So, I broke down and solicited roommates. A guy from my church wrote me. Then another man answered my ad. We decided to look for a 3-bedroom apartment. More bang for the buck, we said.
Last Saturday, we spent eight hours looking. We started the day hopeful, looking at a place in West L.A. right next to a park, not too far from the ocean. The rooms were small, though. And the parking and laundry situation less than ideal.
We then went to the Mid-City area, and our enthusiasm faded. After seeing three unimpressive apartments, we met a realtor at another hopeful. She led us across a long carport, behind a first triplex. “That’s the common area,” she said, pointing to four dusty chairs sitting around a rickety table, and just behind, two padlocked garage units. As we went inside, our smiles vanished. Ripped screens, windows that wouldn’t shut. Dirt on every counter and in the bathrooms.
“Is there parking?” we asked.
“No,” she answered, no attempt at an explanation.
We quickly decided against that apartment and went to see the next. We arrived early and sat around a wooden table to wait for the realtor.
The neighborhood didn’t look so nice. A helicopter was circling overhead, the indication being that a crime had been committed. A moment later, a car drove past, going about 90 on the side street.
A man walked out of the apartment, wearing a tank top, baggy jeans, and his socks. He had a smoke on the sidewalk while talking on the phone.
After his call, we made chitchat. He looked at the helicopter overhead and said how crazy the world was, how it was only getting worse. “Look at this shit,” he said, loading an app on his phone. He handed it to me.
It was a video of a man on the ground being cut open by three others. Dismembered, tearing his insides out. I turned away.
“Check it out,” he put the phone in my face. They were tearing the man’s heart out. “The world’s crazy,” the man said.
The agent arrived and showed us the unit. It was decent, but I couldn’t get the image of the disemboweled man out of my head.
After driving around for another two hours looking for To Rent signs, calling those numbers, getting frustrated, we headed back to the westside. My uneasiness lifted.
One of the guys had arranged to see two 4-bedroom apartments. I hadn’t been keen on the idea, sort of sounded like a frat party, but after seeing the first, I had a change of heart. The place was great. And a steal at $4400. It was definitely the sexiest of the locations, in a great area, right off Santa Monica and Bundy near Santa Monica. A new building. Washer and dryer in unit. One of the guys thought his current roommate might be able to join us as the 4th.
The agent was a friendly woman, and she knew two friends of mine. “We’ll need a $1000 holding deposit,” she said. We told her that wouldn’t be a problem and left. This was great, I thought. The day had been worth it.
We saw one other location; one bedroom had to be passed through to enter the common areas. None of us liked the idea of a freeway intersecting our privacy and decided then the previous location was the one for us. The parking may be a problem, as I knew that area to be congested with few available spots, but the trade-off was more than worth it.
Yesterday, I called the agent to arrange a time to give her my deposit. I’d need to come after work and as a result didn’t have my checkbook. “Can I give you cash?” I asked.
“Uh, sure,” she said.
“You’ll give me a receipt?”
“Hmmm,” she said. “I don’t have anything. I can write on a piece of paper that you gave me the money. You can take a picture if you want.”
This struck an alarm bell, but I let it go. She was reputable; our mutual friends had lived in the same building and worked with her.
I drove over after work, my wallet bulging like a blimp. I found a parking spot two blocks away and jogged to the building.
The newly-committed fourth roommate met me there and we dialed her number on the entry panel. She buzzed us in. This was it, I thought. Finally, I could get my stuff out of that storage unit I’d rented for the last year. The end to one of my biggest stresses. L.A. has become such a grind. But things were looking up.
We knocked on the door. She answered, holding a baby. The baby looked to be around two, with a trickle of snot crusted at her nose. A toddler boy stood beside her.
I made small talk with the boy, his name Alexander, while she showed us inside her place. Toys lay strewn like matchsticks.
The fourth roommate appeared nervous, digging his hands into his jeans pockets, shuffling his worn Converse. “Uh,” he said. “I was wondering if we might negotiate the rent. Given the parking situation, would you be willing to come down to $4200 …”
She didn’t speak. He dug his hands further into his jeans. “From the $4400.”
“4400?” She said, shifting the baby to her other arm. “The rent is $5295.”
I’m not sure how much time passed, but it felt like days, a stoned silence fell upon the room, the baby the only one of us moving. “5295?” I managed to say.
She pulled up the Zillow page that, indeed, advertised it as such.
After peeling ourselves out of the conversation (“this is weird,” “good to meet you,” “thanks, anyway”), we left the building, and I drove home, stunned. The guy who’d found the original posting, off Craigslist, sent us the screenshots. Sure enough, they’d listed it at $4400. But when we tried to see it again, it had been deleted from the site.
We texted the agent. Oh my gosh! She wrote back. I can’t believe that. I’m so sorry. But, she said, the management company would not honor the $4400 price.
So, oh well. Back to the drawing board. One week to find a place to live. The stress, still there.