Today, we’re apartment-hunting, and you don’t come crawling to this space just to be told how depressing it is to be apartment-hunting.
Dishing out $25 to every potential landlord for the honor of getting a credit check, coming up with dependable-sounding references, driving from one drab Navajo White-painted place after another in neighborhoods that are perhaps dicier than you wish for, imagining that if you get this particular place that the coffee-klatchers smoking Chesterfields and drinking Smirnoff out of Flintstones jam jars out by the communal barbecue can’t possibly be there every day—all for the privilege of getting something you can afford but don’t really want while you await the arrival of your ship coming in with its American Dream cargo.
The best way to get a great deal on a nice apartment is by word of mouth. I almost don’t want to tell you (but happily will) about my first apartment, a beautiful top of a duplex with a big balcony, a formal dining room, built-in leaded glass cabinets, a bedroom the size of a jai alai court, all for $250, and I didn’t even apply for the place, I just took over after my friend and previous tenant told me I could have it. It was a couple of weeks before the landlord introduced himself. Of course, this was decades ago but it was still a sweet deal that satisfyingly drove my friends crazy as they hustled around trying to find a place half as nice for $500. Even today, you always hear stories like this.
Barring a dependable network of friends and back-door, off-the-book deals, renters in this cutthroat and often depressing rental market are at the mercy of either driving around in desirable neighborhoods looking for rent signs and hoping for bargains, or rummaging through the rental listings online or in various publications.
I opted for online, which is the quicker and easier method, because Quicker and Easier are just a couple of my middle names.
I also pretended that I’m a normal, median Long Beacher, which comes with a median household income of a bit more than $60,000. And, furthering this masquerade, I pretended to have a wife and a daughter, which is actually true in real life, so I would need a two-bedroom place, and I don’t want to spend more than 30 percent of our household income on an apartment, which gives me a cap of $1,500 a month (and, no, I can’t go home again because my long-ago duplex is going for more than $1,800 now; why did I ever leave?) Unfortunately for Mr. and Mrs. Median and their lovely daughter, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Long Beach in February was $2,561. So, I’m apartment-hunting with a lot of pessimism.
I didn’t bother with huge swatches of Long Beach geography. Rent Jungle, which compiles rent data in several cities in the U.S. and Canada, more or less told me not to bother with apartments near Cal State Long Beach, where the average rent in February was $2,611, or Downtown ($2,451), the Traffic Circle ($2,032), Belmont Shore ($2,021) or Belmont Heights ($1,716).
There are still plenty to choose from in my price range, but in terms of anything approaching a dream home, I was priced out of the market. Right off the bat, forget about waterfront living. Wichita is closer to the beach than the apartments that met my financially strict criteria. There was an affordable one-bedroom place on Roswell Avenue in Belmont Shore, but, at 425 square feet, after you toss in a couch and an easy chair there’s not enough space left over for a toaster oven.
If I was so keen on living on the water, there was a two-bedroom place at 1428 Cherry for $1,495 that was advertised as “just minutes from Shoreline Village,” though Google told me that 52 of those minutes would be required for a stroll to the nearby faraway village.
My computer began upselling me after my first few forays into living within my means. I found better pickings in the $1,595 range, like this two-bedroom and two-bath (!) place, again on Cherry Avenue in the 1700 block in the Zaferia neighborhood, just about a block from Rally’s (again: !) and it included parking. And it’s just about four blocks—steps!—from my willowy editor’s house, so carpooling is now in play.
The same $1,595 would get me an 800 square-foot place on the 600 block of Junipero Avenue in the highly regarded south of Seventh neighborhood. It sort of hit the spot, being not overly far from Portfolio’s and Retro Row.
I ran the Junipero property through the rent-analyzer Rentometer.com, which assured me I would be getting a great deal. Now, of course, there’s the whole application process, security deposit, background check, etc., but since this is my story, I’m going to go ahead and say I’ll get the place. And, by the way, it’s pronounced Juan-a-PER-o, with a phantom “a.”
Who wants to go to my moving party? Beer and pizza. C’mon, it’ll be fun.
Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.
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