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How to Cut Your Rent by 50%, Make Friends for Life, and Dominate Your First Year in LA

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How to Cut Your Rent by 50%, Make Friends for Life, and Dominate Your First Year in LA

Picture Courtesy of Ryan Vaarsy

How to Cut Your Rent by 50%, Make Friends for Life, and Dominate Your First Year in LA

One hundred plus people descended upon our 2-bedroom apartment on the Westside. Our kitchen was a pool of beer, the stripper pole refused to stand upright…

One hundred plus people descended upon our 2-bedroom apartment on the Westside. Our kitchen was a pool of beer, the stripper pole refused to stand upright, and the bouncer we hired decided just letting twenty people in at once was more fun than standing in line.

All this because my roommate was so inspired by the gala in the movie Project X, he wanted to replicate it (thankfully, sans burning down the house).

The night unfolded. Check off your college party cliches: Puke in the sink, stolen jackets, a floor covered with a film so thick you could ice skate across it.

I bring this night up because someone emailed me recently and asked, “How do I find a roommate in LA?” This night was the first image that flashed through my mind, as I read his email:

I am from right outside of Pittsburgh and never really lived anywhere but around here. I want to move out to LA alone and I’m going to be driving down. I wanted to know how I should go about getting a roommate? I have never done this before and I don’t even know of the area around LA.

I’ll come back to the party, but first:

Why would you want a roommate when moving to LA?

There are two reasons:

– You can split rent

– A good roommate makes moving to (and living in) LA more fun

I actually had two roommates when I first moved to LA. Splitting a 2-bedroom made rent ridiculously cheap (less than $500), which was crucial when you’re so broke, buying a cheeseburger at In-N-Out counts as “going out to eat.”

If you’re looking to minimize your financial exposure (something I highly recommend for Year One in Los Angeles) I’d recommend getting a roommate.

More importantly is the fun part of getting a roommate.

Yes, cleaning up the apartment the day after our party was a nightmare. And living with anyone raises an infinite number of grievances:

– An overflowing sink of dishes

– Friends and family staying over while your roommate’s away — and you’re left to entertain

– Running a tattoo parlor out of the living room — catering to clientele who schedule appointments at 2 a.m.

But man, it was fun. Los Angeles is a lonely place your first two years. Having roommates who bring you out of your comfort zone and introduce you to new people is crucial to acclimatize to your new city.

The grievances are annoying, but nothing that’d ruin the friendship. My old roommates and I still host a poker game once a month. And we go to the gym together a few times a week.

With all that said, if you’re not worried about the cost of rent, AND you’re confident you’ll be able to make friends, there’s no harm in skipping the roommate route and getting your own pad.

How do you know if you can afford the rent on your own?

This is what I’d do:

Calculate how rent affects your standard of living. You need an accurate picture of how much free income/savings you have per month after subtracting your cost of living. This is a crucial step (I created a free calculator to quickly find this number — you can download it at the bottom of the post)

Play with different rent numbers. I’ll show you how to get an accurate idea of cost of rent below but for now assume a range of $800 to $1400. This will give you a rough idea of what your savings or income need to look like

What are the numbers telling you? If you’re honest about how much you spend, how much you can expect to make in income, then the numbers don’t lie. You know immediately whether you can afford a place alone (more on how below) or you definitely need a roommate.

“Okay, I definitely need a roommate”

You decided you definitely need a roommate in Los Angeles. Sweet.

(In 90% of cases here in the IMTLA community, I’d recommend finding a roommate.)

Your first three steps to find a roommate are as follows:

– Ask your friends to see if they want to move

– Ask and see if any friends of friends want to move

– If all else fails, start checking forums and websites for roommates

Let’s dive a little deeper.

Tap All Your Networks

Don’t limit yourself to asking just friends (or friends of friends).

Tap every network you have available at your disposal:

– LinkedIn

– Facebook

– Twitter

– Alumni connections

– Work connections

– Instagram

– Snapchat

I included the last two as a joke… sort of.

Anyway you can connect with people who are living in Los Angeles and might be looking for a roommate, do it. If your old Tinder flame moved to WeHo (West Hollywood), you should be private messaging him.

But don’t ask if you can crash.

DO NOT ask anyone if you can crash at their place. There’s no better way to quickly destroy goodwill. If they’re interested in offering you a place to crash, they’ll let you know.

Always ask instead: “Do you know anyone who’s looking for a roommate? Do you know who’s in the middle of moving and could use a roommate?”

The exception to this rule is family and close friends.

Check out this post my buddy Justin already wrote for a list of safe places to live in Los Angeles

“What other tools and tricks could help me find an apartment/roommate?”

– RoomoramaYou could rent an apartment (or a house or room, depending on your budget) for a short period of time while you search for a more permanent living situation. Be polite, make a good impression on your host, and they may know someone looking for a roommate

– Couchsurfing A cheaper but less cushy alternative to the above. Couchsurfing hosts are typically very friendly and more than happy to help if they can. I’ve had amazing experiences with couchsurfing, but understand it might not be for everyone. Again, be polite and don’t be that weird guy

– Padmapper. A great tool to find available apartments and scope out the rent in different areas

– Radpad. Another great apartment finding and rent paying tool

– Roommates. A roommate matching service (see one IMTLA contributor’s experience here)

– Craigslist. Sure, might seem sketch, but here’s what my colleague Eileen said about using Craigslist when she moved to LA from Chicago:“Finding a place was daunting at first until I actually got down to searching seriously (through Craigslist, sigh). I think maybe I got lucky, because looking back, the housing situation seemed pretty (really) sketchy (one dude in a very nice house and lots of women of all sorts of ethnic backgrounds — yes, that’s what he mentioned — going in and out). However, if you need to find a place you can get definitely get something.

– Use Tracking Boards– In Los Angeles, tracking boards are forums where people working in film & TV trade inside information, scripts, and screeners. Many people leave “Roommate Wanted” or “Apartment for Rent” postings on these tracking boards. If you know anyone in the entertainment industry, there’s a good chance they’re on a tracking board. You can ask them to forward any relevant posts to you

For more resources on finding an apartment or roommate, check out the I’m Moving to LA Resources page.

“But I don’t want to commute too far for work either”

In an ideal world, you’d find the perfect apartment with an awesome roommate that’s close to a job you work within your first month of living in Los Angeles.

The reality is — you gotta take it one step at a time. If you find a job first, great. If not, then just focus on getting an apartment you like, in an area where you feel safe, with a roommate you can tolerate.

You’ll quickly learn that apartments and jobs come and go. The tricky part is landing that first one — after that, everything else just cascades into place.

“How can I calculate my most of living in Los Angeles?”

– I created a free Moving to LA Calculator on my site, Fighting Broke. It’ll help you quickly and easily determine how much you need to save before moving to LA, how much rent you can afford, your costs of living in Los Angeles.

– To download the calculator, click here (I ask for your email address so I know where to send the download)

– As a bonus for IMTLA readers, I’ve curated my four favorite IMTLA posts on a single page. Click here to get your calculator PLUS jump start your move to Los Angeles

See you in LA.

Christopher Ming

Hi, I’m Chris. I build online products and help people move to Los Angeles. I’m a product developer at a start-up where we help thousands of students build their professional networks, create their own online businesses, overcome social anxiety, and lose weight & build muscle. Prior to this, I worked with NYT Bestselling author and screenwriter Dennis Lehane (The Given Day, Shutter Island, and Mystic River, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Bloodline). I started out my career asking Sony executives if they’d like their salad dressing on the side.

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