Our new guest blogger, Katherine, is a recent graduate of Northwestern University seeking fame and fortune (but mostly fame) in that fickle and fast town of Los Angeles. She has had no less than 13 roommates in a total of four apartments, spread across four cities. Now she’s ready to settle and begin her hunt for her first “real” apartment.
Moving to LA: with a dream. Without a job. by Katherine
“Los Angeles is seventy-two suburbs in search of a city.” – Dorothy Parker
When I came to LA in March to pursue an internship, I sublet a gorgeous bedroom in an apartment complex that made me feel like I was in Roman Holiday. But really I was in Westwood Village (home of UCLA-go Bruins!) across the street from In-N-Out. As my sublet (and days of burger noshing) comes to an end, I prepare to begin my real apartment search in earnest.
L.A. is a city that scores a scary 199 on cost of living index, with apartment buildings that resemble refurbished motels more than the charming walk-ups of San Francisco or NYC. I know my search for the perfect combination of vintage and modern will be tough, so on with the criteria!
What I’m looking for: My future roommate and I are looking for a whole mess of things that I know will be hard to find in this sprawling metropolis, so I’ve narrowed it down to what I call the ‘deal breakers,’ i.e., if it doesn’t have this specific criteria, it’s a no-go. Even if the apartment comes with the complete Kitchen-Aid collection, no parking space, no deal.
1. Rent-$750-850 (per person): During my casual search of the past five months (read: driving around aimlessly and Craigslist surfing when I’m bored), I have determined that this budget can get me an apartment in a reasonable neighborhood while keeping me in a smart range for the future gains that come with full-time employment. In order to gauge the right budget for you, check out these handy resources:
• CNN Cost of Living Comparison
• Salary Calculator Tool
And if you have a job, you’re already most of the way there. Hint: aim for your rent to be similar to your weekly salary before deductions.
2. Parking Space: Mandatory. You need a car. Let me repeat: you need a car. What about a subway you ask? What! There’s a subway?! Where exactly is it? Where does it go? These are the questions that have plagued Angelinos for decades. Their solution? The Prius. (As a public transportation lover myself, these truths sadden me. But they are in fact truths.)
3. Hardwood Floors: I love hardwood floors. Love ‘em. To me, they’re essential. Not only do they give a cheap apartment a more expensive feel, they are easy to clean and they give any apartment that historic vintage feel that I’m obsessed with, even in plastic-y La-La Land. Unfortunately for me, LA, in keeping with its cookie-cutter motelian sort of vibe, decided to normalize the combination of carpets and hardwood floors and even (gasp!) all carpet.
To help identify various LA suburbs, check out Rentberry. I have also discovered the even more comprehensive MyFirstApartment’s Apartment Hunter’s Checklist. They are both great tools when you first get started. There are other features I would love to have (read: air-conditioning, chandeliers in every room including the loo) but alas we all must compromise. Creating your list before you start will help eliminate bad choices and save you tons of time and energy. If you plan on living with a roommate, have them create one too and then compare. This will eliminate problems later on. For example, is an apartment without air-conditioning a deal breaker for your roommate but something you couldn’t care less about? Working this out in the beginning can help streamline your search.
How I’m looking for it: The how is just as important as the what. Together, these two questions will team up to produce my dream apartment. To embark on this hunt, I’ll be using a variety of internet resources that I’ve heard good things about or have had personal successes with, as well as the tried and true method of pounding the pavement. Now, I have the advantage of being in this city while I look since a friend (and future roomie) is letting me crash on her couch (highly recommended) and I have had the opportunity to explore the neighborhoods, but if you are doing it long distance, never fear! Check out the MyFirstApartment’s LA City Guide as a starting point and try to sublet while you look.
Here are some resources I like:
Craigslist: you have to weed through a lot of crap, but it’s free and there’s always the chance to find that gem! Plus you can get some really good deals.
Padmapper: really great, especially in LA, to see the distances and proximities to grocery stores, gyms, your place of work, your place of worship etc. Proximity to these things is paramount in LA because every mile could cost you 20 minutes + gasoline. (See “parking space” above) Bonus: Crime and Walkability scores!
Westsiderentals.com: Haven’t subscribed yet, but I hear good things. Plus, I can’t drive around the neighborhoods I like without seeing several of their signs. It cost $$ though, so I’ll let you know if it’s worth it.
So let’s summarize: I’m in LA. I’m searching for the perfect vintage 2BR apartment oozing with charm. I want it to have a parking space and hardwood floors. And I want it to be affordable while I hang out on the bottom rung of employment. Let the hunt begin!