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If you’re moving to Los Angeles anytime soon, you’ll want to do a little research first. Find out some city essentials in this first-time resident guide.

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Los Angeles is many things, but one thing it’s not is unintentional. Moving to Los Angeles is rarely ever done on a whim. There are precise goals in mind, calculated expectations, and many sky-high dreams. If you’re thinking of making the move, you’re not alone. So many hopefuls eventually end up here that the population of Los Angeles County is larger than 43 other states combined. In 2017 alone, it’s estimated that another 100,000 people will pack up and make the move to LA.

Maybe you’re a wishful thinker moving to Los Angeles without a job, or maybe you’re a family looking to get away from the winter. Believe it or not, Los Angeles is a happy home to all walks of life, regardless of job title, age, or marital status. The city of transplants has something for everyone, as long as you’re willing to sacrifice a little along the way.

Guide to Living in Los Angeles

Moving to Los Angeles: Picking a Neighborhood

There are countless moving to Los Angeles guides on the internet. Oftentimes, these articles say the best way to get to know LA is to talk to locals during an extended stay. But, how can you know where to begin your adventure if you never stepped foot in the city? Los Angeles is massive and widely spread apart. This makes an extended touristy visit futile if you’re looking to actually start a life here.

Let us fill in the gaps by leading you to some of our favorite neighborhoods, hot spots, and hidden gems. We’ll even explore housing, transportation, and moving logistics. By the end, we hope you’ll know how to move to Los Angeles like someone who’s already lived here for years.

First, Pick a Neighborhood You Can Settle Down In

Desirable Neighborhoods to Live In Los Angeles

Map data: (c) OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA.

The most daunting aspect of your move will be picking the Los Angeles neighborhood you want to live in. Aside from living close to work and friends, other factors may include proximity to good schools, tree lined streets, and affordability. You’ll want to choose your neighborhood wisely because this single factor will have the most meaningful impact on your daily life.

Los Angeles County is one of the most densely populated areas in the nation. The County covers roughly 4,781 mi² and is home to approximately 9.8M people. To break it down, the County is divided into 16 different regions. Within those regions, there are various cities and neighborhoods, each with distinct offerings. We’ve highlighted eight of the best places to live in Los Angeles that have varying distances from downtown and the coast.

Central LA

Map of Central LA Neighborhoods

Map data: (c) OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA.

This area of Los Angeles is where you have the most true-to-form city living. It encompasses some of the most densely populated neighborhoods which are among the wealthiest and poorest in LA. Don’t expect to buy in this area. Rentals take up 81.4% of the housing market.

1. West Hollywood

The median age of people living in West Hollywood is 39, making it one of the more age-friendly neighborhoods in Central LA. Because of streets like the evolving Sunset Strip, West Hollywood is a highly walkable neighborhood. If you can afford it, it might even make sense to buy in West Hollywood since rent prices have skyrocketed in recent years.

When first visiting, be sure to explore the Sunset Plaza. This area in West Hollywood is a favorite among residents and feels a bit like a time capsule since its looks haven’t changed much over the years.

Population: 35,716
Median Income: $52,855
Price for Single Family Home: $1,199,000 – $2,150,000

2. Silver Lake

Coined as the “Williamsburg” of LA, there’s no shortage of trendy options in Silver Lake.  It’s also highly walkable, being that the neighborhood is located close to the city center. The median age is 35–average for the Central LA region.

Population: 32,890
Median Income: $54,339
Price for Single Family Home: $690,000 – $2,300,000

The San Fernando Valley

Map of The San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles

Map data: (c) OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA.

The Valley, despite some negative connotations, is an affordable place to live by California standards. Whether it’s the crime rate, chain restaurants, or the less desirable temperatures, living in the Valley isn’t for everyone. However, we found two cost effective Valley neighborhoods that might make the change in temperature worth it.

3. Sherman Oaks

Sherman Oaks is where you move when you want to feel like you’re living in a city but also want suburban conveniences. A close proximity to the 101 makes getting downtown manageable (about 20 minutes not during rush hour). The median age is 37, composed mostly of middle-aged professionals. This neighborhood is generally considered safe and family-friendly.

Population: 65,436
Median Income: $69,651
Price for Single Family Home: $790,000+

4. Burbank

If your dream is to witness movie production sets in action, Burbank may be the neighborhood for you. Though film studios are the main attraction, Burbank features a charming 1950’s vibe. The city comes with its own police force, ensuring less crime than other parts of the Valley. Burbank is a prime neighborhood for raising a family with a median age of 36.

Burbank isn’t without its charming local businesses. “There’s a popular Cuban bakery called Portos where the lines are long but worth the wait. Their potato balls and cheese rolls are always fresh and warm,” Grace Chang of Grace Chang Homes reflects. “Another darling little area is called Montrose with shops, restaurants and an authentic Mexican restaurant, La Cabanita.”

Population: 100,316
Median Income: $64,416
Price for Single Family Home: $710,000 – $1,140,000

The Verdugos

Map of the Verdugos Region in Los Angeles

Map data: (c) OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA.

The Verdugos is a small region in Los Angeles County that consists of seven neighborhoods. Two of the larger sections are the cities of Glendale and Pasadena, both of which border the Verdugo mountains and make our list of desirable places to live.

5. Glendale

With over 50 public parks and ample green space, Glendale may be the most picturesque suburb in all Los Angeles County complete with its own distinct downtown area.

This neighborhood has a large Armenian population, making it the perfect neighborhood for authentic Armenian shops and restaurants.  The median age here is 37.

Population: 195,047
Median Income: $57,112
Price for Single Family Home: $435,000 – $1,005,000

6. Pasadena

The phrase “stop and smell the roses” has become synonymous with Pasadena. Each New Year’s day, the Tournament of Roses parade takes place, and let’s not forget about the Rose Bowl. The neighborhood is home to thriving Caltech University, where students flock from around the globe.

If you’re looking to live in a historical section, consider Bungalow Heaven, a small subset of Arts and Crafts houses nestled within the suburb. The median age is 34–young for Verdugos.

Population: 134,941
Median Income: $62,825
Price for Single Family Home: $580,000 – $1,425,000

South Bay

Map of South Bay in Los Angeles County

Map data: (c) OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA.

South Bay is located at the south-western most tip of Los Angeles County. This region includes both upscale and suburban neighborhoods in close proximity to the ocean. Looking for lavish beach life? Look to South Bay. Explore the region and its neighborhoods on the Strand, a path that runs along the coast and is a common spot for cyclists and joggers.

7. Torrance

If you’re moving to California to get closer to the ocean but still want to be near downtown LA, Torrance may be the neighborhood for you. Though the entry price and cost of living is high (well above the national average), the town boasts many historic ocean-view properties built in the early 1900’s.

With a median age of 38, living in Torrance means both heads of households can commute in opposite directions. One might commute into downtown LA and the other could easily commute down to Long Beach.

Torrance is both family oriented and charming. Realtor and community organizer Carol Gilles speaks about the city of Torrance with pride. “Our town is home to the longest-running Armed Forces Day parade in the nation. It’s truly fascinating. Also, our downtown neighborhood has a full season of live theater.  When you see a show, it’s not just a wall and a few characters. We have some of the best set designers.”

Population: 137,933
Median Income: $76,866
Price for Single Family Home: $509,000 – $865,000

8. Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach might be costal living at its best. The median age is 37–about average for South Bay. This neighborhood caters to families and singles with excess capital since there’s nothing currently on the market for less than $2 million. As far as education, the Manhattan Beach Unified School District ranks among the top school districts in Los Angeles County.

This beachfront city does an excellent job of keeping its community calendar full of events that cater to all age ranges, but the true hidden gem in Manhattan Beach is Manhattan Beach itself. According to South Bay writer and realtor, Marlene Silva, real estate prices have increased dramatically in the last 24 months as more and more people discover the area. “People move to Manhattan Beach for the incredible lifestyle, and the freedom to be outdoors any time of the day or night. People are free to be who they want to be here. You don’t have to look a certain way or act a certain way.”

Population: 34,039
Median Income: $136,481
Price for Single Family Home: $2,800,000+

Get Realistic Transportation Expectations

What to Expect with Transportation when Moving to Los Angeles

Living in Los Angeles isn’t without its sacrifices. Rush hour can be enough to scare people away from moving here, but is it as bad as everyone says? According to an INRIX data study, Los Angeles was ranked the #1 city for worst traffic across 38 different countries. They estimate that Los Angelenos have spent over 100 hours a year in traffic jams.

Unfortunately, this problem may not clear up anytime soon. Because the city is so spread out and public transportation does not reach all outlying suburbs, owning a car in Los Angeles is a must.

But there’s hope for the future. The Metro public transit system continues to expand into new territories with multiple projects in the works. This progress is in thanks to continued funding through various efforts like reallocating tax money from Measure M.

For now, there are a few ways you can deal with Los Angeles traffic like a seasoned resident.

Transportation Tips:

  • Use Google Maps instead of Apple Maps. This app can more accurately measure traffic in certain areas.
  • The 101, 405, and 10 are highways you should get familiar with, along with the main boulevards that connect varying regions and neighborhoods.
  • Avoid highways at peak traffic times which are generally between 7am-10am and 3pm-7pm. If possible, create a detour by driving through conjoining neighborhoods instead of getting on the thruway.
  • Pick a neighborhood close to friends and within an area you’re comfortable spending most of your time outside of work.
  • Parking signs are unnecessarily complicated in this city. Be sure to read signs more than once to be sure you understand whether parking is allowed. The last thing you want is to add “parking tickets” to your monthly transportation budget.
  • Learn to accept traffic for what it is. Listen to podcasts or “books on tape” so you can use your time stuck in traffic efficiently. Many people multitask while stuck in LA traffic. We don’t recommend this! First and foremost, pay attention to the road.

Find Out What the Current Job Market has to Offer

Job Market in Los Angeles County

Finding jobs in Los Angeles is as easy as knowing the right places to look. Though many people associate LA with Hollywood-related careers, the city is actually the largest manufacturing center in the US. You can find manufacturing jobs in many industries like apparel, automobiles, steel, and electronics.

Los Angeles has also become a mecca for technology related fields. In 2015, there were more than 610,000 workers in the Professional Services and Technology field, with many more positions expecting to be added over the next two years.

Some other major employers in Los Angeles County include Six Flags, UCLA, Warner Bros Studio (no surprise there), American Honda Motor Co, and Cedar Sinai Medical Center.  The  Kroger Co., the County of Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles School district also have numerous employees.

If searching the job listings is getting tiresome, consider using a staffing agency to get you started.

Cost of Living: Are You Going to be Renting or Buying?

Expanded housing expenses can make the cost of living in Los Angeles up to 50% higher than the national average. However, when compared to living in NYC, the cost to live in Los Angeles is still significantly less. This is good news if you plan on relocating from NYC but bad news for the rest of us.

While basic cost of living expenses are easier to predict regardless of neighborhood (groceries, internet, etc), housing is going to be the biggest variance in your budget. Because no matter where you’re searching, it’s a steep climb to get into the Los Angeles real estate market.

Is the Flexibility of Renting for You?

In your search, you’ll notice the housing market varies greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood. Despite the wide variety of home prices, the market may still be too costly and risky for first-time movers. Oftentimes renting is the best and only option.

Buying Might Be Cheaper Long Term

With interest rates being at an all time low and rents starting to skyrocket, it actually could be less expensive to own over the long term. The challenge? Coming up with a down payment.

Just like you might find in NYC, many young people living close to downtown opt to rent despite the increased costs, even with enough money for a down payment. Whether you decide to rent or buy is going to widely depend on both the neighborhood and your financial situation/comfort level.

Sports Fan? LA is the Perfect Place to Take Advantage

Professional Sports Teams in Los Angeles

LA has never been short on professional sports teams like the LA Lakers, LA Clippers, and the LA Dodgers. But now the city is even more rich with the addition of the Rams and Chargers. This news comes after a nearly two-decade stint without a professional football team within the city limits.

Only time will tell how both teams will fare in the city, with mixed reviews citing that neither team has championship potential. As an LA resident, the question becomes, will you stay true to LA roots with the Rams or will you opt for the new coming Chargers?

The Rams might draw on fans from their previous 41-year tenancy in LA, but neither team has been in playoff contention for many years. Maybe the move to Los Angeles will make a difference, which is what football-starved residents are hoping for.

Explore Activities and Events that Appeal to You

Annual Activities and Events in Los Angeles County

Even if you’re not an outdoorsy person, consider taking full advantage of all California has to offer. The unique combination of trails, beaches, and ideal weather make outdoor activities in Los Angeles County arguably better than most places in the country.

  • If sports aren’t your thing, the California Strawberry Festival ranks as one of the leading attractions in the country. This late spring family-fun environment offers an undeniably sweet and interactive experience that includes rides, concerts, food booths, and more.
  • Inspire others or be inspired along with 25,000 athletes at the Los Angeles Marathon. Although this event caters to people from all over the world, there’s nothing that says “this is where I belong” like running a marathon on the city streets where you live.
  • If bringing your family to multiple museums seems expensive and unrealistic, mark your calendars for Museums Free-For All Day. This annual event consists of various Los Angeles museums that open their doors one day for free.
  • Whether you opt to live in South Bay or even if you live further away from the ocean in the Valley, make time to visit the Santa Monica Pier. The Pier has been a landmark for residents and tourists alike for over 100 years.
  • Located in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, Griffith Park is an expansive green space covering over 4,300 acres. There are over a dozen different trails to explore, including one that leads to the iconic Hollywood sign.

Be Savvy: Tips for New Residents

What to Expect When Moving to Los Angeles

When moving to any new city, there are certain things better prepared in advance. If you want to move to Los Angeles, it’s even more important to factor in the relocating unknowns. Keep in mind some of these tips as you start to plan.

  • Factor how much you will need in savings before making the trip. This dollar amount will vary based on your specific move. If you’re going to Los Angeles without a job, add up basic living expenses for three months and be sure to have that and basic moving costs on hand to act as a buffer.
  • Consider how to get your car there. In LA, more often than not you’ll need a car unless you’re living and working in a neighborhood like Silver Lake. Sometimes it makes sense to have your current car shipped or to drive it across the country. Other times it would make more sense to sell your current car and buy or lease a new one in LA.
  • Pick your neighborhood before you get into the city. Narrowing down your choices before packing up and moving means you’ll have a better sense of what your true cost of living will be. This doesn’t mean you have to sign a lease before getting into the city. It just means you should start apartment/house hunting now.
  • Don’t get discouraged if you need two jobs to make ends meet early on. There will be many successful people in Los Angeles that could make you think you are failing. For every successful person you meet, there are numerous more working multiple angles to make a living.

Ready to Make Los Angeles Your New Home?

Moving is stressful no matter what circumstances you find yourself in. If you need help with excess belongings during your relocation, Life Storage offers various self storage options in the Los Angeles area, and we even offer free truck rental. Have we missed an important tip for new residents? Share in the comments below!

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About the Author

Lauren Thomann

Lauren Thomann is a contributing writer covering home, moving and storage topics for the Life Storage blog.

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