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.
3. Prepare yourself mentally for the task you are about to undertake
Look, you can meditate, see a therapist, levitate… whatever floats your boat. Just understand finding a rental in LA is no cakewalk. In fact, its an absurdly difficult task. You need to do research, figure out what area you want to live in, what rents are going for, what’s on the market, how fast vacancies move, etc. You need to do some homework (hint: join our VIP list early in the game to keep an eye on what hits the market, what rents are going for, etc. Westsiderentals offers similar service for a $60 fee – small price to pay considering you have a lot of homework to do).
4. Prepare your schedule for the task your are about to undertake
Unless you are Jeanie … *blink*… and there is your future home, then you are going to have to do some leg work to find a rental. There isn’t an easy way to do it. Sure, some of us rental agents will make it “easier” but it’s still a lot of work. And no one can do it for you. Some renters want to pay and have someone find a rental for them. Not advisable. You’ll end up paying more for a rental than it’s worth, or worse yet you’ll get a dump. All your friends will be living in great rentals and you’ll have to hear “I got the most amazing apartment for the best deal!” all year and you’ll regret not spending some time finding your perfect home from the get-go. You need to see vacancies in person to really get a sense of the place. When you find a place you like, you need to drive by it at night and different times of the day/week. Most landlords will not leave doors unlocked, so you need to schedule appointments with landlords, property managers, on site managers or agents. You’ll be scheduling appointment times with different people – all who have their own crazy schedules too. You may not be able to see everything in one day, back to back. Again, this is a process, it’s work, it takes time. But it has to be done.
5. Search online
The majority of renters are searching multiple websites for rentals. Not just One Amazing-Has-It-All site (quantity), not just One Has-All-The-Best-Listings (quality), not two, not three…but multiple sites. Why? Because like we said in #3 and #4, finding a rental is not easy.
Websites we recommend:
*Note, the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is where real estate agents post their rental and for sale listings for other real estate agents to see. These listings get uploaded to Trulia, Redfin, etc. Renters looking for higher end properties (or anything above 2-3k/month even) will benefit from a MLS search. If this is the case, we recommend you solicit the free help of a real estate agent (the agent will get paid by the landlord once you sign a lease). If you are looking for a rental under 2-3k/month then going through a real estate agent/MLS won’t be much help. The Rental Girl’s are all licensed real estate agents so if you are looking for a higher end rental, ask you Rental Girl to do a MLS search for you. They will either do it for you or refer you to another agent who can.
6. Call For Rent Signs
Egh, not my personal favorite (and truthfully I personally would not waste my time doing this). But, many landlords just put out a sign. Simple as that. Old School folks. That’s how they do it, that’s how they’ve done it for years. It works for them so why not. If you have some extra time, you might as well add this to your list: Drive around a call For Rent Signs.
Absolutely this is a must. Let your friends know you need a place. I have a friend who has been replacing his roommates for years through Facebook alone. He will only rent to friends of friends. I don’t know any way to do this other than through Facebook. So post, post and repost until you have a place. Hey, while you’re at it, friend us on Facebook!
8. Slow down. Take a breath. READ-the-ads-carefully
I’m telling you, when you start searching for a rental you turn into a bit of a mad person. You’re hectic, frantic, anxiety ridden, under a dead line and the pressure is on. You are in “go go go” mode. Take it from The Rental Girl’s, we are in the same boat. Between the 8 of us we rent hundreds of rentals a month, field 20,000 inquiries, add new listings and manage to take a day off each week. To find quality renters fast, we have to be organized, structured and most importantly have flexibility. It takes these same qualities to find a quality rental fast. Be efficient with your time. Read the ad carefully. I can’t tell you how many renters show up to a property and say “oh, I really need a parking space.” Or, “Oh, I really need some outdoor space.” Guess what, those are details listed in our ad. And for those ads online that don’t list ALL the features and details as we do? Simple – just ask landlord when you speak on the phone. If you have certain amenities that are “Must Haves” then why waste time making an appointment and driving out to see a place if you can’t rent the property anyway? Slow down, do some research, read the ads, look at the photos carefully, check out video tours and when in doubt ask questions over the phone before viewing in person.
9. Get organized. Keep track of listings you like and listings you don’t like
Like I said above, you have to be efficient with your time and being organized is Key. You then you need to be flexible. Those “Must Have’s” you started with? Well if it’s been a few weeks and you aren’t finding any options, you may need to revise your criteria. Be realistic. You’ve done your research, you know what’s out there, you know your time frame. Make some revisions to your criteria and keep going. You are almost there!
10. The most important Tip we can offer: be prepared
It’s almost impossible to get a rental if you aren’t prepared. So many renters search and search and once they finally find “The One” they lose it because they did not have their applications ready. You will lose that perfect place to someone else if you waste 1/2 day collecting your application materials. Read our blog post here about securing that perfect rental and visit our website for a detailed explanation of what our clients usually require in an application package. Most landlords throughout L.A. require the same thing: complete application, copy of ID, verification of income. There is not much a landlord can ask for, so it’s normally the same info every time. It’s not that difficult to prepare for this process and being prepared can be the one thing between you getting or loosing your next dream home.