"I see your hair is burnin'. Hills are filled with fire. If they say I never loved you. You know they are a liar. Drivin' down your freeways. Midnight alleys roam. Cops in cars .... LA Woman, you're my woman." (The Doors, 'LA Woman')
Moving to Los Angeles is the continuation of the American dream, of traveling west towards the setting sun and carving out a life on the edge of the world.
The good news: You can do it. Renting an apartment in LA is far easier and less expensive than in cities of comparable size like San Francisco and New York. Legions of dreamers, wanderers, pioneers, artists and those in search for a better life have picked up and moved to the belly of the beast, and so can you.
The bad news: Los Angeles has over 100 definable neighborhoods, and deciding which one of them to live in can be intimidating. However, if you do your research, you too can join the masses in the land of milk and honey, the entertainment capital of the world, the center of the universe: the City of Angels.
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Tips for Renting in Los Angeles
Consider your commute. The most important factor when deciding on a pad in Los Angeles is your proximity to the workplace. You generally want to live as close to that location as you can. Nothing affects the quality of life more in LA than the length of your commute, which, as you have probably heard, is infamous for its congestion. Test-drive the length of your commute before you sign a lease to get a real idea of what your time in the car will be like.
Have a car. Moving to Los Angeles with no vehicle is like moving to Mars without a rover. While public transportation exists, the system is nothing like what you would find in New York, Boston or Paris. Los Angeles is not a walkable city – hell, we drive our cars to the corner coffee shop – and if you don’t have wheels, your options become extremely limited.
Drive around. Many landlords, especially those with only one or two units, will never list their properties online. The only way to find out about these smaller and more unique spaces is to drive around the neighborhood that you want to live in and look for “For Rent” signs in windows. This is easiest to do with a friend, who can write down phone numbers and addresses while you drive.
Call before you visit the apartment. Whether you are searching for apartments online or in the newspaper, always call first to find out more information before making the trek to see the place in person. A phone call can often weed out many of your options, and you don’t want to be running all over LA for no reason.
Set your budget, then search slightly above it. Some rental properties in LA include cable service, Internet connection, water, wastewater and utilities, and some include none of these. A $1000 rental that includes all of the above is a much better deal than a place for $900 that includes nothing – even if it’s a hundred or so over budget. Trust us, you’ll be wishing you took the all-inclusive when that first bill comes in.
Think about parking! When you move to LA, you will have to devote a much larger space in your brain to parking, so you might as well start now. Does your apartment come with a parking space? If you will have street parking, check signs for the street cleaning schedule and for any other times (like rush hour) your car would have to be parked somewhere else. A parking spot that you can call your own is worth quite a bit in LA.
Get a Thomas Guide. This is the map that Angelenos swear by, and you will likely find one in almost every home and car. Thick, heavy and hundreds of pages of long, the Thomas Guide is the recognized source for street information that the city relies on. Not big on maps? Make sure you have a working GPS to find your way around the city.
Where to live?
If you don’t already have opportunities lined up in a particular area of Los Angeles, then your options are pretty open. Talking to locals is always the best way to figure out a new neighborhood.
Whichever side you happen to choose will most likely be where you spend the great majority of your time. Commuting back and forth across the city can, and probably will, drain your time, money, and sanity. Living somewhere on the west side – say, Venice or Santa Monica – will be more conducive to relaxing on the beach on your off days whereas east-siders will only see the beach if absolutely necessary. We really mean it when we say the traffic is that bad in LA. Furthermore, the geographical reality of Los Angeles makes your choice of a neighborhood very important; when people ask you where you’re from, you don’t just say “LA” but rather: Silver Lake, K-Town, Venice Beach or Hollywood!
Los Angeles Neighborhoods:
Santa Monica: A polished seaside city with a famous pier, Santa Monica is the epitome of the west LA. Shops and gourmet restaurants make Santa Monica a place of ease. Santa Monica is a very livable neighborhood, with the farmer’s market on Main Street every Sunday morning.
Venice Beach: If you are determined to live by the beach, Venice might be a good option.
Westwood/Century City: Century City is a business center that turns into a practical ghost town at night. Westwood is next door, and has plenty of restaurants and bars.
Culver City: Long known as a movie and TV production Mecca. You can find an apartment here for a decent price.
Beverly Hills: A separate city from Los Angeles altogether. With shopping along Rodeo Drive.
West Hollywood: West Hollywood (or We-Ho) is one of the cleanest and most stylish areas in Los Angeles. West Hollywood is full of clothing shops, and new eateries.
Hollywood: Hollywood is where many people first land when they arrive in LA. You'll be living in the thick of things.
Silver Lake: This neighborhood is full of organic cafes, eclectic boutiques, dive bars, and chilled-out coffee shops. Located between Echo Park and Glendale, Silver Lake has a central location, just 10-15 minutes to downtown or Hollywood. Finding an affordable apartment here isn’t easy, but with enough legwork it can be done.
Echo Park: Echo Park has cute little shops, and vegan cafe.. Echo Park Lake is quite beautiful during the day, Dodger Stadium is around the corner, and the Echo and the Echoplex venues both see a lot of hot musical action all throughout the year.
Los Feliz: This pretty area is a relatively chill place to come home to from the madness of LA. It features quick access to neighboring Griffith Park and some particularly gorgeous homes, that is, if you can afford to live in one.
Wilshire/Midtown: Centered on Wilshire Blvd. It’s also home to Koreatown (or K-town), where you can find an apartment in any price range.
Downtown: Downtown Los Angeles is the heart of the city. You can rent a chic new loft with a killer view for an amazing price..
Now that you’ve been outfitted with the proper tools, tip, and tricks, we’re confident that finding the LA apartment of your dreams is definitely within reach. LA is a big place gleaming with opportunity, and it’s up to you to grab it, like life, by the horns. Now go forth, dear apartment hunter, and claim your piece of this angelic city.