Choosing between size, safety, location in an LA rental.
June 22, 2007 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Priorities when choosing somewhere to live? Safety? Size? Location? As new parents to be in an expensive city, help us decide what we can give up.

As previously discussed my wife and I are moving to Los Angeles in the next couple of months, and trying to make a baby in a similar time frame, and we're trying to narrow down our housing search with a view to my flying out for a week in early September and getting us a place. It's starting to look like we can't afford what we want, and I'd appreciate some advice from anyone who's made a similar decision (not just from LA folks), on what we should prioritize.

We're in our mid twenties and both make around $60,000 right now (with the expectation of more in the next few years, but not a lot more). However, we're determined that one of us stay home with the kid for a couple of years, so I want us to be able to live on $60,000 + small amounts of money I can get from working here and there. I think that means we can just about manage $1800 a month for rent.

Now it gets messy, I really really want to live in Los Feliz, or just south of there in East Hollywood near a metro station. We would also think about Pasadena etc near the gold line. I really don't want to live in a big concrete housing complex (see Northridge/the big one etc) I want to find us a little wooden house. I also think we need two bedrooms (baby, and family who visit from abroad often). It doesn't look like we can get all this for $1800, so what gives?

I'm starting to get a little whiny and discouraged - I don't want to move from one piece of isolated suburbia to another, or condemn my wife to a two hour car commute. I don't want to be crushed to death, or scared of it all the time, and I don't think we can have a baby, plus my family to stay with just one bedroom (I also mostly work from home right now). But unless there's some magic answer I haven't thought about (go into debt? take less time off work?), I need to suck up one of those options, so folks in LA, folks with babies, folks with apartments... I would appreciate your wisdom.
posted by crabintheocean to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How about this?

1800 is just not much of a budget for a nice two-bedroom apartment - let alone a house! - in any decent neighborhood in Los Angeles, so I think you'll have to hash out a ranking of your needs. Because what you're saying right now: Los Feliz+Craftsman bungalow+2 bedrooms=$1800... doesn't exist.

Something in your equation probably has to give, and it's up to you to figure out what you can live with- or without. Can you live with a Spanish-style duplex instead of a wooden house? Can you live with Echo Park instead of Los Feliz? (You're still not going to find a little house for 1800, though. You could try near USC.) Must you live in LA at all? Other cities are much more conducive to what you want for a price you're willing to pay, etc etc.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:00 AM on June 22, 2007

I'm not familiar with LA. However, I do live in an urban area with a toddler (and another baby on the way). If it's at all possible, I highly recommend living near your work. My husband is able to leave for work at 8 and he comes home for lunch. He's also home by 5:30 most nights. Even though this means we need to live in a condo, we have a lifestyle that most of our (parent) friends envy. It's far easier to share our workload, grocery shop, do housework and so on. Our child has a really solid relationship with his dad, since he sees so much of him. Sometimes we drop by my husband's office at lunch, so my son has some concept of where his dad goes for 8 hours a day. It's made it much easier for me to be at home full-time -- my day is broken up and my husband is not far away if I ever need a break. I also work from home and my husband can take his lunch when I need to make important phone calls or go to meetings.

There are tons of families living in the area, so my kids won't feel like they're losing out by living in a condo. We don't plan to live here forever, but it does make for a nice lifestyle while the kids are/will be small.
posted by acoutu at 12:07 PM on June 22, 2007

You don't want to live in LA on less than $100,000 a year. And that was awhile ago. Sorry.
posted by solongxenon at 3:49 PM on June 22, 2007

Response by poster: You don't want to live in LA on less than $100,000 a year. And that was awhile ago. Sorry.

Care to elaborate?
posted by crabintheocean at 4:42 PM on June 22, 2007

Solongxenon sounds bitter. Many, many people get by just fine in LA on less than $100,000 a year.

The problem is that you may have unrealistic expectations. You want a nice little wooden house with multiple bedrooms in a decent safe area that is conveniently located. And you want it cheap.

Guess what? Everybody else wants the same thing So it ain't cheap. You've got to bend on what you're looking for. Either you need to live in a multi-unit dwelling, you need to live in a less nice or less safe area, or you need to pay more. Since you're starting a family, I don't recommend living in a less nice/safe area. So you're left with compromising on wanting to live in a little house or you need to come up with more money, perhaps by having both of you work.

So decide which is more important to you; a nice little house or having someone at home with the baby all the time. I don't think you can have both on your salary.

Or you could live up in the valley in suburbia, I guess, but you seem pretty set against that.
posted by Justinian at 5:40 PM on June 22, 2007

Oh, and for what it is worth, I would recommend getting an apartment and having one of you stay home with the baby. The whole point of living in Los Angeles is that its a big cool city. City living is all about high density housing; if you want a single family home what the heck are you moving to Los Angeles for?
posted by Justinian at 5:42 PM on June 22, 2007

Hi, Los Angeles resident with small baby here. As you already figured out, what you are asking for is really hard to do in most areas. You say you often work from home, so presumably your location is flexible, as long as its not "isolated suburbia". I would suggest looking away from the metro system a bit, and resigning yourself to an apartment or condo (possibly a townhouse would be feasible). I would suggest taking two trips to LA in advance, one to check out some more areas, and the next to find an actual place once you have narrowed the areas down. Off the top of my head I'd suggest looking in Burbank, Glendale, North Hollywood, Studio City and Sherman Oaks.
posted by Joh at 6:26 PM on June 22, 2007

Oh, and if you can handle living in a 2 bed apartment, you could probably find something in West LA near Santa Monica, which is a great area, especially for kids.
posted by Joh at 6:30 PM on June 22, 2007

2 out of 2 Los Angeles surveyed Los Angeles residents agree; apartments are the way to go!
posted by Justinian at 9:08 PM on June 22, 2007

You don't have to choose your permanent lifetime home right now, just something that will suit for a few years. You can save the wooden house for later. In fact, for this move across the country, the best idea may be to plan for a short-term place to stay while you get to know the city better -- save the cost of that week's trip and explore together. A small temporary apartment in your chosen area will put you in a strong position for finding the best you can afford there. Kid-friendly is not necessarily going to go with being a dream home in other respects.

My priorities: don't compromise on safety, don't compromise on one of you staying home with the kid(s) for a while. Most other things are negotiable.
posted by Idcoytco at 3:37 AM on June 23, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed. ALL "head up ass" comments need to go to email or metatalk, thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:25 AM on June 23, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses everyone, I'm not sure why the thread took the weird turn that it did...

I wanted to respond just for anyone reading this in the future and clarify what I was trying to ask, but I think wasn't clear. Some folks seemed to read my question as 'Why can't I have this?' or 'Can I get this?'. My apologies, I guess I meant to ask 'Is a young family better off in a smaller apartment or a more isolated location?' with a dash of 'How do I minimize our earthquake vulnerability?' - my preference for a wooden house is an earthquake thing, not a style thing - we currently live in a big concrete apartment block and like it. High density living is great, but I really believe that all those big stucco blocks perched over car ports are going to collapse in an earthquake. By safety, that was what I meant, not safety of the neighborhood.

I really appreciated acoutu's response about commute time, that was our feeling too. I think we've decided that location is a big factor for us, both for commute, and for the sanity of the one staying home. After poking around on Craigslist and Westside Rentals a little more I think we can get in the area we'd like, into a duplex or something similar for about $1700, especially if we settle for fewer amenities or a slightly run down building.

So thanks everyone (except the person who told us not to even bother), I appreciate it.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:02 AM on June 25, 2007

Response by poster: Follow up - we're finding plenty of decent duplex/triplexes in the area we're looking at. Seems like a small, non concrete building with no carport type thing is the way to go, and we can possibly keep it all at ground level. Looks like we don't have to make the choice I was freaking out that we did. Thanks everyone.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:53 AM on October 5, 2007

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