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The Great Apartment Hunt 2009, part I: How to do it wrong

April 2, 2009

I’m super excited to be apartment hunting this month!  I wrote my final rent check and turned in a 30 day notice yesterday.   Wooo hoo!

Our previous plan for housing seems like a no-go (this is like the 3rd plan we’ve had), so the new plan is to for me to move ASAP, and T to follow in June or so.  I will pay the rent alone until he moves in (though if it is over my current rent, we might make some sort of deal), then we’ll split it in half to start.  And figure it out from there, since for now I make significantly more.

In part I, I’ll list a couple of things I did wrong in picking out my current place, just in case anyone else is ever moving to a big city from the Midwest and is as clueless as I was.  Here is how to do it wrong!  To do it right, pretty much do the opposite of whatever I did.

  • Didn’t know L.A. and the neighborhoods well enough
  • Worried a little about those little signs that warn you the building might cause cancer
  • Wanted to secure a place well over a month in advance
  • Used free online searches that were mostly limited to complexes
  • Only had 2 days to look
  • Only saw a handful of places
  • Started with an unrealistic price point
  • Didn’t really consider roommates (though I probably would still have not got them)
  • Signed a whole year lease instead of 6 mo
  • Paid for amenities that I use only occasionally

But now I’m a savvy L.A. resident (ha) and I think I can do much much better!  After seeing just a few places, I have decided my apartment isn’t that bad for what I pay, and is nicer than I though (in comparison).  But still, I think I”ll be able to do beter.

I’m kind of a spur of the moment type blogger, so I’m not sure how many parts this will have, or what will be in each part.

Current status: We have looked at many places already, even though it is defintely too early for it and we’ll end up paying some double rent in April (well, triple rent!).  I was just too excited to wait a week or two. The places close to the beach are older and less nice (for our budget), but there are some really nice bargains in a few miles.  We fell in love with a beach side apartment.  The apartment itself is decent, larger than mine (but still smallish), but really, the location is what I love.  It is a bit over budget, but we might expand our budget to fit it in.  Currently I pay $1425 and T pays about $1000, so we are spending $2500 between us.  Yikes.  Almost anything would be a huge improvement over that!   We plan to continue looking this weekend and schedule a bunch of walk throughs, and maybe have decisions made within a week.  Eeek!

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 2, 2009 7:27 am

    Hey SP – am I reading this right? Your rent is $1425 and T’s is $1000? Is that per month? Holy sh*t! I’m in the midwest, which I’m sure you know is ridiculously cheaper. So, rent numbers like that blow my mind. Any reason why you wouldn’t just buy a house for that? Or, in the L.A. market, is that not even near a house payment? We’re looking to buy right now. Trying to find ~1500 sq. ft with a monthly payment below $1000 (that includes mortgage, ins. and taxes). Now you see why rent in the $1000+ range seems odd to me.

  2. April 2, 2009 7:54 am

    Which area are you thinking of living? Stay away from Santa Monica Collection. I used to live there and they charged my roommate and I $600 on top of taking our $1,500 deposit. Even though we followed the contract and used their cleaning lady and did everything they wanted. When we asked for a final walk-through so that they could tell us if everything looked good to go, they refused and said they were busy. I know of others who went through the same crap. Well we sued them in small claims court, but the b*stards still put something on my credit report.

    I also lived in Culver City and loved it.

    But yeah, rent in LA is pretty crazy.

  3. April 2, 2009 8:14 am

    @bayouJosh – yes, your eyes do not deceive! You wouldn’t be able to find a 1 bdrm on the west side for under $1000. Maybe a “bachelor” or “studio” but it wouldn’t e nice. House payments… maybe we could make a house payment for $2500. MAYBE. Condos go for half a mil, even not in the “best” areas. And there’s the down payment, and the fact we might not be here in 5 years. Anyway, we don’t want to spend 2500 on housing, so we are looking forward to the savings. I know what you mean, my sister lives in a relatively large midwestern city and her mortgage = my rent. Roughly.

    @LA Daze – if you are super curious i can email you a more specific location, but the basic area is westside, maybe down to the south bay, west of the 405. For now. We are a little flexible. I’ll watch out for that company! I’m concerned why someone would need a $1500 deposit, but it seems relatively common.

  4. April 2, 2009 8:19 am

    @ bayou josh – I should add that the salaries are also inflated here. Certainly not proportionally, but it a significant difference that makes the rent a bit more manageable. I’d say I’m making ~$14k more than those who graduated with me and still work at my old company.

  5. April 2, 2009 8:34 am

    I completely understand that you live in LA, and that’s why your housing expense is CRAZY. But still… WOW! It’s difficult for me because I live in a place where I’m only paying $615 total, and that includes utilities, cable, and the internet.

    Granted, it is a bit of a hole in the wall, but still… I guess that’s the price you’ve got to pay to live in a place like LA.

    I like in Provo, Utah… ouch. 😦

  6. April 2, 2009 9:37 am

    I guess the coasts really aren’t that different price wise. Most apartments around here (suburb of Philly) are well over $1,000 also, although it sounds like it’s a bit more expensive there. I am shocked when people on here talk about only paying $600/month, I wish! Good luck finding a new place 🙂

  7. April 2, 2009 11:00 am

    🙂 No need to disclose a more specific location, but the south bay is a great area! I prefer that over the westside. Good luck in your search! And yes, stay clear from those asking for huge deposits. The norm here is more around $500. At least that’s what i’ve paid for the past two places I lived.

  8. April 2, 2009 12:17 pm

    Good luck with the hunt, are you using evil westside rentals or no? It’s pretty hard to escape their clutches unless you like driving block by block and calling each place. I’ve lived near the beach in the OC and yeah the place was an overpriced dump, not to mention it’s so chilly here by the water. I can’t deal with the traffic on the west side anymore after moving someplace a little more mellow. We’ve come to embrace the Silverlake aesthetic, eastside gritty not westside pretty.

  9. April 2, 2009 12:55 pm

    @miss m – yes on the westside rentals… though one i like wasn’t listed there, and only on craigslist! I’m not really anti-east side, the westside thing is more about proximity to jobs and such. I actually know very little about east LA at this point.

    I currently have pretty easy beach access (walkable, but I usually drive, ha) and I really do use it about 2x a week to go running. But… we’ll see.

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