive. The Valley usually has the cheapest apartments, but keep in mind it gets really hot there during the summer. There are also a few locations that I don't talk about (like Highland Park, Echo Park, etc.) that are also more affordable. I don't mention them because they are less central to everything in LA, and most people like to be more central for their first year here. But all that really matters is that YOU like where you live. So check them all out!
I hope you find this info helpful. If you have more specific questions, please feel free to comment below! Happy hunting!