The Rental Girl’s “Top 10 Tips” are a series of blog posts we have written to address common questions we receive from renters throughout our work week.
1. First and foremost, when to start looking: Start inquiring on rentals about a month and a half before you need to move Don’t over do it. Many renters feel like they need months to find a rental. In L.A., the average vacancy is filled in less than a month. Tenants only need to give 30 days notice (per the average contract) to move out. If you are looking months in advance, there is no magic 8 ball that can look into the future and possibly know all the vacancies that will be available by the time you are ready to move. Furthermore, millions of people move each year. L.A. is a busy rental market. Vacancy rate is less than 5%. Rentals move quickly. If it’s taken you over a month to locate a property, you may need to broaden your criteria: area, price range and/or amenities. We have written more about when to start looking for a rental here.
2. Second of all, narrow down your search. Pick an area, a neighborhood. And while you’re at it, narrow down your budget and amenity must haves This is especially true if you are moving here from out of town (and if that is the case, make sure you read our post specifically for out-of-towners). You also need to know what your budget is and what amenities you absolutely have to have and which ones you can live without. Read our post about Choosing a Rental here for more info.
Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes you smell it. And sometimes you just have an intuition that it’s there.
So what do you do?
Well, I sat down this week with Mold Inspector, Bret Pfeifer from Golden State Mold Inspections and got the low-down for all our renters out there.
The Rental Girl: Hey Bret! Thanks for chatting with us today. Mold has become and increasingly bigger and bigger issue for renters in Los Angeles. We get a lot of renters asking us what they can do if they suspect mold. Can you explain briefly exactly what you do?
Bret: As a mold inspector our job is to inspect a property for mold contamination, identify the type of mold and its toxins, determine the source of the mold growth and a scope of work for proper remediation. On top of this, in our inspection we report areas that could be susceptible to future mold contamination and give recommendations on how to fix and prevent mold from growing.
When leaving a message for a landlord or The Rental Girl try to leave as much information as possible while being brief at the same time. Keep in mind a landlord may have several properties for lease, so please start with your name, the property address you are calling about, when you are looking to move, when you are available to see the home and last repeat your call back number twice. Remember the message you are leaving is the first impression the landlord is going to have about you. You want to be positive and point out the positives about you in your message. The landlord could be bombarded with messages, for the property, and may only be returning the calls from people who have described themselves like the ideal tenants in their message. If you have great credit, looking to move right away and anything else you think may standout about you be sure to include it in the message.
Knocking On The Tenants Door/Landlords Door- A Big No No!
If the landlord has not returned your call within a couple of hours of leaving a message please do not go knocking on his door or the tenants door to get your foot in the door for a viewing of the property-Especially if there is a sign on the property that says DO NOT DISTURB TENANT! There is a fine line between follow-up and pestering. Please do not leave several messages in one day for the landlord. Be positive and know your message will be returned once it’s heard. If it has been more than 24 hours and you would like to follow up with the message you left, remember to be polite and try not to sound irritated because your call has not been returned. Start your second message by saying how excited you are about the property and if the property has been rented you would appreciate a call back so you can take it off your list of prospects. Before you make that second call to the landlord you should do your own investigating. Do a drive by of the neighborhood during the day then do back in the evening. If you rely on public transportation you will want to make sure it’s location is walkable to stops.
When the landlord does return your call please be respectful, even if it takes him 24 hours to get back to you. Be ready with your list of questions to ask so you can decide if you are still interested in making an appointment to see the property. Be sure to read the landlords ad carefully so you are not asking questions that were clearly posted.
Now that you’ve signed a lease and know your move date all that’s left is moving. The easiest way to make packing fun is get on the phone and invite your friends over for a packing party. Buy boxes, tape, markers, food and libations to get this party started. In no time you’ll have everything packed and this is a great time to give unwanted items to friends. What are friends for? Helping you move! Moving costs are not always in the budget and if they are why pay someone to do it when you can get your friends with trucks help you move. Offer to pay for gas and have pizza and beer waiting at the final destination. In no time you’ll be settled and enjoying your place.
Need A Mover?
If you can seem to pull the gang together to help you move don’t stress-call a mover! If you have not planned a move you need to plan ahead. Have the moving company come out to give you an estimate. Make sure the estimate is in writing and within your budget. When the movers come to give you an estimate have them come to your current home then take them to your new place. Taking them to your new place will help eliminate extra known costs. Movers charge by the hour not by how many boxes you have. If you live in hills with narrow roads the moving truck might not always fit. In a case like this, the movers will know in advance to bring a smaller truck. Do you have 200 steps to get to the front doors? This may tack on a few extra hours of moving; more money out of your pocket. If your don’t have a moving company in mind ask The Rental Girl if she can refer you to someone!
Many landlords in L.A. don’t allow pets or have strict pet restrictions. Follow these tips to improve your chances of convincing a landlord to consider your pet.
-Bring your pet with you to the showing or bring a picture of your pet with you.
-Have references ready. A good reference would be a vet, dog walker, past neighbor, etc.
-Talk to the landlord and let him know about what kind of pet owner you are. Do you have dog walker regularly? Do your pets take flea medications? What kind of pet owner are you? etc.
-Fill our our pet application (www.therentalgirl.com/apply/paula)
Even if the landlord doesn’t request it, it will definitely help you to have one filled out.
-The point is, you want to prove to the landlord that you are a responsible pet owner.
We have quite a few vacancies that have washer/dryer hookups. A lot of people call and ask if the washer/dryer will be provided. I am surprised at how many people turn down an opportunity to even just view a vacancy because it only has hook-ups and no washer/dryer provided.
Let me just say to all you who are new to renting in the Los Angeles area: please, do not be scared of hookups. There is nothing scary about purchasing a washer and dryer.
Everyone is trying to find that perfect rental. You know, that cute secluded bungalow with a yard and parking and laundry and loads of charm. You search and search for it but all that comes up are these boring white boxes with no character and no outdoor space. You think you have a good price range, but yet you can’t find a decent rental! We hear this from renters all the time. Every renter wants a charming apartment with a yard, a parking space and a garbage disposal at an affordable rate. But these perfect rentals are hard to come by.
When this perfect home and rent cannot be found, depression sinks in and the renter starts feeling hopeless . . . and angry. All this sadness and anger have me wondering: why isn’t anyone helping these people? That is when I decided to write this post. Let me explain it to you all.
“There is more to life than where you live.” -The Rental Girl
When you have searched for weeks, toured hundreds of homes, viewed thousand of online ads, and are still homeless – don’t panic. It is not the end of the world. You do not have a home, but you still have a life. And you sure as heck have a cell phone. So call a friend. Take a bike ride down the Los Angeles River. Head up Vermont Avenue and hike for a couple hours up to Dante’s Peak in Griffith Park. Grab a blanket and have lunch up in Elysian Park. Read a book at the Japanese Gardens behind the Grace E. Simons Lodge. Watch the sun setting over Hollywood at the Barnsdall Art Park. Sit at a cafe on Sunset and people watch. Pick up some beer and burgers and BBQ at your friends house. Catch a movie at the Vista. Spend the day at the beach. Go whale watching in San Pedro. Take the Metro to Olvera Street. When I started this paragraph you thought I was joking. But I am serious! Get out and enjoy Los Angeles. Period.
Now that you are under control, let’s get back to business. Here are the most important things you need to look for when choosing your future affordable home: Read the rest of this entry »
Here is one question we get asked quite frequently as rental agents:
“Is this neighborhood safe?”
This is a difficult question to answer for a variety of reasons (mostly because of the relativity of the word- we could say living life is “unsafe” since “safe” is defined as “free from risk” and walking across a street, driving on the freeway, riding a bike– everything we do in life is a risk!).
But, it’s undoubtedly a question you will be asking a lot in your search for a future rental and you are going to want to figure this one out.
I was walking my dog around our Los Feliz neighborhood last night passing one tiny bungalow after another, I started thinking about how this neighborhood was developed. The developers/city planners sure did a good job packing one home in after another, accommodating the herds of people moving to Los Angeles in the 1900′s – seeking fame and Southern California Sunlight. They were probably more concerned about where these people would sleep than where they would play. It is true, land is hard to come by in this town. It is hard enough to find a decent apartment/home – and what of an apartment/home with a yard? A difficult feat. So as I am walking my dog down a Los Feliz Village street I am thinking about how many renters I meet looking for “some kind of outdoor space” and how little space there is in this town to go around – there is truly not enough space for us all – and that is when I spotted a group of guys playing a make shift ball game in the Enterprise parking lot. It was after hours, the agency was closed, the rental cars had all be rented for the day and the lot was empty. Flat, empty space, well lit outdoor area – “hmm,” I think to myself “these guys are on to something.” Read the rest of this entry »