Frank Sinatra once sang, “If I can make there / I’ll make it anywhere / New York,” but what he really ought to have sang is, “If I can make it in New York / I’ll make it anywhere / except Los Angeles, because that’s pretty hard, too.” I guess that wouldn’t be as catchy though. Finding a suitcase filled with diamonds and wads of mysterious mafia money in the parking lot is probably more likely to happen than finding the perfect apartment in LA. In fact, is there such thing as the perfect apartment in this city? I’ve yet to find out, because over the last four months of vigorous (okay, not that vigorous, but certainly dedicated) apartment hunting, I’ve yet to find a feasible home.
Los Angeles is huge. And I’ll get to that in detail in a second, but if you’ve never been, just know that driving from one section of LA to another could very well take you three hours. A lot of that is due to traffic, but some of it is simply a product of LA’s vastness. It’s a monster, a sprawling beast. Another issue, I think, is that LA doesn’t welcome strangers. It’s comprised of all kinds of strangers — actors, writers, lawyers, doctors, servers, old money, and new money. Everyone is trying to make it. Everyone is trying to be something. LA is competitive, and in many ways, it’s highly exclusive; another writer, another actor, another lawyer means another body to work against. And I feel like the rental market reflects that tension.
I still have six months until my lease in San Diego is up, so I have time to figure things out and stress-drink wine and wonder if I’ll ever find a home. Until then, I might as well wallow in my misery and panic. Here are the 18 stages of finding a place to live in LA:
Even if you are a California native, you will still need to Google every area of LA
There are like five millions sections and sub-sections and sub-sub-sections of LA. There are great neighborhoods, okay neighborhoods, not unsafe neighborhoods, and neighborhoods that are taped off and blocked by cop cars, so who knows. There’s Downtown LA, Mid City, South LA, East LA, and Central LA. There’s the desirable hipster abode, Silverlake, it’s not-as-chic-but-still-just-as-expensive sister neighborhood, Echo Park. There’s Los Feliz, There’s Koreatown. Chinatown. West Hollywood. North Hollywood. Glendale. Eagle Rock. Pasadena. Each area is entirely, 100 percent unique.
The Craigslisting begins
So you choose “apartment” and the maximum amount of money you’re willing to pay for an apartment, and scroll through the places you like. You’re optimistic because how could a city so massive NOT offer a slew of housing options?
You become depressed when you realize $1,700 per month will not get you very much
For $1,800 per month, one of the ads shows a kiddie pool. Just a kiddie pool. Nothing else.
But then you find some good deals
Oooh, $1650 for a two-bedroom in West Hollywood? Two parking spots? Water and trash paid for? Have the gods finally heard my desperate cries?
And realize half of the these "deals" are scams
So then you e-mail the person who posted the ad, asking for an address. So you can, you know, see the place on Google Maps. And minutes later, you’ll get a message that says, “Sorry but we’re unable to give you the address because of safety reasons. You can understand, right?” You’re suspicious, but you keep reading. You’ve heard LA can be scary sometimes, so who knows, maybe this person really did get their condo broken into. “However, we’ll trust you if you give us your social security number, credit card number, debit card number, bank account information, driver’s license, and your first newborn. Sound good?”
You start sobbing uncontrollably because everything is really unfair
Great! Everything is a lie, and you don’t know who to trust, and the world is filled to the brim with scam artists who want to steal your identity. Or at least your money.
After you chill out, you miraculously find a reasonably priced apartment
You browse several other rental property websites, ones that can’t easily screw people out of thousands of dollars. You find a small house with a garage. It’s not beautiful, but it’s spacious and I mean, come on. It’s a house! You could live in a house! In LA! Who whould-a thunk?
But it’s in South LA or the middle of nowhere in the desert
And you haven’t heard many good things about South LA. Or the desert.
You realize you can’t afford anything that is conveniently located unless you want to share a room with three other people
And at this point of your life, that’s not super ideal. You’ll do it. But you don’t want to do it.
So you start looking at East LA
You start thinking, it can’t be that bad! It looks kind of green here! Look at these trees! All these cars and not one of them has been broken into!
And the apartments are cheap! And you get hella square footage! And hardwood floors!
Oh, happy day! Apartments and townhomes without bars on the windows! They’re beautiful and not even neighboring a power plant or oil derrick.
But you’re also 45 minutes away from everything exciting
You’re about an hour away from downtown when there’s traffic (and let’s be honest, there is always traffic). Silverlake and Echo Park are nearby, but certainly not walking distance. You already know you’re going to have to create your own bar scene at home, because there is no way you can afford taking an Uber to hit up the bars every weekend and parking downtown sounds traumatizing.
And the only entertainment by you is a Dave and Busters
And your only real food options are KFC, Chili’s, and Applebees. Maybe a Cheesecake Factory if you’re feeling adventurous and splurgy. In the center of town is a Target. There’s also one mall and a Jo-Ann's Fabric, so that’s kind of cool.
So it’s back to drawing board. You consider selling an organ for the extra cash so you can live somewhere convenient, exciting, and not hellish
But you like your organs just where they are.
One day, you find the perfect apartment right outside of Downtown LA. It’s quaint, but not a closet. It comes with a parking space. There have not been any recent murders in the neighborhood. Success!
It’s a little bit too expensive for you, but you figure you’ll just have ramen three times a week and open a couple credit card accounts for leverage.
Except fifty other people offered to put down a deposit before you
There goes THAT dream.
You wonder if you should just give up and go live in South Dakota. I mean, you could probably afford a mansion there.
You could have a backyard. A washer and dryer. Two (probably three!) parking spots.
But it won't be LA. So you open a new bottle of wine and start over again.
Here’s to the American Dream.
Images: Lei Han/Flickr; Giphy(9)