Westside Rentals gets an F, what’s the best way to find a place to live in this city?

West LA Online reports that the rental company that everyone loves to hate, Westside Rentals rates a big ol’ F at the Better Business Bureau.

West LA Online seems a bit shocked that anyone is unhappy with Westside Rentals, but I’m unsurprised to say the least. I don’t know anyone who has had a good experience with Westside Rentals. It’s also beyond silly in my eyes that a company can lock you into paying $60 just to browse a poorly designed website with meager search functions when craigslist offers a more specific product that works better AND IS FREE. Not to mention that cross-posting on both Westside Rentals and craigslist is quite common these days. Of course, there is also The Rental Girl, who although I haven’t used, I’ve exchanged a few emails with and seems to be the jam.

Especially after moving as much as I have in the last few years and finally moving again over the holiday, it all just reminds me of how miserable driving around and trolling the internet to find a new place to live is. It’s horrible, draining and, in more cases than not, one of the great frustrations in life. I understand why someone might want to drop $60 to alleviate the frustration but the BBB’s rating seems to indicate that maybe it’ll just make your frustration worse. I found a beautiful place in Atwater Village just by driving some side streets and calling “For Rent” signs. What have readers found is the best way to find new housing? Is Westside Rentals the way to go and I’m just living in an anti-Westside Rentals bubble or is craigslist really as far ahead as I think?

15 Replies to “Westside Rentals gets an F, what’s the best way to find a place to live in this city?”

  1. I have some friends who swear by WSR and claim that prices for the same apartments are higher on Craigslist. I’ve never comparison shopped (I found my apartment by wandering the neighborhood where I wanted to live looking for For Rent signs) but I’m curious if anyone can back this up or disprove it.

  2. When my wife and I were looking for apartments last year, CL was pretty sucky. What we found on CL was generally way expensive if there was even anything where we were looking (we were aiming for as close to Santa Monica as we could afford).

    WSR’s site inside the membership barrier was actually pretty good. You could get a map showing the locations of the places that you were looking for, put notes on places on the site, etc. Most of the problems with listings were the fault of landlords, not of WSR (e.g., people who typed in an address incorrectly, or left out a 0 on their rent or listed a roommate situation as a 2BR apt. etc.)

    I wrote up the experience last year (it was my first blog post on L.A. Stories): http://la-stories.blogspot.com/2006/02/is-westside-rentals-worth-it-maybe.html We didn’t find out apartment from WSR, but we wouldn’t have found the neighborhood without it.

    Looking at the actual BBB listing, what it showed was a lot of people complaining about the service and getting their money refunded. Given that nearly every complaint resulted in a refund, I’m not sure how that qualifies as an F.

  3. Could this be more timely for me as I sit here negotiating with a real estate broker about the changing of a toilet.

    I am cruising craigslist for a new apt. and get bored and check here at metro blogging.
    My building got sold so I know I am gonna get the boot out of my rent control pad, wont tell you how much I pay because you’d get sick w/envy.

    Anyway seems like the looking for rent signs is the way to go,friends recs, rental girl then in desperation pitching a tent in griffith park.

    mmm venting I feel better thanks

  4. When I first moved to LA, everyone told me to sign up for WSR….what a waste of $$. I did much better driving around certain neighborhoods and looking at the vacancy signs. Ultimately, I ended up renting this way and for less money than anything I could find on WSR. The trickiest part of all was finding a place that accepted dogs.

    Most recently, about a year ago, I was looking for places and had a lot of luck on Craigslist. I found about 4 good places within a few days, in my price range and that accepted dogs. Granted, a few of these were roommate situations and not my own place, but the people I met seemed pretty cool.

    In addition to this, I found a very good roommate on Craigslist a few years ago.

    That all said, I’ve a very big advocate of CL.

  5. I found that using a combination of craigslist and borrowed Westside Rentals membership from a friend (there’s always some friend who has one, it’s uncanny) really helps. But actually, in the end, I found my newish swanky pad by checking on craigslist every 15 minutes. I’m too lazy to troll desired neighborhoods.

  6. WSR does totally blow, but I actually found my current apartment through them and it worked out well. Don’t get me wrong; it was a total coincidence that it went well and completely unrelated to anything Westside Rentals did. :)

  7. We got kicked out of our rent-controlled apartment after 10 years a few months ago, and did a combo of WSR and Craigslist. CL was OK, but because there are so many people trolling it, every place we went was swamped by the time we got there, and a lot of people who posted email addresses or phone numbers never bothered to call back–just too many people.

    On Westside Rentals we found a really good pad, and were the first ones to look at it. Granted, a LOT of landlords seem to post on both, but our WSR experience was actually good, and then we were able to give the password to a friend.

    I know a couple of other people who found great places through them, too; really, except for random people typing WESTSSIIDE RENTALLS IS RIPOFF all over Craigslist and the “common wisdom” that it sucks, people I know have all done pretty well with it.

  8. Moved in November.

    Used both CL and WSR.

    Have friends who swear by one or the other. I hated WSR (that site needs a serious update) but I have two friends who have found AMAZING places using them.

    And HousingMaps is DEFINATELY a great tool.

    Bottom line: pounding the pavement and checking “for rent” signs in windows usually works best. It sucks, but it’s more productive than internet searches.

  9. Rentometer (www.rentometer.com) is kind of useful too, by the way–type in the rent people are asking for and the address, and it shows how it correlates to the rest of the neighborhood.

  10. I tried rentometer on my apartment, and its data for comparisons seems really sparse. It didn’t seem to have ANY 2-bedroom apartments in the area (we actually were on our way to some place up the street), so it seems to be comparing our rent on a 2BR in a 15 unit building to rents on 3BRs in duplexes and finding that we’re getting a much better deal than we are. I can see rentometer making the reverse mistake as well, so if you use it, it’s important to actually look at the listings it’s using for comparisons.

  11. I know some landlords who prefer to use WSR because it filters out calls from people who are less serious about renting, and who tend to flake out after scheduling appointments. Of course, for them placing a listing is free.

    I haven’t used WSR in close to ten years, but even I thought it was a sham. The only reason I got it was because they essentially “spammed” classified ads with their listings, which they’d only post the best of, and would, of course, be filled by the time I signed up and picked up the listings. A clever business plan, but by no means in the consumer’s interest.

  12. Another great tool to use is http://www.rentslicer.com – specifically targeted for the LA area based on craigslist data. It breaks up rental prices by neighborhoods (Palms, Silver Lake, Redondo Beach, etc), size of apartment, etc. Plus it displays pretty graphs. The bad part: it uses craigslist data.

  13. Rentslicer generates a lot of junk stats. It mixes apartment sizes in comparing neighborhoods which creates inaccurate pictures of what rents are in different areas.

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