Moving to Los Angeles — especially from a city halfway or all the way across the country — is never easy. But the absolute least easy things you will do as part of your move is find a place to live.
The Internet is full of useful advice for how to find an apartment in L.A. What they don’t tell you is that, even if you follow all of their suggestions, the process of finding an apartment in L.A. will inevitably be long, miserable and depressing.
So yes, scour Craigslist, Westside Rentals, Padmapper, RadPad and Zillow on the daily as if it is your job. And yes, be prepared to pound some serious pavement. But know that, just as the rents will be higher and the rooms smaller than you'd hope, the emotional highs and lows will also be intense.
To help you ride the waves as smoothly as possibly, here is your emotional guide to the five stages of apartment hunting in L.A.:
It’s a beautiful day! So what if it took you two and half hours to find and look at the first apartment on your list. So what if that apartment was the size of your old closet? You knew you wouldn’t rent the first place you saw. The good news is that this place wasn’t even that bad. It was small, yes, and not totally in the right neighborhood, but you could have made it work. If you found this place on your very first day of looking, what gem will you find on day two or three?
You take a break from your hunt to eat a taco in the sunshine and daydream about hardwood floors, a big kitchen and an outdoor space with a citrus tree. You get lost driving to the next place on your list, but you don’t even mind because the windows are down, the breeze is warm and you’re in California, baby.
Craigslist ads should come with a warning label: Apartments in this post are smaller and in a sketchier neighborhood than they appear. It is day seven of nonstop apartment hunting and every place you’ve looked at since day one has sucked exponentially more than the last. Also, it’s raining. WTF? It was supposed to be sunny here. But no, you moved to SoCal right in the middle of El Niño, so your apartment hunt is complicated by rain traffic.
Note: You are also beginning to wear out your welcome at your friend’s place and the crick in your neck from sleeping on a couch has rapidly shifted from mild annoyance to prominent, persistent pain.
It’s time to compromise. You don’t really need hardwood floors. You bargain with yourself on every issue: parking, air conditioning, square footage and location, location, location.
And then, you find it! It’s not perfect, but it is a solid seven out of 10 and your desire for a permanent address has become all-consuming. You turn in the application. You go to Target and buy a new shower curtain. You start unpacking your kitchen in your mind.
The phone rings. It’s the manager. There’s a slight hiccup with your application. They like you, but they don’t like your dog. But the ad said this building was pet-friendly!
Oops. We meant only cats. Sorry.
And now the bargaining really begins. You have to get this place. You really can’t handle starting your search all over again. You drive to the manager’s office and plead your case in person. You pull up every adorable pic of your dog on your phone. But he’s so small! He never barks! Really, he basically purrs. He practically is a cat. I’ll pay double the deposit. How about a pet deposit plus double the deposit plus an extra $50 a month?
At this point you have moved from bargaining to begging, and still the answer is no.
Yesterday’s disappointment still weighs heavy as you peel yourself off the couch, reach for your phone and, once again, check every rental site for new listings. You find what looks like a great place at a great price and hit the road once again.
You keep an open mind as you pull up to a slightly dilapidated building. Wait, is that cat piss? That smell is definitely cat piss. And this is the, hmm ... kitchen? It’s hard to tell because there are no appliances (no stove, no fridge, no nothing) and the water heater is, for some inexplicable reason, situated directly in the middle of the room.
The guy showing you the apartment has a smug look on his face as he stands blocking a suspiciously broken-looking heater. So, whaddaya think?
WHAT DO I THINK? DO YOU WANT TO PAY $2,000 A MONTH TO LIVE IN A TINY DARK SHITHOLE THAT REEKS OF CAT PISS, HAS NO WINDOWS, A HOT WATER HEATER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE KITCHEN, AND NO STOVE? HUH!? HUHHHH!?!?!?!
You don’t actually say that. But you almost do. Instead you say it under your breath as you walk back to your car. And then you see it: a $70 parking ticket tacked under your windshield wiper, damp from El Niño’s latest offering. You see red. Curse words course through your veins. This, my friends, is what anger feels like.
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You aren’t going to find the perfect place, but you absolutely must find some place. You drove all the way across America. Your friends threw you a going-away party in your old hometown. There’s no going back. You are here and you have to make it work, El Niño be damned.
You accept that it is going to take a lot more time than you expected to find an apartment here. You accept that you are probably going to have to spend more money than you had planned. You rearrange the pillows on your couch-bed and refresh the Craigslist page on your browser.
And then, inevitably, you find your new place. Your application gets approved. The manager hands you your keys. You never thought you’d be ecstatic about an apartment with no parking and bad carpet, but as soon as the manager shuts the door, you flop to the floor and discover that making carpet angels is as fun now as it was when you were 8. And then the sun comes out, because this is beautiful, sunny L.A. and, as you brag to your friends back home over the phone, the weather here is always great.