New in town? Our top 10 tips for L.A. noobs:
1) Get to know your L.A. ‘hoods.
L.A. is a huge city comprised of several large and small neighborhoods which are sub-cities. Initially, getting to know them all can seem overwhelming so do this: gear up your Google skills. Do some research before looking for a new home. Look at our blog posts under the Neighborhood menu to get a flavor of the individual enclaves that make up this sprawling city. Our blog posts can also give you more information about neighborhood safety, walkability and other location factors to consider.
2) Understand the LA rental market is unique.
Unlike purchasing real estate where you can work with one realtor and get access to the majority of homes for sale, in L.A. there is no “one stop shop” for renters. Why? Well, Los Angeles is unlike NY or Boston or other cities where the majority of rentals are listed on a central listing system like the MLS. In these cities, you can work with one broker to show you what is on the market. Either the tenant pays the broker fee or the landlord does. However in Los Angeles, properties rent very quickly and many landlords simply put up a “For Rent” sign, put a free ad online or pay a small fee for an ad in the paper. The majority of landlords in the current L.A. market advertise their property for free on the web. In Los Angeles, a “renters” agent will only get paid if the client rents a property through a cooperating broker who has listed their vacancy on the MLS. Only a few landlords list their properties with real estate agents on the MLS, so chances are you will find a rental through another source and your agent won’t get paid. At this point you may be wondering if you can just pay the agent yourself, right? It’s not exactly as easy as it sounds. I’m sure agents would love to charge you a fee, but they can’t. The California Bureau of Real Estate will not allow any individual or company to sell you a list of vacancies unless that individual or company has specific licensing with the state. An ordinary real estate agent cannot charge you a fee unless he or she has this special license. For all these reasons, it is difficult to find “renters” agents in Los Angeles.
3) Be prepared to get your move on.
Los Angeles tenants give 30-day notices to move out and most landlords wait until the tenant has moved out before they list the property for rent. Once a property hits the market, it rents out on average in 2 weeks. Many times, vacancies rent as quickly as 24 hours. Vacancy in Los Angeles is low, and more people move to LA than away from LA every year. Because supply is low and demand is so high, properties stay vacant for a very short amount of time. It typically takes under 30 days from the time a landlord lists a property, to the time the new tenant moves in. That means: be prepared to move quickly once you start looking.
4) On the flip side, do not attempt to find a decent rental months in advance.
It. Simply. Is. Not. Possible! The rule of thumb is it takes less than 30 days to find a rental. If you have been looking within 30 days of your move in date and you are down to the wire, you need to check your expectations. Read on.
5) Realistic expectations check list:
Expectation #1: You won’t find a rental as nice as what you are used to (*unless you’re moving from NY!).
Expectation #2: You won’t find a rental in your budget that meets all your needs.
Expectation #3: You might have to buy a fridge, washer and dryer, and in rare cases a stove.
Expectation #4: If you rent a single family house, you’ll most likely have to pay for water and all the utilities.
Expectation #5: Finding a rental in LA will take some time, research and work. Do not limit yourself to night time viewings, occasional weekend showings. Be sure to set aside enough time.
6) Rent a short term furnished rental until you secure your permanent rental.
One of the most valuable pieces of advice we can give you is to get a short term rental for a month. Generally, renters moving from out of town think they can come to LA for a week or long weekend, find a neighborhood they want to live in, find a rental, sign a lease and get the keys. Fugettaboutit! IF you’re lucky enough to secure a rental in that short of a time period, you may have regrets a month or two after you moved in. Did you pay too much? Did you get the best possible rental out there? Are you in the best neighborhood that suits your needs? Don’t put yourself through that kind of stress! Keep your stuff in storage and rent a short term sublet for a month while you search for a more permanent rental.
7) Understand how to search for an apartment in Los Angeles (part one)
Duh, the Internet, right? Yeah, that’s the major ticket. But for those savvy renters out there, a little more work may score you a rare find. Many landlords in Los Angeles are old school. They don’t have email or even own a computer. These owners have owned their buildings for generations. Try telling one of these owners to advertise their vacancy online and they’ll look at you like you are crazy. All they have to do is put a “For Rent” sign on the front yard and the place is rented in 24 hours. And that’s exactly what they do. After you have narrowed down the area you are looking in, start driving around. Look for “For Rent” signs and start calling. Is the landlord not calling you back? You may not be speaking his language. Check out our post here about how to communicate with landlords.
8) Understand how to search for an apartment in Los Angeles (part two)
Ok, so most of you are not going to waste your time driving around looking for For Rent signs. It IS the 21st century after all. The Internet is the best and most comprehensive way to search for rentals in Los Angeles. Notice I said “Internet” as in “online” in general. I specifically did not list the-one-who-has-it-all site (sorry, that site does not exist though many, many, many, are trying to get there).
The agents at The Rental Girl have compiled their top recommendations of online rental sites. It is interesting to note that when compiling this list, all agents listed the exact same websites, but each ordered them differently from highest to lowest in terms of most used. So here they all are, in no particular order:
9) Set yourself up for auto notifications.
Many of these websites, including our own, have automatic notification systems. Enter in your name, email and criteria and when new listings hit the market you will be emailed. Because properties rent so quickly here, you want to know about them as soon as they come on the market.
10) Be prepared to apply, put down a deposit and move in…right away.
We cannot stress enough the importance of being prepared to apply. We preach this message every day, over and over and over. So many unfortunate renters miss out on rentals because they had to go home, fill out an application and gather their documentation. Every landlord will ask you for the same information, so why wait? Gather it now and have it ready to go. Make copies of it so in case you don’t get approved, you have the original. We have created an awesome video tutorial on how to put together a fool-proof application package, click here for the post. Once you are approved, the landlord will expect the full move-in amount (1 month’s rent and deposit) and for you to sign a lease in order to secure the rental. If it takes you a few days or a week to get the money together, and/or to arrange a time to sign the lease you may lose out on the rental. Most landlords are not going to wait and risk you backing out when they could rent it to someone else in the meantime. And finally, as mentioned earlier – be prepared to move in right away. If your ideal move-in day is less than 30 days, the move-in date may be somewhat negotiable. As difficult as it is finding the right space, once you find it, you want to be 100% prepared to get it.
“Top 10 Tips” is a series of helpful tips brought to you by the lovely real estate agents at The Rental Girl . The Rental Girl is a leasing agency with branches throughout Los Angeles. Each branch is operated by a unique agent who specializes in her area. All agents at The Rental Girl are California licensed Real Estate agents who specialize in helping renters and home buyers with all their real estate needs.