Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Crossing the threshold

This is dedicated to a colleague of mine who is an artistic inspiration in what she does. Find her at Moonchild. It is also dedicated to anyone who is not only genius at what they do, but also willing to share it, and in turn inspire others. 

Your first place… a symbol of independence and leap of faith. While a first apartment or home is never perfect, it is big bite of sweet, sweet freedom. 

 Lindsay and I, standing at the threshold of freedom!

As the independent, self-righteous person that I am, I assumed apartment hunting would be simple. I thought it would be like shopping, which I happen to be excellent at. Pick a store/vendor, pay a visit, thoroughly examine your potential purchase, ask if it comes in another color or size, negotiate a price and then pull out my checkbook. Of course, I was wrong.

Now as a seasoned entrepreneur of the L.A. rental market, I’m willing to share the dos and don’t dos of apartment hunting. 

My biggest worry was being able to find a website that was reliable. So, I turned to my most credible sources, my friends.

If I had a dime for every time I heard Craigslist, I’d be renting in Beverly Hills by now. While I’m very certain that there are scams on Craigslist, I quickly found that it had great rental listings too. And it’s free!

I also turned to Westsiderentals.com (which is in the end where Lindsay and I found our place). Westsiderentals.com does charge monthly to gain access to listings. However, ask around. Lindsay had a friend with a log in/password - one of those friends of a friend things. Again, for free!

Once you have found your dream home, be sure to express to the building manager or landlord that you are willing to go above and beyond to get your paws it. With the economy still on the shaky side, most people in L.A. are renting, not buying. This makes for an incredibly competitive market.

If you’re genuinely interested, ask for the application, fill it out and turn it in ASAP.  The turn around time for my 2 bed + 2 bath was less than 48 hours. Within 72 hours I had placed my deposit. 

Make a checklist. Because the process is quick and unforgiving it is important to remember the following:
  1. Do you feel safe in the surrounding neighborhood? In L.A. you’ll be doing some walking.
  2. Can you afford last/first month’s rent and the deposit?
  3. What's the parking like? Don't forget your little people - you'll be having friends over too.
  4. Check the lights, sinks, toilets, locks, air/heat, fire alarms and appliances to make sure everything is working. If there isn’t something to your liking ask if it will be fixed before move in day.
  5. Don’t be afraid to negotiate a deposit or rent price. Present your case by researching the average cost of similar apartments or homes in the area. 
    • Example: “Other apartments in the area are going for about $1600. I believe that is much too low for an apartment this fantastic, but would you be willing to take $100 off of the monthly rent? If so, I’m capable of writing you a check for the deposit and last month’s rent today.”
  6. Schedule a move in day.
  7. Write up a contract to the terms you and your future landlord verbally agreed upon and ask him/her to sign it before paying your deposit. Chances are they will be giving you their contract to sign on move in day, but its smart to be prepared before handing over your checking and savings account.
  8. Provide three references with your application.
  9. Mention that you won’t be  contacting the landlord for silly things like light bulb changes. They like to see you take initiative, and it may give you a leg up in the competition.
  10. Once you land the spot - because let's face it YOU WILL - remember the little things: set up your gas and electric bills (not the same company), sign a contract with a cable/internet provider, locate the nearest post office, when is trash day?, and meet your neighbors!

 Our picnic-style dining room table (made from refurbished wood) was purchased at the Fairfax High School flea market. Quality vintage and local craftsmen every Sunday. Check it out! 

 Wouldn't be a christening without a broken window.

While the process is terrifying and adrenaline pumping (or is that just me?), it is meant to be fun! Don't let the pressure of finding the "it" place take away from the experience. 

To new beginnings… Cheers! 

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