Walk around the streets of Westwood. Explore Gayley or Midvale or Kelton, and the streets are lined with apartments. Therefore, you’d think apartment hunting would be a relatively easy process with all the options. Wrong. I just signed a lease for an off-campus apartment for the next academic school year, and the seven to eight-week process made my quarter way more anxiety-inducing. I experienced a range of emotions from hope, excitement and some days just straight irritation. Here are six things I wish I knew before apartment hunting in Westwood:
- Places Go Fast (Especially Updated Apartments)
We’ve all seen the news headlines and memes that the housing market is booming right now, and the same goes for apartment leases as well. Times I toured new construction or newly updated apartments, I was sharing the space with anywhere from 15-20 people who were also interested in the same exact unit or property. One manager quite literally said, “Here’s how this is going to work. This place is going to go by the end of the day. After you tour the apartment, the first group to text this number on the flier and put down your holding deposit gets the apartment.” During the tour, people were scrambling to FaceTime their roommates, and after the tour, groups huddled outside the building to discuss if they were going to move forward. The apartment was indeed gone by the end of the day. If you need parent approval, make sure all your expectations and guidelines are laid out beforehand, so getting their permission on the place is smooth and doesn’t slow you down. As someone who can have reservations or feel apprehensive, you have to get over them quickly because the longer you wait, the quality of your selection decreases, and the prices increase. Towards the end of my hunt, I was seeing apartments in poor condition going for almost $4400 a month.
- Less Than 1000 Square Feet In A 2 Bed 2 Bath Is Normal
I’m living with three other roommates next year, and we decided on a two-bedroom, two-bath. The first apartment we toured, on Kelton, was absolutely amazing. It came furnished, was relatively updated and almost 1200 square feet. The price was pretty solid too. My group put an offer on it, but the landlord decided to go with another group that was in the position to sign a two-year lease. We were devastated and had to continue our search. The following units we saw were all under 1000 square feet. They ranged anywhere between 850-975 and naturally felt smaller than the Kelton apartment we wanted. I quickly learned that the Kelton unit was the exception, not the norm, and it was rare to find a decent space that was actually furnished for the same price. We ended up getting another apartment down the street on Kelton, and it is actually bigger (around 1300 square), but at the cost of no furniture, a non-updated kitchen and not the most updated bathrooms either.
- It Is Not Wise To Take A Break During Midterms
As I mentioned, this was an almost eight-week journey as we began this process at the end of week three, and my lease was officially signed during finals. In the first couple of weeks, we were on it, going on multiple tours per week, constantly searching online and calling buildings. Then, midterms hit. Our work and stress load increased, and we put apartment hunting on the back burner. If I could do it all over again, I would manage my time differently and not take that three week break. I know it is easier said than done, but during those weeks, so many properties got taken up. During weeks nine and ten, I was so stressed looking at apartments, even resorting to places that weren’t well-situated in the Village, such as properties on Hilgard Avenue. In the end, the apartment load that got put off during midterms just transferred to finals. My school work load was the same if not more. I knew if we waited until Spring quarter, it would be even harder, and my parents wanted me to accept my UCLA Housing offer if I didn’t find something by the end of March. My group had to act quickly in a few short weeks.
- You Aren’t Going To Get Everything You Want On Your Wishlist — Look At The Bigger Picture
This is a concept everyone knows going in when renting or buying, but it is still a hard pill to swallow in the process. The two biggest things on my wishlist were having an updated kitchen and bathroom. I’m getting neither. Granted, the space is clean and well-kept, but the appliances are definitely not new. When first agreeing to the apartment, I was kind of upset, but all my roommates loved it. I had to take a step back for a few days and look at the big picture. At least the apartment was spacious and had natural light. Those things weren’t at the top of my list, but I still desired them. And most importantly, I’m going to live with people I love and know I can trust as roommates.
- How Tenants Look When They Open Their Door Is A Good Indicator Of How Landlords Will Treat You
Unless you are looking at a luxury building that has a model unit, you are going to be touring a space that is already occupied. Landlords went about this in different ways either taking groups in mass, scheduling appointments or saying they “scheduled appointments” with the tenants. More than once when the landlord knocked on the door, the tenant looked surprised to see us and didn’t let us come in immediately because they had to get some things together. Other times, the tenants were expecting us and unbothered. We would often quietly talk to the tenants about their experience with the landlord, and the correlation we noticed was that the more surprised they looked when opening the door, the worse their experience was. How the tenants appear around the landlord is a good indicator of how they will treat you because you are not any different than the current occupants.
- Zillow and Apartments.com Rent Prices Can Be Very Wrong
Many of our tours were scheduled through sites such as Zillow and Apartments.com. When looking for properties, I used a filter to make sure we weren’t looking outside our price range. I would get so excited about a property, and then show up only to learn the leasing price was $200-400 more than what the site was stating. Both these sites have a glitch that shows the price of the cheapest unit of the building, even if you are searching for a different layout. For example, while I specified that I wanted a two-bed two-bath apartment, and the results showed me pictures of these units, the price shown was for a studio or one-bedroom apartment in that same building, not a two-bed two-bath. Also, these prices can be estimates and not from the actual management companies themselves. Therefore, be wary that some things are too good to be true.
I am glad my apartment hunting experience in Westwood is over. The journey was a learning experience, and I’ll be more prepared for when I find an apartment in the real world. The best advice I can give is to be prepared for anything and always look at the big picture.