Apartment Hunting in Los Angeles

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I had driven across the country, from New York to Florida to California. My dream had come true— one small part of it, at least. I was in Los Angeles, but I still had to actually find a place to live.

I had never been to Los Angeles before. I had never even rented an apartment before. It was all new to me, and I was terrified of the process. That’s part of the reason I delayed moving for so long. To make the process easier, I started by doing everything I could to learn about moving to Los Angeles without actually moving to Los Angeles. I researched extensively online, reading about the different neighborhoods. I checked Craigslist, Hotpads, and Padmapper every day for new apartment listings. I used Google Maps and Street View to get a feel for the area. After months of online research, I learned a lot about both apartment renting and the city of Los Angeles. Suddenly the impossible process of moving across the country seemed a lot more possible.

I had targeted a few apartment complexes in one neighborhood that seemed to be inexpensive, and my first day in Los Angeles, I sent emails to them. While I waited to hear back, I drove to the neighborhood that I was considering. I had studied the area on Google Street View dozens of times before, but actually walking the streets, it seemed a lot different. The neighborhood seemed a little rougher than I anticipated, and being there in person, it just didn’t quite feel right. So after months of online planning, I had to scrap all the places I saved in that neighborhood and basically start from scratch.

I began searching for apartments at a slightly higher price range, in nicer neighborhoods. I spent pretty much all of my waking hours searching for apartments, either online, or in person, walking and driving around different neighborhoods, writing down websites and phone numbers of apartments for rent. I sent about a hundred emails during my first couple of days in Los Angeles, but I never heard back from most of them. I began to sense that most of the renters did their business in person or via telephone, rather than email. As someone who still suffered from social anxiety, I hated the idea of having to call the renters or talk to them in person, but I was determined to find an apartment. (And determined to overcome my social anxiety.)

So I bit the bullet and called dozens of phone numbers. Some didn’t answer. Some I left a message. Others answered, but said their apartment was taken. A few that answered were actually still available, and I set up appointments to visit. After calling and visiting the landlords and property managers, I discovered talking to them wasn’t as difficult as I feared it would be. That was the easy part. It was actually finding an affordable apartment in a nice neighborhood that seemed impossible. Upon visiting the apartments, either the neighborhood was no good, the apartment itself was no good, or the rent was too high.

My original plan was to drive out to Los Angeles all on my own and stay at a cheap place on Airbnb for a month so I could take my time finding an apartment. That plan changed when my grandmother decided to fly out to Los Angeles to vacation, visit family, and help me move, and she offered to let me stay at a hotel with her. I was grateful to have a place to stay while I searched for an apartment. But then as the weeks passed, and my grandmother extended her original hotel booking, I felt increased pressure to find an apartment fast because she was paying a lot of money for the hotel.

I wanted to take my time, not rush into anything, and find the perfect place, but as time passed, I began to worry that the perfect place didn’t exist. Everything I liked was too expensive, and everything affordable, I didn’t like. I found several listings that looked nice and were in my price range, but they wouldn’t respond to my emails. I called places and they wouldn’t answer the phone. I’d leave messages and they wouldn’t return my call. Twice I called places, set up appointments, drove all the way to the apartment, then upon getting there, the manager said the place had just been taken.

Then, on top of everything else going on, I got an email from a film producer I had sent one of my screenplays to a couple years ago. He said there was new interest in the script, but he wanted me to rewrite a new draft. The main reason I moved out to Los Angeles was to break into screenwriting, so I took a break from the apartment hunting for a day and a half and worked on the script. Between the road trip and the apartment search, I hadn’t had any time to write, and the time I spent writing that screenplay was the best time I’d had in weeks. When it was time to go back to apartment hunting, I didn’t want to. I just wanted to write.

I was burned out. Other than that brief break to write my screenplay, I’d been apartment hunting all day every day for three weeks straight, and I had no real prospects. I was losing hope. I began to think that I’d never find an apartment. Even if I found a place at a good price, I had no current job or renting history. I figured no landlord would accept me as a tenant. I wondered how other young people like me could rent apartments and make it look so easy. My grandmother’s flight home was at the end of the week, so I decided that if I didn’t find a place by then, I’d give up and drive back across the country to move back home with my parents. It wasn’t meant to be.

Then… I found a place. The listing online seemed almost too good to be true. It was in a great location and at an affordable price. Not wanting to waste any more time, I applied online right on the spot without visiting. The manager called me back almost instantly after I paid the application fee. (I finally realized what it took to get their attention.) We set up an appointment to visit the apartment a couple days later.

I walked around the neighborhood, which was really nice, and the apartment itself wasn’t too bad, either. Then I spoke to the manager and found out it was too good to be true. They apparently hadn’t updated their website, and the rent would actually be higher than the price that I applied for. I told her that was unfair, that the reason I applied for the place was because of the price. She said she’d have to speak with the owner to see if I could have the apartment at the lower rate.

As I waited to hear back, I continued searching for more apartments, but I mostly saw more of the same results. I received no response from the properties that I liked, and I didn’t like the properties I visited. Then a few days later, I finally heard back from the property manager. The good news was that my application was approved, but the bad news was I had to pay the higher rent. I visited the place again before making my decision. I really liked the neighborhood, but the room itself wasn’t as nice. At the lower rent, I’d settled for it, but at the higher price, I wasn’t so sure. I told the manager, I’d have to think about it some more.

The apartment wasn’t ideal, but it had been over three weeks, and I had no other real prospects. Perhaps I was being too picky… and too cheap. Even at the higher rate, the apartment wasn’t overly expensive. It would only be one year… After thinking it over, I decided that I would take the apartment, mainly just to get the excruciating search over with. I told the manager that I’d bring the deposit in the next day to sign the lease.

Then, that evening, just a few days before my grandmother’s flight home, I found a new listing online, and it looked perfect. It was small, but in a nice location at an affordable price. It looked like exactly the type of place I was looking for all along, that I was fearing didn’t exist. But I found it. I decided to hold off on the other place for the time being, and I set up an appointment to visit this new place the next day. I filled out the application online that night so I’d be ready to apply, and I also wrote up a personalized cover letter that honestly explained my situation and career plans. The next day, I visited the apartment, and everything seemed just as I expected. This time, it wasn’t too good to be true. It was true. I sent in my application, and later that afternoon, I heard back that I was approved.

After weeks of searching and beginning to fear that I would never find an apartment, suddenly I had two to choose from. I couldn’t make up my mind. I really liked the second place, but I liked the neighborhood of the first place a little better. I was torn. I couldn’t make a decision. I thought about it all night, and I realized that I’d be happy in either place. It didn’t matter which apartment I chose. I just had to choose fast, or I’d risk losing them both.

I wanted to visit the first apartment one more time before making my decision, but the next day, when I called the manager, she didn’t answer my call or return my message. I’d had communication issues with her throughout the process, whereas the realtor at the second place was super responsive, friendly, and helpful all along. I didn’t want to wait for the first place to call back and risk losing the second place, so I drove over with my deposit that afternoon and signed the lease.

It was over. I had my apartment.

So far, everything has been fine. The owner and manager here are both nice, and I like the neighborhood. I think I made the right decision, especially since that other property manager still hasn’t returned my call.

I hesitated moving to Los Angeles for years because I thought it would be too difficult for me. It turns out, it was difficult, and it took a lot of time, but I didn’t give up, and eventually I succeeded. I am officially a resident of Los Angeles. One part of my dream is complete, and now I can move on to the next parts: meeting people, making friends, continuing to overcome my social anxiety, selling my first screenplay, and publishing my first novel. Those things may be difficult and take some time as well, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be done. No matter what your goals are in life, there may be low points where you want to give up, as I did with my apartment search, but as long as you don’t give up and keep working toward your dream, it can eventually come true.

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