Finding an apartment in Los Angeles isn't the easiest thing in the world. Competition is fierce, and rent is high enough to ensure that you're more than likely not going to get everything you want—especially the common room tanning bed. Nonetheless, there are ways for apartment hunters to work smarter so that several of those "musts" can get checked off and extra cash will be left over to buy one of these.
1. Figure out what you want (what you really, really want). Before you get too far into navigating apartment websites and doing tons of research on restaurants and bars that are stumbling distance from your soon-to-be home, list your priorities. What's your price range? How far is your commute to work? How does the local crime report look? Is the bar really stumbling distance from your new home? All the important stuff. And I apologize for the Spice Girls reference.
2. Take advantage of the internet. There are a bunch of websites and apps you can use these days. My personal recommendations: Zumper, RadPad (started by an LA native), Hot Pads, Zillow, PadMapper and good old Craigslist aren't bad places to start. Pick a couple of these sites and get a feel of prices and location (several have an interactive map). Westside Rentals is $60 for a membership and it's more useful on the Westside than farther east, but you'll lower the number of people you're competing with and have access to some listings not on the other sites. The Rental Girl is another good site... less inventory and generally higher rates but you'll get some rare finds.
3. But don't be scared to drive—and walk—around. Some of the best deals in Los Angeles can be found through word-of-mouth and by simply driving around. Email and Facebook your friends to let them know you're looking, or spend a Sunday morning grabbing a fresh cup of coffee and navigating an LA neighborhood without all the traffic.
4. Always visit in person. This may seem like a no-brainer, but what you see isn't what you get a lot of times. Also, you're not just trying to get a feel of the apartment itself, you want to know who your landlord is going to be. Will he or she be like this person?
5. Don't get scammed. A few years ago, I lost $300 to a site called Apartment Hunterz. Great deals do exist in LA, but it never hurts to be skeptical. Especially, when the listing site has a 'z' replacing what should be an 's.'
6. Have your documents ready. A letter verifying employment, pay stubs, W-2, rental application, checks, yada, yada, yada... just be prepared. Similar to falling in love with that special someone, you better be ready to lock it down before someone else does.
7. Be aggressive, b-e aggressive. The LA rental market can be fickle. Don't spend months searching when landlords and apartment managers are looking for a renter ready to move in within 30 days. Instead, when your lease is about to end and it's almost moving time, well...