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House-Hunting Trials

January 26, 1986

From the Los Angeles Sunday Times, Nov. 21, 1886.

Houses for rent, which have been by no means plentiful during the past six months, have now become almost as scarce as the mythical hen's teeth. It may be stated as an incontrovertible fact that there is not a single house for rent today, at a moderate price, in a desirable locality, and within, say, a mile of the Temple block. . . .

The unfortunate paterfamilias, just arrived here from a distance, with a fair-sized family on his hands, and no shelter secured for them, is most sincerely to be pitied. All unconscious of what trouble is in store for him, he starts out from his lodging house, shortly after his arrival, full of energy, for a tour around the real estate offices. After a long search, he may, if he is in luck, find one or two houses which he thinks might suit him, although the rents asked make him open his eyes. He has been assured, by the loquacious dealers in semitropical reality, that the most distant of these houses is not more than five minutes' walk from the post-office. After riding for about fifteen minutes in a car toward the nearest on his list, the stranger begins to realize that, either the citizens of Los Angeles must be phenomenal walkers or the real estate agents prodigious liars. Arrived at the house and after an examination, he is informed in an incidental manner that in order to be allowed the privilege of paying $25 a month for a four-roomed cottage, on an ungraded street, two miles from the business center, he must first fork over the trifle of $500 for the "furniture" in this "desirable villa residence." . . . After three of four days' experience of this sort the stranger within our gates perhaps stumbles upon a house where they do not ask more than 10 per cent of its value as monthly rental, and where, marvelous to relate, there is no furniture for sale. "Eureka!" cries the weary man, and he hunts up the landlord and is about to pay over a month's rent, when the more or less bloated property owner inquires:

"By the way, you haven't, of course, any children?"

"Why, yes: a few," replies the astonished man. "That is, I had five when I left home this morning."

"Oh, well! Really, I couldn't think of renting my house to a family with children. You must excuse me." . . .

Driven to despair our friend has no course open than to take a house where the smallest amount of blood money, in the shape of payment for furniture, is asked. Having paid his heavy entrance fee and rent, he will receive a visit from three or four real estate agents, who have had the property for rent, and one or more of whom he has inquired about it. These expect a fee for having helped our friend to find to rarely advantageous a chance of getting a roof and four walls to keep off the keener edge of this glorious climate. The next experience is to discover that most of the furniture is cracked, while the pots and pans are only rivaled by the roof in their power of leaking. He is in great luck if the landlord doesn't inform him, at the end of a month, that he will have to increase the rent. . . . Ten to one, if the man has nothing to tie him down to Los Angeles, he will make up his mind to move to San Francisco, or some other place, where dwellings are more easily obtainable. . . .

The above supposititious case contains a great deal more truth than fiction, as the writer happens to know from his own experience. . . . It is about time that some of our large land owners should pause for a moment in their speculations and chip in enough of their surplus capital to build a few hundred houses for rent. By doing this they will not only secure good interest on their money but will also enhance the value of their property by keeping many people here, who will otherwise be compelled to seek homes elsewhere.

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