Relocation Guide: LOS ANGELES
Approach relocation one step at a time.
Step 1: Establish Credit
Get a credit card. And use it. AND PAY OFF YOUR BALANCE, IN FULL, EVERY MONTH. Your goal is to establish good history, not debt. Landlords run a credit check on all potential tenants and often refuse to rent to those with bad or no credit. If you are a first time card holder, I recommend a Visa or MasterCard student card, which offers lower interest rates and often no annual fee; some universities also offer similar cards to alumni. I also recommend gas cards and department store cards, which offer lower credit limits, therefore preventing massive debt. For major credit cards, I recommended the Discover it Credit Card and the Blue Card or Green Card from American Express.
Credit cards also provide available funds in the case of an emergency. If you are blessed enough to have a family member or friend who is able to loan you money should your car break down, I recommend keeping a low credit limit on your card to prevent debt. However, if you do not have a “back up” plan, you will need at least $1000-$2000 of available credit to cover unexpected expenses such as a last-minute plane ticket to visit a sick relative, etc.
Step 2: Save Money
Or find someone to borrow money from. At the very least you will need enough cash to afford your first month’s rent, plus a deposit – a minimum of $1500-$2000 total. I moved to LA with very little cash; I borrowed the money for my deposit from my beloved grandmother, charged my groceries and gas, and slept on a borrowed mattress on the floor until I could afford a bed. I was hired as a production assistant just four days after relocating, but it took me over four weeks to receive my first paycheck. Your payroll paperwork will be submitted on your first day, but it may take weeks for the accounting department to process it and cut you a check. Be prepared for a two to six week delay.
Step 3: Find A Place To Live And Someone To Pay Half The Rent
Expect to pay at a MINIMUM $700 per month, per person for rent and utilities.
Popular roommate and apartment finders include Craigslist, Rommmates.com, and Westside Rentals. Please note: there is a fee to sign up for Westside Rentals, but I highly recommend it.
There is no way to ensure yourself a short commute because studios are located all over town. You can pick a more or less central location like Hollywood but the fact is, some jobs are always going to seem geographically undesirable. Palms, for instance, is an affordable neighborhood near Venice and Santa Monica, and convenient unless you work at Universal. Marina Del Rey is paradise, unless you work at Warner Brothers. You will inevitably be forced to commute. Live in a neighborhood you love, and download audio books from iTunes, or use the time in your car to call your beloved grandmother and thank her for the loan.
Below is a list of neighborhoods I recommend:
SAN FERNANDO VALLEY
Marina Del Rey
Beverly Hills Adj
Step 4: Apply For A California Driver’s License
According to the California DMV:
If you are a visitor in California over 18 and have a valid driver license from your home state or country, you may drive in this state without getting a California driver license as long as your home state license remains valid.
If you become a California resident, you must get a California driver license within 10 days. Residency is established by voting in a California election, paying resident tuition, filing for a homeowner’s property tax exemption, or any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents.
Translation: The first time an officer pulls you over, you can lie and say you just moved here 9 days ago, at which time the officer will file a report with the DMV listing your license as out-of-state so that the second time you’re pulled over, the officer can nail you for living here without a valid California license.
YOU MUST HAVE CAR INSURANCE TO DRIVE IN CALIFORNIA. Once you apply for a California license, you will need to register your car with the state as well as purchase California car insurance, which will likely cost more (a lot more) than your previous plan, depending on your driving record and the kind of car you own.
Step 5: Outfit Your Cell Phone
Recent California laws prohibit drivers from holding cell phones while driving. A hands-free device is a necessity. Please note: Holding your phone in your hand while speaking via speakerphone does not qualify as hands free. You cannot hold your phone in your hand. Period. If you do, you will get a ticket.
It is also illegal to text while driving, as it requires you to hold your phone in your hand.
And it’s suicidal.
Step 6: Purchase a GPS Navigator
Navigating LA can be overwhelming and will be a major part of your job as an assistant. I recommend purchasing a GPS navigator. The cheaper alternative is to purchase a Thomas Guide, available at bookstores and most gas stations throughout Los Angeles.
Thinking of using your cell as your GPS? See Step 5: IT IS ILLEGAL TO HOLD YOUR CELL PHONE IN YOUR HAND WHILE DRIVING.
Step 7: Purchase Roadside Assistance Coverage
Many new cars provide roadside assistance coverage. If yours does not, I recommend joining AAA, which provides roadside assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and covers you in any car you are in.
Step 9: Stock Your Trunk
With a sweater, an umbrella and if you’re a PA, rain boots.
You’re ignoring my advice about the rain boots, but wait until the first time you deliver scripts in the rain, when you’re literally in water up to your ankles. When it rains in Southern California, it pours.
For more Insider Tips and Advice, visit LA4beginners.com.
If you have online resources such as roommate finders or apartment listings to recommend or additional advice to contribute, please email: