Despite my personal vendetta against the frigid, bland months of January and February, UCLA presents evermore concrete reasons for myself, as well as other students and the property managers of Westwood apartment complexes, to dread these first months of each year. The culprit of our detestation? The imminent chaos of apartment shopping in Westwood, Los Angeles.
Situated directly west of UCLA's campus, the "apartment side" is comprised of frat row and a number of overpriced, and often rundown, apartment complexes dominated primarily by college students packed into units like sardines. Keep in mind UCLA is a university of over 30 thousand students, not including those in graduate school, so as you can imagine, finding a unit on the apartment side can be a nightmare. Not to mention, renters jack prices through the roof knowing full well that, while we're all broke college students, we need somewhere to live and will give in to an inflated price at one point or another.
As if merely finding your home for the next year 8 months in advance isn't stressful, dealing with who you'll be living with can present an even greater source of stress. Hurt feelings, tears, and the occasional mental breakdown are all too common during the quest that is finding your apartment. Not to be dramatic, but friendships may be lost.
In lieu of the infernal few weeks, all UCLA students on the hunt will be experiencing, I've compiled a list of reminders in hopes you and others seeking their college apartment will have a somewhat smooth process:
In dealing with property managers, persistence is key
I've gotta hand it to them, managing a slew of neurotic young adults in search of a place to live is no easy feat. That said, would it kill property managers to answer their phones and give us the answers we're looking for? In case you're wondering, apparently the answer is yes because getting a response from a property manager is as difficult as pulling teeth. So if you want to get anything done persistence is key. Follow up, then follow up again. Send an edible arrangement, leave a flirty message on their windshield, I don't know.
Focus on common styles of living when choosing your roommates
It's so tempting to look to your best friend when it comes to living arrangements. You obviously get along on a personal level, so who's to say that you won't get along spatially as well? Everyone and their mother, that's who. Instead of focusing on who you're closest with, look to those you know share common practices of cleanliness, organization, sleeping, hygiene, etc… If that's your best friend, lucky you. If your best friend is a clean freak and you're a total slob it's completely pointless to invite the possibility of losing that friendship over incompatible living habits. Find someone who's first your stylistic soulmate, not your friendship soulmate.
And if your best friend doesn’t want to live with you, don’t take it personally
This is an exceedingly important, yet undeniably tough understanding to maintain. Hunting for an apartment and choosing your roommates is a matter that should be considered strictly business. As I said before, spare your friendship, appreciate that they're being honest with you, and find someone else. Don't allow your friendship to suffer over something as trivial as different living choices.
Sometimes it’s okay to play the waiting game…
When you find an apartment that fits your budget, fits the bill, and fits your availability it can be so utterly tempting to sign your lease right then and there, especially in a place like Westwood where everyone is running around like a chicken with their head cut off hoping to find an apartment before someone else does. It's completely OK and totally necessary to take a step back and think everything through before you sign your lease. Don't jump headfirst into something for fear you won't have any other options unless you put your deposit down right then and there.
….but you’ll probably have to exercise on the spot decision making at one point or another
There will come one point or another when you will be forced to make the ultimate decision of whether or not to sign a particular lease—a legally binding commitment for the span of a year give or take. To some that can be daunting, but once you sign it there's no looking back, so just be glad that you're done with your hunt.
If it doesn’t feel right don’t do it
It may sound so cliché, but trust your gut when it comes to making decisions about where to live and who to share that unit with. If you're not excited to be living with someone or feeling unsure about whether or not you want to live in a building, just don't. Your living situation is so intertwined with your day to day happiness that it's naive to make an uncertain decision. Go for what you truly want.
Take a deep breath because apartment shopping is not the end of the world, although at times it feels as though you're floundering around in an attempt to grasp any form of shelter. Just maintain your wits and you'll have your pricey shoebox in no time!