Things to Consider Before Renting an Apartment in Los Angeles

modern apartmentYou’re ready to move to the big and bustling Los Angeles. The area itself puts you in direct contact with everything Southern California has to offer, but before you pick any location in Los Angeles, you might want to consider the facts. The rent can vary greatly from one end of L.A. to another and depending on the size of the apartment you’re looking to rent, you could pay considerably more looking just two blocks away.

The Average Rent in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, you can expect to pay:

  • $1550 for a studio
  • $2050 for a one-bedroom apartment
  • $2688 for a two-bedroom apartment
  • $3895 for a three-bedroom apartment 

But, this is in the downtown area. If you were to scoot over to Malibu, you would pay an average of $1825 for a one-bedroom apartment, while in Pasadena you could pay $1256 for the same size unit. If you moved to Crenshaw, you could get away with paying only $859 for a one bedroom.

As you can see, the area you choose greatly determines how much you pay in rent.

How to Find the Right Apartment For You

In Los Angeles, the best time to hunt for an apartment is on Thursday. Most people in LA are busy planning out their weekend adventures on Thursday – and the last thing they want is to look for an apartment. That means you’ll get more one-on-one time with the property and the management, so you can make sure it’s the right place for you.

A few other things to consider:

  1. Condition – There are a lot of older apartment buildings in LA. Prior to renting, inspect the unit and the outer areas of the building. Avoid units that have cracks in the walls or flooring, electrical wiring issues, leaks in the roof (which are evident by water stains on the ceiling or sides of the walls), and heating or cooling units that don’t work.
  2. Lease Type – In LA, you’ll find a variety of lease types to work with. You may have a defined lease term, such as six months or one year, or you could sign a month-to-month lease.
  3. Rent and Security Deposit – Always know how much you are paying each month for rent and what the terms are regarding your security deposit. In most cases, you get your security deposit back at the end of the lease term, but in some cases, there could be deductions for not cleaning the apartment or giving proper notice.
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Mar 2014
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Do You Know How to Read Your Lease?

Lease AgreementWhether you are transferring to a new apartment or this is your first time renting, there will come a time that you need to review your rental agreement. The language in these agreements is meant to be simple, but that doesn’t mean everyone knows what they are looking at. Before you sign anything, make sure you understand what it is you are signing and learn some of the details that are commonly found on lease agreements.

The Basic Information

A lease needs the basic information, such as the manager of the property, who is in charge of collecting payments, phone numbers and contact information for management and service repair staff. Also, your lease should spell out how long the lease is for and your exact rental amount. If you had to pay a security deposit, that amount should be in the lease as well as any information about how you will get the security deposit back.

Pets

If you have a pet or you are thinking of getting a pet, what does your lease say about those furry friends? A lease should tell you whether or not pets are allowed and any restrictions on those pets. Some apartments will only allow dogs, for example, up to a specific weight. Also, make sure there isn’t an additional rental fee for having a pet stay with you — some apartments add a few hundred a year for your pet addition.

Roommates

If you decide down the road to have a roommate help you out with the rent, what is the process? Your lease should specify if the roommate must be on the lease (which means they will have to pass the credit check too) and how you must go about notifying them. Some apartments even have restrictions about guests who stay longer than a week.

Maintenance

See who is responsible for maintaining the apartment. You might be surprised at how many responsibilities apartments are now putting on their tenants and don’t mention it upfront — instead they hide it in the lease. If you have to pay for a plumber or electrician to come out and make repairs, it probably isn’t a lease you want to sign.

Utilities

Utilities that are included with your rent should be on the lease. This could include water, sewage, etc. Some apartments pay for internet and electricity, while others don’t cover any utilities at all. You should have a detailed list of what utilities you must pay for on your lease.

If you are ever unsure what you are signing, speak to the apartment manager and have them explain the lease to you. Managers must be transparent about these legal documents — if they aren’t willing to take the time to explain them, it might be in your best interest to find a different apartment.

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Mar 2014
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Expenses You Could Cut to Save Hundreds Each Year

scissors cutting receipt from shopThere are always those expenses that everyone needs to keep — groceries, gas, rent, etc. — but there are also expenses that add up and waste hundreds of dollars each year. Let’s face it; living in Los Angeles isn’t cheap. You’ll pay more for gas, have higher food costs and your rent isn’t cheap. So, when you’re looking for ways to cut expenses, consider these easy cuts that can shave off a few hundred each year.

Cut the Gym Membership

Yes, you want to stay fit and healthy, but do you really need a gym for that? Los Angeles is full of outdoor activities and favorable weather. There are plenty of things you could do to stay active, lose weight and stay healthy. Go run on the beach, take a jog to the piers or just walk downtown every day. You’re close to hiking and other activities too — so consider cutting the gym membership and save yourself a few hundred each year.

Stop Buying Clothes Every Month

There is a time to buy new clothes and there is a time to cut back. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, it’s time to stop spending your money on unnecessary clothing purchases. You can, however, set aside money each month to go toward a general “new clothes fund” and then go shopping every other month.

Make Coffee at Home

Even if you aren’t buying gourmet coffee drinks at Starbucks, those $1 and $2 coffee purchases at the local gas station will add up — especially if you’re buying them every day. Consider this, coffee purchased five days a week is $5 or $20 per month. That adds up to $240 per year that you could use buying an espresso machine and high-quality coffeemaker to brew with at home.

Stop Bottled Water Purchases

Bottled water is convenient, but it is also expensive and wasteful. $1.50 for a bottle of water adds up. Instead, buy a water filtration system for the home and reusable water bottles. You can save several hundred dollars each year and also significantly reduce the amount of waste you contribute to the environment.

Skip Magazine Subscriptions

Magazine subscriptions are budget wasters. Most magazines have free issues online or similar articles on their website. You could save up to $30 per year per subscription just by cutting out the unnecessary subscription fees.

If you are ready to cut back on expenses, consider these ideas first. Also, with the housing market booming in southern California, don’t be opposed to looking for a new apartment. There are plenty of apartments offering discounts or better rates than what you’re paying now, which could also help you save.

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Mar 2014
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Late Payments Lower Your Score — And Could Prevent You From Getting a New Apartment

couple at their new empty apartmentYou were late on a bill or two last month, so what, right? While it’s true a late payment here or there probably won’t hurt your credit score too much, multiple late payments (even if it is within just one month) could do significantly damage. It’s important to pay your bills on time for good credit and for getting a new apartment. Apartment managers look at your credit score as well as your payment history to determine if you will be a reliable tenant, which means too many late payments could mean no new apartment for you.

The Myth About Late Payments

There is a common misconception out there that late payments don’t affect your credit score. But the truth of the matter is they do. Yes, if you catch up before the late payments are reported, you might get away with those late payments and no damage to your credit report, but frequently late payments can slowly damage your credit score over time — and take twice as long to repair.

Understanding the Derogatory Differences

Any late payments that are over 90 days late are considered major derogatory marks on your credit report and anything under 90 days is considered minor. If you have any major defaults, which is usually after 90 days — depending on the creditor — you’ll see a drop in your credit score. Also, credit accounts that are over 90 days past due often are sent to third party collectors and could lead to foreclosure, tax liens, judgments and harsh collection tactics.

Your Score and Credit History

It’s not just your credit score that you have to worry about. Apartment managers look at your overall credit history report. Even a good score could be denied if you have a history of late payments. Late payments are indicators that you handle your finances poorly and are unreliable — something apartment managers don’t want to see in tenants about to sign a lease with them.

What You Can Do

If you have late payments, sometimes you can talk with the creditor and see about reducing the days or erasing them. Even if the creditor won’t remove the late payment mark, you may have an excuse as to why you were late on your payments that month — such as a loss of job, medical emergency, etc. Regardless, have your reason and documentation proving that reason ready when you apply for a new apartment. Some apartment managers can override a poor credit score or history, especially if you have proof as to why this happened and you have a few months or years of positive payment history after that event.

If you are having trouble paying your bills, you may need financial counseling. It’s important to pay your bills on time and stick to a budget that is realistic. Limit your spending, track your finance and set up automatic payments or bill pay reminders so that you can reduce the number of late payments you have on your credit report.

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Mar 2014
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Give Yourself Time with a Realistic Apartment Hunting Timeline

rear view of young african couple looking at modern apartment beIt doesn’t matter if this is your first time moving out or you are just looking for a new apartment in California, you need ample time to find the right apartment. Rushing could mean missing out on that gem located a few blocks from work or paying more in rent instead of waiting for a cheaper downtown unit to open up. This timeline shows you how much time you should carve out for locating your perfect apartment.

A Few Months Before

Establish your apartment budget. Rent in California, especially southern California, ranges. So, research the area you plan to move to and see how much rent is in that area. Use a median price for your budget. There is no point in hunting for an apartment if you don’t know how much you can actually afford.

After you have established the budget, it is time to look for apartments in that area that are at or below your price point. Make a list of the apartments you want to check out. Consider using an Excel spreadsheet so that everything is organized.

At Least One Month Before You Move

Now is the time to start scheduling visits to your list of prospective apartments. This will give you enough time to visit the area, hopefully at two different times of the day, and take your time walking through the available units. You should bring along your checkbook or cashier’s check for the deposit and any references needed. That way if you find the perfect apartment while hunting, you can put down the security deposit and get the unit secured before it is gone.

A month before you move in is the time to finalize apartment paperwork too. Make sure you have copies of the lease and any other documents for the unit — such as parking or insurance paperwork.

At Least Two Weeks Before Moving In

Make sure all paperwork is in order and everything is ready to go with the new apartment. Now it is also time to pack. Use this time to get rid of anything you don’t plan on bringing or needing at the new apartment. The less you have to move, the easier the process will be. Also, start scheduling out the moving day — finding people to help, the logistics, etc. You will want a spare day or two to clean your old apartment after everything is moved out. If you’re hiring a cleaning service, make sure to schedule ahead with them so that the apartment is cleaned before you are required to turn in the keys.

By just giving yourself enough time you can get the perfect apartment you need and without all of the headaches associated with rushing the process.

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Mar 2014
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