Renting vs. Buying: Los Angeles Is Leaning Toward Luxury Apartments

With property prices, transportation, flexibility and drought becoming more pressing concerns, L.A. residents are finding relief in rentals.

Photo courtesy of Century West Partners This rooftop conversation area with a viewing screen and fireplace at downtown L.A.'s new Avant apartment complex is an example of the luxurious community spaces that entice residents away from the suburbs.

When you think of a home in Los Angeles, you might envision a sprawling mansion in Beverly Hills, or, on a more modest level, perhaps a quaint, Spanish-style bungalow in the Hollywood Hills. Few people envision a modern, multi-level urban apartment or condo. Yet, as property prices rise, transportation becomes more problematic and flexibility starts ranking higher on people’s priority lists, multi-family buildings nearer business centers are gaining in popularity. L.A. residents are increasingly inclined to say goodbye to their parched front lawns and property taxes, and hello to all-inclusive rental fees and hassle-free Wi-Fi. 

It’s not just the young tech workers who prefer not to bother with car ownership or lengthy commutes to work. Long time mansion dwellers like Mary Hart, Paula Abdul, Cheryl Cole, Elizabeth Berkley, Candy Spelling and Nobu Matsuhisa have all recently moved to multi-family dwellings in Los Angeles. And, of course, there are the numerous Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers and Kings who want a place to lay their heads with easy access to LAX, the Staples Center or Dodger Stadium.

Randi Fifield, Vice Chair of the Fifield Companies

Photo courtesy of Century West Partners Randy Fifield, Vice Chair of the Fifield Companies, oversees design, marketing & execution of Fifield apartment projects in Chicago and for Century West Partners in Los Angeles. 

Randy Fifield, vice chair of the Fifield Companies, oversees design, marketing and execution of apartment projects in Chicago and Los Angeles, and is on top of this trend. The Northwestern grad and mother of five is working on the development of 3,000 apartment units in high density areas, and notes that apartment buildings are a far cry from what they used to be. 

“We’re offering a new choice in these rental submarkets with features of luxury living: nine-foot ceilings, granite countertops, larger floor-to-ceiling windows, plank floors, USB ports, Bluetooth amplifier and speaker systems, in addition to upscale community amenities that allow apartment dwellers to entertain and work in Wi-Fi-enabled indoor and outdoor lounges," she says.

So what makes the L.A. apartment rental market so hot these days, as opposed to a luke-warm housing market? It’s not just the obvious financial reasons, according to Fifield. “People are busy -- a rental building supplies lots of services included in the rent," she says. "Your packages being signed for and dry cleaning delivery as well as a front door attendant help ease a cramped schedule. Many renters travel and like the lock-and-leave mentality." And in Los Angeles especially, "Apartment homes can offer a peaceful stay for executives or celebrities working on location.”

Then there are the advantages of being able to walk or bike to work, and not have to worry about maintaining a yard. With the drought at its peak in L.A. and no relief in sight, property maintenance is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive. 

Fifield notes that many of the newer complexes, like K2LA in Koreatown, Avant South Park Apartments in Downtown L.A. and Gibson in Santa Monica, are located near transportation hubs and vibrant neighborhoods with shopping and entertainment within walking distance. As the Los Angeles area becomes more clogged with traffic than ever, and with alternate transportation services like Lyft and Uber available, car ownership can become more of a hindrance than a help.

But not all apartments are created equal. Through research and experience, Fifield has discerned that there are certain aspects of apartment life that will send potential tenants running back to the suburbs. Among them are low ceilings, carpet (people prefer wood, tile or synthetic flooring to carpets that might have absorbed previous tenants’ dirt), old and used appliances, lack of on-site management and a dearth of amenities like a lap pool, large gym, Wi-Fi lounge, board room and a door attendant.

It appears that a new generation of workers is nudging Los Angeles to become more cosmopolitan in spite of itself and its sprawling suburban reputation.

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