In Refinery29's Sweet Digs, we take a look inside the sometimes small, sometimes spacious homes of millennial women. In today's episode, 27-year-old Jessica James shows off her Burbank studio apartment which she shares with her fiancé.
When Jessica James decided to make the jump from renting to owning, she knew she would need some help. Luckily, a friend offered to be her real estate agent, and was forwarding studios and apartments within her price range automatically — which is how James found her studio apartment in Burbank, 12 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, for $259,000 (£196,000).
"I was actually at a pool party, and I got a notification in my email," James says. "Within two hours, both of us were over there looking at the place, and I put in an offer that day. It was on the market at that point for five hours, and I had already written my offer and they accepted it in two days."
Yet even with all the help, nothing could prepare her for the sheer amount of paperwork needed to close the deal. "I didn’t realise that everything had to be inspected, that at every stage of the process someone would have to get my signature or my fingerprint," James says. "Plus, everyone has to get paid. When you talk about closing costs and inspection costs and putting down such a large down payment, I pretty much put my life savings into it. I inherited some money from my grandparents and I saved money since I was in high school, and every dime I had went into the place."
She had to save additional money for renovations — including replacing the flooring — knowing that the space she got wasn't exactly what she wanted. Watch the video above to see how she changed up her space, and how she shares it with her fiancé.
Can you talk a little bit about the price of the apartment?
"It was $259,000 (£196,000), which I thought was astronomical at the time, especially for 460 square feet, but I actually just looked yesterday to get a feel of what it's marketed at right now, and the same type of studio sold exactly two weeks for $375,000 (£285,000). So it's gone up a lot in three years for such a small space."
Did you have to change anything moving into such a small space?
"When I moved in, I lived in a loft, I had two walk-in closets, a beautiful spiral staircase up to my bedroom. So I had a lot of space. When I moved a mile over to Burbank, I had to downsize all my belongings. It was a struggle. It took me a lot of editing over and over and seeing what really I needed living in that space. On top of that, a year after I moved in, my fiancé moved in — and he works from home a lot."
How did that process go?
"That was another editing for himself and myself again. Going from two walk-in closets to sharing one closet with somebody else. I wouldn't call myself a minimalist, but really I have to really love everything in my space. If I don't love it, it has to go. It can't fit."
Did you have to edit your furniture in any way?
"We had a couch at one point, a tiny apartment couch I brought from my loft. It took us about a year to realise that no one sat on that couch, because you're either in our bed area or you're sitting at the dining table. So we swapped out the couch for a credenza, because storage is extremely important and it just made more sense."
What is your secret to trying to stay organised in such a small space?
"I focus on areas one at a time. I think trying to stay organised in a space as small as mine can be really daunting. So one day, I might decide, Okay the closet's kind of getting crazy, it's time to reorganise that one area. Or you know, I'm collecting too many books. I don't focus on the entirety of the apartment all the time.
But especially with two people moving in and out all the time, it's never going to be perfect. It's never going to be 100% clean and magazine-ready, but staying on top of those tiny areas one at a time, it becomes manageable."
What do you want in your next dream apartment?
"A door. We just want one door. Ideally we'd want at least two bedrooms, but I think we have to start with our dreams small. After our wedding next year, we really want to find something with more space. But as the market keeps shooting up in prices, we've kind of come to the realisation that we're probably going to have to move out of our neighbourhood and move a little more inland. We just have to make sacrifices, I guess."
Do you have any advice you'll keep in mind for next time?
"With all the closing costs, I would definitely have a couple extra thousand dollars on hand, that's for sure."