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How to Find an Apartment in Santa Monica, CA 2021

By: Susan Finch
June 1, 2021

Santa Monica boasts a beach town vibe with high-end boutiques, luxury hotels, and fine dining. Locals enjoy a waterfront lifestyle with a stunning historic pier and a bike path that stretches along 22-miles of shoreline. Plus, when living in Santa Monica, you’re less than 17-miles from Downtown Los Angeles and all the urban amenities you need.

Do you want to indulge in year-round beach living? You can figure out how to find an apartment in Santa Monica on your own or use our guide to find the best place to suit your budget and needs.

Here's how to find the best neighborhood and apartment amenities in Santa Monica.

1. How to Find the Best Santa Monica Neighborhood

Santa Monica's coastal location makes it a desirable place to live, work and play. Here are some of the best Santa Monica neighborhoods.

Downtown Santa Monica

Downtown Santa Monica offers a walkable neighborhood with a pedestrian mall esplanade, live entertainment, shopping, and dining. It's also just steps from the Pacific Ocean for a stunning backdrop.

Mid-City

Mid-City is bordered by Wilshire and Olympic boulevards and two Expo Line stations for better accessibility. This neighborhood is known for arts and entertainment offerings, galleries, and stage shows. You're also never far from fabulous dining, pubs, and shopping.

Ocean Park

Live along the beach at Ocean Park with fellow surfers and volleyball players. A beachside path attracts joggers and bikers. Modern apartments and historic Craftsman bungalows dot the waterfront landscape.

Pico Boulevard

Live in the middle of the action at Pico Boulevard, which connects Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles. The neighborhood is diverse, with galleries, live music, and locals from all walks of life. Weekends draw crowds to the Santa Monica farmers market and shopping centers. It's also an ideal neighborhood for local Santa Monica College students and staff looking for a lively atmosphere.

Wilshire-Montana

Wilshire-Montana boasts yoga studios, fitness clubs, and outdoor recreation. You'll find a coffee shop or eatery on every corner. Art events, bookstores, and live entertainment are popular in this eclectic neighborhood.

North of Montana

North of Montana offers a more residential feel with restaurants, shopping, and access to the rest of Santa Monica. It's a walkable neighborhood where locals jog and stroll to make the most of the community.

Sunset Park

Sunset Park offers a similar vibe to Ocean Park. Its well-regarded schools attract families and young professionals looking to settle into beach town living.

2. How Much Are Apartments in Santa Monica?

Are you ready to make a move to Santa Monica? Before you start apartment hunting, learn about the local rental market in this coastal paradise.

Average Rent in Santa Monica

Santa Monica and the Los Angeles area rents increased by 2.7% compared to last month and are down by 3.8% compared to the same time since last year.

3. How to Find Cheap Apartments In Santa Monica

Santa Monica once offered a reasonable cost of living for a beach town. Prices have spiked in recent years, as the area has become more trendy. The LA metro area also experienced a population boom. It's still possible to find some deals if you have time to look and stay flexible with the month you move. Move-in specials can help lower your overall expenses. Some apartment complexes offer specials during December and January when rentals are usually less competitive.

You should also factor in all of your living expenses incurred beyond your rent. Follow a budgeting checklist for all of your apartment essentials like moving costs and utilities.

The farther you get from Downtown and LA’s most popular coastal neighborhoods, the cheaper your rent will likely be. If you're commuting into Los Angeles, you should also consider the cost of gas and wear and tear on your vehicle. Come prepared with these eight tips for finding a Santa Monica apartment you can afford.

4. What's the Best Time to Find an Apartment in Santa Monica?

The month you move to Santa Monica can improve your chances of finding a more affordable rental. The seasonality rental trends show December through January is usually a better time to move to Santa Monica and the greater Los Angeles area. You'll pay the highest prices during the summer season and face the most competition to score affordable apartments.

  • In recent years, Santa Monica and LA metro rents have risen an average of $35 each summer, a 2% price increase, which is an additional $420 in rent annually.
  • In recent years, the rental prices in Santa Monica dropped an average of $15 each winter, a 1% price drop, which is $180 less in rent annually.

What drives this seasonality? More people move during the summer because:

  • If you're moving from a colder region, the weather doesn't get in the way.
  • School is not in session. It's a more convenient time for college graduates and families with children to move to Santa Monica.

Fewer people move during the winter because:

  • Inclement weather can get in the way if you're moving from a colder region
  • Moving gets expensive quickly during the winter and holidays already consume a lot of discretionary spending

Ready to find the Santa Monica apartment of your dreams? Here's how to get the budget process started.

5. Determine Your Budget

You need a strategy to stay on budget when renting an apartment in Santa Monica. We recommend using the 30% rule to find an affordable apartment that will keep you on budget.

Here's how it works. You should strive to only spend 30% of your pre-taxed monthly take-home pay on rent. The pre-taxed take-home pay is also called your gross income. If you divide your gross annual salary by 40, you'll come up with the same number.

If you find a trendy Santa Monica apartment for $1,500, your gross income should hit right around $5,000 a month. This figure is about $60,000 a year. There is a caveat. If you're struggling with student debt, you should aim to spend less than 30% of your income. Of course, you may be able to spend more if you have roommates, side hustles, or lead a frugal lifestyle.

You should also factor in extra costs before going apartment hunting in Santa Monica. Here are just a few of the costs of renting an apartment that people frequently forget.

  • Security Deposit: Your standard security deposit is usually one month's rent. IT could vary from property to property. However, if you take care of your apartment, you should get this back.
  • Pet Fees: Santa Monica is a pet-friendly city that's ready to welcome your furry friends to dog parks and beyond. Prepare to pay additional costs. Most apartment buildings require some form of a pet deposit, pet fees, or pet rent.
  • Parking: Parking can get pricey in Santa Monica. Does your apartment's monthly rent include a reserved parking spot? If so, it’s likely tacked onto your monthly rent.
  • Amenities: Santa Monicans love working out and looking good. You may be able to get rid of your gym membership if your apartment complex offers a gym.

6. Set Your Apartment Priorities

You may need to prioritize location, space, or amenities when looking for your next Stana Monica apartment. Choose a smaller studio apartment if you're going to live on the beach and need to balance your budget. You can also choose to live farther away from waterside views for a more affordable price point.

Make a list of priorities or must-haves in your apartment. You'll also need to factor in furniture and parking expenses. If you work from home, you can get creative by relying on Lyft and Uber or biking on Santa Monica's many trails.

Brainstorm what you can do without, what you would like, and what's a deal-breaker for your dream apartment. You'll also need to factor in the essentials like bedroom furniture, a kitchen or dining set-up, and a workspace. Getting creative and using functional artwork, like decorative shelves, can help save time and money.

7. Consider Your Commute Time

Rush hour is a real issue if you live in Santa Monica and the Los Angeles metro area. It can stretch to three hours, both in the morning and evening. Load up on podcasts and audiobooks if you're commuting into LA. Expect to sit in traffic between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Some neighborhoods in Santa Monica are more walkable than others. You can walk out the door in Downtown Santa Monica, go to work, hit the pubs, and rely on ride shares instead of driving. However, it's tough to make the most of this charming beach town without your own set of wheels.

Santa Monica has a walk score of 82. The bike score in the Los Angeles area is 86.

Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus and LA's County's Metro provide public transportation around the beach and greater metro area. Using public transit exclusively is a commitment but could be the perfect option if you already live in a walkable neighborhood.

7. Prepare for Apartment Tours

You're ready to head out and find the best Santa Monica neighborhood for you. It's time to start your apartment hunt, tour, and apply! Make an appointment in-person before signing your next lease. Talk to the property manager or landlord to clarify the apartment, building, and area. Making a sound decision is easier when you have all of the information available.

Come prepared with a few questions to ask before renting an apartment in Santa Monica. Look over the list and prepare thoroughly before your next apartment tour.

Apply as early as possible to land a Santa Monica apartment. Bring cash, credit cards, or a checkbook to pay for applications for each apartment you're interested in. You also need an ID, proof of income, and a few references ready. Landlord references are preferred. If you don't have a rental history, don't worry. You can also use personal references. If you're new to renting, get up to speed on the apartment application process and what to expect.

8. Applying for Your Santa Monica Apartment

The best Santa Monica apartments get snatched up quickly. You'll need to take immediate action during peak renting season or if you find a good deal. Come prepared to fill out an application and pay a non-refundable fee. Calling ahead to the landlord or property manager to inquire about specific documentation is wise.

9. Protect Yourself from Rental Scams

Rental scams are increasingly common in most cities and popular areas. According to a report by Apartment List, 46.7% of Los Angeles area renters have encountered fraudulent apartment listings, while 2.2% of those have lost money due to rental scams. Remember to stay vigilant and follow these tips for avoiding rental scams.

Using Apartment List to Find Your Santa Monica Apartment

Ready to make a move to Santa Monica? Good luck apartment hunting and finding your dream neighborhood in Santa Monica! Apartment List is here to help you find your dream home.

If you're interested in finding an LA apartment, read our blog on how to find an apartment in Los Angeles.

Here's how it works: First, we get to know you. You'll answer a few simple questions, and we'll find the best matches – just for you. Then, we mix and match your personalized results, making it easy to discover places with the perfect combination of price, location, and amenities.

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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