Moving out in California for dummies: 12 things to keep in mind.

After spending four years in the glorious city of Los Angeles, I thought I’d move my family south-bound toward Long Beach in search of new experiences. Why Long Beach? Well, we wanted to be closer to the beach and not too far from LA. Venice and Santa Monica were not considered because I’ve had my fill of them, and I consider them parts of the grander LA experience.  Santa Barbara and Malibu are fun for a visit, but I could not see myself living in either.

I thought the move would involve a phone call or two, followed by a comeback-again-soon party hosted by my compound. After all, I was an impeccable tenant who had paid his rent on the day every month. Surely I will be missed and my future homeowner will welcome me with open arms, right?

Of course, I was soon anchored down to reality when I started doing the math after I had handed in my one month’s notice to my residential compound. Pro-tip: Never, EVER do that. Do your research, which is probably why you are here.

Here is a checklist to keep in mind and consider when you’ve finally decided to move:

  • Most apartment/house hunting websites possess the same database of entries. Don’t waste time trying to seek a better deal for the same listing.
  • Do not base your selection on photos or hearsay. Take the drive and see the place for yourself. Pay attention to the location, surrounding businesses, and overall finish of the property. I’ve heard that unless you were on a tight budget you should avoid living around a liquor store. This could just be a subjective tip from privileged people, so don’t take my word for it; go see the place for yourself and be your own judge.
  • If you are looking for two bedrooms and a den, do not search for three-bedroom apartments. Be sure to read the description of each two-bedroom listing as dens are generally not a search parameter in the filtering options.
  • If a listing is cheaper than it should be, consider that not all places come equipped with a washer/dryer unit or designated parking spots. Again, read the descriptions and see the places for yourself.
  • Though personal residences owned by homeowners may be less of a hassle to rent than from a compound, maintenance fees and services you would require in your home will have to be covered from your end. Plan your budget accordingly. For a two-bedroom apartment, you may run yourself around $100 every couple of months or so.
  • Most lease agreements carry a duration of 12 months, with some giving you the option of six or nine months. Be wary that the shorter the duration of your contract, the more the rent of the same apartment would be. The difference is minimal, never going beyond a few hundred dollars additional per month, but that’s a few hundred dollars you could have spent elsewhere. Plan wisely and ahead.
  • If you plan to vacate your apartment before the end of your lease contract, the homeowner/compound, depending on your original agreement and duration of stay, will expect you to pay them one or two months worth of base rent (rent minus taxes and service fees). This may sound like common knowledge, but when the maths kick in, the numbers will become serious. I intended to move from my apartment in LA to one in Long Beach. Since I was moving in July and my leasing contract ended in November, I effectively owed my compound a month’s rent on top of the rent I had submitted a week prior. We’ll get to the numbers later.
  • Remember that security deposit you put down on your current home? The more you took care of the property, the more money you will receive of it as payback. Of course, you will never get the full amount back no matter how much care you put into your home. As a general rule, you will be charged for the repainting of any colored wall ($50 per is an average to keep in mind), the cleaning of carpets, as well as for the maintenance of any furniture that may have been damaged during your stay.
  • Once you have settled on a place, make sure you ask the owner/leasing agent about the amount of the deposit, the duration of the contract and any other additional amenity fees (swimming pool/gym memberships, gas, electricity…etc.)
  • When it’s time to pack your stuff, expect to buy more boxes to pack them in than you thought you would. Just add five boxes of each size when you are done acting like you understand spatial geometry.
  • If you will be hiring a moving company, make sure they present you with the maximum possible charge (they will not bill you for more than that amount). Also, according to California law, a moving company will charge you for their journey back to their source. This is colloquially called the “double-time charge.” The trip took one hour from my old apartment to the new one; I was charged two hours. They are not scamming you; it’s law.  Scroll down to Item 36 for the official legalese.
  • If the movers’ quote is more than you are willing to invest, don’t despair and start shopping for cheaper services. A quick search online will lead you to countless nightmare stories of people who worked with incompetent companies and lost lots in the process. Stick to the professionals and plan around them. In my case, I rented out a U-Haul and moved whatever I could by myself and left the bigger items and furniture for the movers. I was originally quoted $1,700 for the move but ended up only paying $800 and $130 for the U-Haul. The math is clear.

Now, let’s have fun with the numbers. My math was jarring, and honestly, I only realized the density of the numbers while writing this post. Be a better planner and do all this BEFORE you take the plunge:

$3,000 (month’s rent in the old apartment) + $3,000 (break of contract of the old apartment) + $2,750 (deposit on the new apartment) + $2,750 (first month’s rent on the new apartment) + $250 (deposit on the key fobs) + $800 (mover’s fee) + $130 (U-Haul) + $200 (boxes) + $300 (food for the first three days. There was no way any of us was going to cook before we completely set up) = $13,180.

In hindsight, was the move worth all that additional money? If you are moving for the right reasons and you feel it in your heart, don’t let the numbers bog you down. Admittedly, perhaps it was my oblivious nature that had me uproot from LA without properly working out the math. There is something to be said about caution: Would I have moved had I seen that $13,000 price tab? Probably not, but now that I am here, I am happy, and that alone is worth every cent I have.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s