Recently, the folks over at WestsideRentals.com reached out to me about using their apartment service the next time I was in the market for a place. Luckily, I happened to be in search of a new place this past April. My lease was up at the beginning of the month and I was looking for something new and closer to the beach. I saw their offer as the perfect opportunity to add a great resource to my arsenal when looking for an apartment. I decided to give it a shot and see what all the hype was about.
What is Westside Rentals?
Most of you may have no clue what Westside Rentals is, especially if you’ve never set foot in LA. But, if you’ve lived in LA for at least a month or so, I’m pretty sure you have seen their signs before…
They’re practically everywhere.
So, what is it?
Westside Rentals is a paid apartment search service that helps residents of Southern California find–you guessed it–apartments! They’re known to have quality apartment listings exclusive to their site, that are not listed in any other search service like a Craigslist.
My Typical Apartment Search Process
After being in LA for 5 years, my apartment search process is pretty simple. I typically sit down at the nearest coffee shop, power up my laptop, and hop on to Craigslist.
Once there, I narrow my search down to apartments that meet my “must haves” in a place:
- Safe Neighborhood
- Fits into my budget
- Personality match with the neighborhood
I then make a list of 10 potential apartments and start making phone calls to schedule an appointment. This process usually takes me about 3 to 4 weeks to find a solid apartment that fits my needs.
Why does it take 3 to 4 weeks to find an apartment?
True indeed, that may sound like a long time, but finding an apartment in 3 to 4 weeks on Craigslist is actually not bad considering the circumstances.
Craigslist is an open platform where anyone and I do mean anyone can post an apartment for rent. The potential to be scammed is greatly increased because of this.
Take this listing for instance…
It’s a 1BR, 1 Bath, apartment in Beverly Hills for only $650 a month?!
Now, if you’re an idiot, this is the best deal ever and you’ll be wiring your $1300 deposit to Kazakhstan first thing tomorrow morning. But, if you have an ounce of common sense, you can spot this scam from a mile away.
This was an easy one to spot, but some listings are much more clever with their wording.
The Westside Rentals vs. Craigslist Challenge Begins…
I logged on to Westside Rentals to try it out. My goal was to find a 2 to 3 bedroom condo near the water, preferably in the Venice or Marina del Rey area.
After entering my desired location and price range, immediately 3 listings appeared that met my criteria.
These listings really caught my attention. I hadn’t seen them posted on Craigslist and the price and area of these listings were a decent bargain. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that 2 out of the 3 landlords offered free credit checks (credit checks typically cost about $25 or more).
I was able to set up appointments quickly to view the condos I was interested in. I made my first scheduled appointment to see a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom Marina/Ocean view condo for $4,000 a month.
I know that sounds quite expensive, but split between 3 roommates it’s about $1,330 a month. Not bad for a Marina/Ocean View.
I decided to take a look at the condo in Marina del Rey first. I met with the landlord on a Saturday afternoon. Honestly, after seeing the breathtaking view, I didn’t need to look any further. This was the place for me. I’m not a firm believer in “love at first sight,” but this is the closest I’ve ever come to it.
The condo was situated directly off the Marina with views of the ocean. I watched as sailboats and yachts cruised the Marina, with the occasional seal or dolphin rearing its head above the water.
What else could I ask for?!
Obviously, I filled out the application immediately. The landlord was gracious and asked about my credit situation before processing my application (which is typical). I was completely upfront with her about my credit situation. It was decent (damn student loans :-/), but I’ve always had great rental history (no late payments or previous evictions), which is very important in LA.
Something to remember: Most landlords are reasonable people and will work with you if you’re upfront and have references that will vouch for your rental history.
Later that week, the landlord followed up with me and approved my application. I was able to move in 2 weeks later and set up my new apartment. And this is the result…
Just get me near the sea. It’s earth’s most potent remedy.~Aimee Dolich
The Truth About Craigslist and Westside Rentals
There’s no getting around it, Craigslist and Westside Rentals are both great services that offer thousands of listings of available apartments. If you’re short on money or extremely frugal, I would definitely go with Craigslist because it’s a free service.
With that being said, understand there is a lot of BS floating around on Craigslist, which can potentially prolong your apartment search.
On the other hand, if you have $60 to fork over for your apartment search, I would highly recommend purchasing a 2 month membership from Westside Rentals.
They simply offer a more extensive range of credible listings than Craigslist. Once you’ve been in LA for a year or so, you’ll notice that most of the higher quality apartments are not listed on Craigslist and are exclusively listed on Westside Rentals.
Why is that?
It seems landlords feel that Westside Rentals offers a better tenant base than Craigslist. Think about it, if you were a bad tenant, would you really pay $60 to find an apartment? I doubt it.
The Verdict: Honestly, you can probably get all the info you would receive from Westside Rentals, without paying the $60–by driving around and finding “For Rent” signs yourself or simply using a free service similar to Craigslist. But, I’m sure after a few days of perusing newspaper ads, driving endless circles around LA, and avoiding scammers on Craigslist, you’d understand why I would pay $60 for someone else to do the “leg work” for me.
Now, if only someone could come up with a service that would let me bypass LA traffic for $60!!