Moving to LA: Finding a Place to Live

Renting is practically impossible when you first move to LA

I knew buying was only for the super rich and/or really stable. But I’d thought renting would be easier. Because that’s what everyone does–they rent. Struggling actors rent. People who work odd jobs rent. Comedians rent. Writers rent. How difficult could it be?

Very difficult, it turns out.

Most landlords in LA are pretty strict about making sure your monthly income is three times rent. This makes sense on some level, but it’s hardly realistic. Especially for those of us new to LA. Even if I’d had a job lined up, it most likely wouldn’t be bringing in more than $3000/month (the lowest rent you’ll find in the area is around $1000) and I definitely wouldn’t be able to provide two pay stubs to prove I make that much per month. Even if you have a roommate, your rent will probably still be a minimum of $700, meaning you have to be making over $2000 per month. Also pretty difficult.

So what are your options?

Until you can find a place hostels, couch surfing, AirBnB, and sublets are your best bet. If you really luck out, you can find house sitting gigs and just move from gig to gig. I imagine this way is a bit more difficult and nerve-wracking. I moved here during summer, so I’ve found plenty of sublets. This is a good route because there’s no deposit involved and low commitment. Fortunately, though, I haven’t needed to go this route.

Instead, I found some friends who were willing to let me stay with them for a few weeks with the understanding that after that I should have a place lined up or find a sublet. This can get awkward, especially in my case where there was a lot of miscommunication, but as long as everyone’s talking and honest it can be a good option.

How about finding a permanent place?

Your best bet is to find a room in an apartment that already exists. For example, a 2 bedroom place where one roommate is moving out and the other is staying.

Another option is to find someone else who needs a place and finding an apartment together.

I’ll admit, I don’t know all the different options for finding a roommate. I don’t particularly trust craigslist (rightly so, I believe). A quick search led me to roommates.com, roomiematch.com, and roomster.com. I can’t speak as to the quality of these sites, but they’re the first that showed up.

Instead, I’m lucky in that I have a sort of built-in community that I’ve turned to. The friends I’m staying with are planting a church in the area and I attended two local bigger churches and a community group meeting early on in my time in LA. Both those churches have fantastic online resources for finding jobs and a place to live. Though it’s no guarantee that these roommates will be better than any I’d find on craigslist or other sites, at least through these more intimate communities many people come with personal references that are easily accessible. This has provided me with no small amount of relief.

This ended up being the option that worked for me. At first I started looking for people who had a place but needed a roommate. This seemed easier than finding a new place with someone. This didn’t end up working out, though. So I “settled” for someone who was looking to move from Glendale to Hollywood to be closer to work.

This has been by far the best decision I’ve made since moving to LA. My roommate works in the industry and we have enough in common that it’s easy to live together, but enough differences so that we complement each other well. The apartment we ended up in was actually the first one we looked at. We looked at a few others, but ran into some problems like I stated above. Together we made three times the rent, but I couldn’t show that. So we lucked out in finding someone who cared more about how good our credit is. Which I think makes sense because that shows that I pay my bills. Just because I make enough money doesn’t mean I know how to manage money.

So in the end everything worked out for the best and we’ve settled in nicely here in Hollywood, which is a great place for me to meet people in the industry and look for a job. Much better than my original preference of Studio City.

What does this mean for others?

Your best bet will probably be to look for a roommate through social media. If you’re open to room shares, that’s even better. I’ve lived in that kind of situation for the past 4 years, so I was really wanting a more traditional apartment situation (hey! I even have my own en suite bathroom!).

So let your friends know you’re looking for a roommate and an apartment. Ask if anyone knows of any good groups or resources. Tap into your community. For me, it was church, but for others it might be a comedy group on Facebook or an online book club or a group for amateur ornithologists. Take advantage of the world you’ve constructed for yourself and be ready to pounce on the first available opportunity. I went through at least three or four almosts before I found the right one. And it happened in a matter of days.

Be vigilant and be prepared.

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