Tag Archives: Moving to LA

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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Moving to LA.: Setting Down Roots

Sometimes I can be a little selfish. (Aren’t we all a little selfish?)

So I hesitate to post this bit of advice, but what’s this blog about if not a record of my experience and hopefully a guide to others in my position?

The real secret of surviving in LA is….

Setting down roots.

Okay, so that wasn’t actually a reveal because that’s the title of this post, but whatever.

The most common and helpful piece of advice I’ve received from friends is to set down roots. A year ago while visiting the area, an old friend of mine told me, “Don’t move here with the idea that you’ll be a writer in a year. Move here because you like the area and you want to be around people who have the same interests and passions as you.”

Then on my second day in LA I attended a community group through a local church (Reality LA–I highly recommend attending this church if only because their services are held at the Glee high school). The host of the community group turned out not only to work in the industry but happened to have worked as an AD on The Fosters. This is important to note because I’d recently had a conversation with The Fosters EP Peter Paige at ATX where I’d viewed the season premiere on the big screen with none other than Peter Paige and actors Teri Polo, Sherri Saum, and Kerr Smith sitting directly behind me. As fate would have it, my new friend was the AD on that particular episode which was written and directed by Peter Paige himself. This is where I say it’s a small world. Because it is.

Anyway, this new friend gave me a lot of advice that night and when we had coffee a few days later, but the thing that stuck with me the most was when he said, “You’re doing everything right. You’re setting down roots. And that means you’re more likely to stay here and stick it out.”

How do you set down roots?

I’ve detailed a lot of this in previous posts, but some of it bears repeating.

Work. Work as much as you can, make sure you can afford to still live here. The closer the work is to what you eventually want to do the better.

Live with people you like. This doesn’t have to be your best friend. But if you live with someone you like in an area you are at least okay with, if not prefer, then you’re more likely to stick around.

Make friends. Whether this be in the realm of “contacts” or actual friends, a mixture of both is good to have. Keep up with your friends as much as possible, go to their shows, support them. This is another area where I hesitate to reveal my secrets, because I don’t have much going for me (having no experience in production and not being a terribly charismatic person), but I’m good at making and keeping friends. But then I remind myself that if someone isn’t good at making and keeping friends, my telling them this is the secret to success is not going to make them any better at making and keeping friends. Instead, this bit of advice might point out something that a reader might not have put much thought into or not realized is a strength. This is a strength, especially in a place like LA where so much of the culture is independent living. I’m an introverted hermit, but even I realize how important it is to not live completely independently. Which leads me to…

Build a community. This is only slightly different from making friends. Obviously, it involves making friends, but it’s also about building a community of people that support and encourage each other. This is where going to friends’ shows comes into play. Support your friends and they’ll support you (or at least that’s the hope). Beware of one-sided relationships, though. The goal of any relationship is never to be selfish and expect support, but it can also be unhealthy if a friend is happy to take your support but not offer any of their own. This is an important life lesson for anyone, not just those trying to make it in Hollywood.

Tangentially related to the last two points, meet up with friends of friends. These people come with built in personal references, and actually that’s most of the friends I’ve made so far. Depending on where you’re moving from, you might have a wealth of people in your immediate network that you can meet with and see if you click. I’m about 2 for 2 right now, but I’ve met a bunch of people through those 2 people I clicked with, so it’s been fruitful.

Get to know the area. Go to restaurants, walk around, go hiking, find some good hangout spots (coffee shops, creative workspaces, etc), visit neighborhoods, anything that will endear you to the area. I still have yet to do this, but I’m excited to start.

Go to live events. Outdoor movies, podcast recordings, conferences, festivals, concerts, tapings, anything that will get you out into the world. Here are some resources I’ve used to find fun things to do in the area:

wgfoundation.org

nerdmeltla.com

sunset.ucbtheatre.com

franklin.ucbtheatre.com

laweekly.com/calendar

Please comment below if you’ve found additional helpful resources.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how you set down roots, but just that you do. I loved living in Portland and didn’t want to leave, but I couldn’t let myself dwell on this. I needed to accept that I will be living in LA for the foreseeable future. Probably at least the next 10-20 years. So this is my new home. This is where I will achieve my goals. This is where my roots are now.

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Time to Commit: Moving to L.A.

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Mother: Maybe you should wait to move until you get a job.

Thankfully, I was able to politely dismiss this with the sound argument that I didn’t even have a job in Portland anymore (both my jobs were student jobs and since I’d graduated, I was no longer a student). Plus, it’s practically impossible to get a job in Portland (we have the highest unemployment rate in the country, last I checked).

So with no job and no permanent place to live, I mailed my books and packed my tiny Prius C to the gills with the rest of my belongings (getting rid of about half of my belongings and the few furnishings I had to my name) and drove down to LA in a day and a half.

I was as prepared as I felt I could be. I’d saved what I could (though the term savings is debatable — I owe thousands of dollars in 0% APR credit card debt and school loans) in preparation of paying a deposit and first month’s rent. I’d leased a car in Portland, where sales tax doesn’t exist (this also made moving prep much easier in my final weeks). I’d sent resumes and cover letters out to production offices. I’d networked via twitter and in person at conferences and festivals (including some promising conversations with three EPs that would be a personal dream to work with). I’d reconnected with old friends and made new friends in LA I’d built up a decent portfolio and a great pool of references. I’d read almost every blog, listened to every podcast, soaked up every bit of information I could find about living and working in Hollywood.

But it wasn’t enough.

There’s no such thing as being 100% prepared for living in this town. During this series, I’ll attempt to provide information that hopefully be helpful to anyone thinking about moving to LA.

Some of the topics that will be featured:

Finding a Place to Live

Finding a Job

Setting Down Roots

and more to come.

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