Everyone is trying to find that perfect rental and home to buy. You know, that cute secluded bungalow with a yard, parking, laundry, and loads of charm.
You search and search for it but all that comes up are these boring white boxes with no character and no outdoor space. You think you have a good price range, but yet you can’t find a decent place to rent or first home to purchase.
This is a common issue when hunting for homes in Los Angeles. Every renter and home buyer wants a charming home with a yard, a parking space and a garbage disposal at an affordable rate. But these perfect dwellings are hard to come by.
When the perfect home can’t be found, depression sinks in and you start feeling hopeless and angry. Before you get to that point, let me explain it to you all.
“There is more to life than where you live.” -The Rental Girl
When you have searched, toured dozens of homes, viewed thousands of online ads, and you are still homeless… don’t panic. It is not the end of the world. You do not have a home, but you still have a life. And you sure as heck have a cell phone. So call a friend. Take a bike ride down the Los Angeles River. Head up Vermont Avenue and hike for a couple hours up to Dante’s Peak in Griffith Park. Grab a blanket and have lunch up in Elysian Park. Read a book at the Japanese Gardens behind the Grace E. Simons Lodge. Watch the sun setting over Hollywood at the Barnsdall Art Park. Sit at a cafe on Sunset and people watch. Pick up some beer and burgers and barbecue at your friends house. Catch a movie at the Vista. Spend the day at the beach. Go whale watching in San Pedro. Take the Metro to Olvera Street. When I started this paragraph you thought I was joking. But I am serious! Get out and enjoy Los Angeles. Period.
Now that you are under control, let’s get back to business.
Here are the most important things you need to look for when choosing your future affordable home:
1) Move to a neighborhood where most of your friends live.
You may be tempted to choose the apartment with more space, amenities, and a better condition in a more affordable neighborhood versus the smaller less desirable unit in a neighborhood close to your friends.
Consider how far are you from the people you know. Los Angeles is huge city with clusters of small neighborhoods and a bunch of cars. You may choose to live only 8 miles from your closest friend (because that house is spacious and ‘great for entertaining!’), but that 8 miles is about 30 minutes in traffic. That friend better have a good calling plan cause they ain’t ever gonna see you. You might as well move to Alaska. We Angelenos are busy people and unless you want to schedule your friends in your calendar like another business meeting, you better move closer to them.
2) Is the space manageable?
Downsize. You do not need as many square feet as you think you do. You probably own too much stuff. Most Americans do (*New Yorkers are the exception). Be kind to our environment. Recycle and sell it all on Craigslist. First get rid of everything you do not need and THEN move. Otherwise you’re going to end up paying $400 bucks extra a month for a few hundred extra square feet for your random stuff. Swim in the ocean, not in your stuff.
*New Yorkers, here is the exception: You pay high rent for teeny tiny spaces in New York. My advice to New Yorkers is do not move to Los Angeles expecting to pay the same rent or to buy a home and end up with a LOT more space. No, spend less in rent or mortgage, and you’ll end up with a LITTLE bit more space than you’re used to.
3) Can you accessorize?
You do not have to watch hours of the DIY network or read hundreds of design magazines to figure out how a little creativity can go a long way. Empty apartments are bland and boring. Bland and boring apartments are usually more affordable. Have some vision and do not be scared. You can do it. I believe in you.
4) Is it close to the metro and areas with things to do?
This is the most important factor. When you are not working, you want to be able to park your car and get out and enjoy Los Angeles. You want to be able to enjoy the city, your life – not just your rental. Homes near major streets are usually more affordable and closer to shopping, restaurants and cafes.
Don’t take the search too seriously. No matter how you look at it, whether you are planning on living in the next rental for 1 year or 10, it is still temporary and homes in the area will likely appreciate in value so then you’re building equity. Learn to appreciate all the free activities Los Angeles has to offer. And when the economy improves and rents and home values increase – you can have peace of mind: there is more to life than your rental.