Whether you’ve gotten a job in a different city, or your current landlord wants to turn your apartment into condos, or your growing family needs more space, looking for a new place to live can be overwhelming. Especially if you have to move quickly. Check out these 7 tips for finding the right apartment (and making a good impression on a potential landlord).

1. Research early and extensively

Set your budget and begin the search for a new apartment as soon as possible. This will allow you to get an idea of the current market and see what’s available in your desired location. Doing broad research will also help solidify your priorities as well as help you narrow down options as your move date approaches.

2. Expand your search

Online sources may be the most popular way to hunt for a new apartment, but don’t forget the “old-fashioned” ways: bulletin boards and local community resources. Often, locals will post there before hitting up wider online sources. And there’s always the option of just strolling through your prospective neighborhood, keeping your eyes open for a “For Rent” sign in a window.

3. Location, location, location

Spend as much time as you can in and around where you’d like to live. Strike up a conversation with the local barista, bartender, or corner-store owner — often these folks have an inside track on lesser-known options or hidden gems in their neighborhoods. Plus, talking with people will help you figure out if the area is right for you (the community surrounding it is just as important to your quality of life as the apartment itself).

4. Get (really) specific

If you live far away or don’t have the time or resources to check out your prospective neighborhood in person, narrow your search online. Check out neighborhood-specific social networking groups to get a virtual feeling for the community.

5. Put the word out

Though it’s easy to turn immediately to the internet when apartment hunting, remember that word of mouth is also a great resource. Let your friends, family, coworkers, and social media community know you’re in the market for a new place. You never know what connections they may have.

6. Consider a broker

If trying to do it all on your own proves too overwhelming (or you’re headed to a city with a large rental market like San Francisco, New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles), consider hiring a broker to help with your search. It depends on each city, but generally, the broker fees are equivalent to a month’s rent.

7. Be prepared

Once you’ve found a potential place, the next step is either a private viewing or an open house. Think of this initial meeting with the apartment owner or manager/management company as a job interview or a first date: knock them out with a first impression so you’re the one chosen over the other applicants.

How to do that? In addition to looking presentable, being prompt, upbeat, and friendly, there’s nothing more important than being prepared. Before heading into an open house or private viewing, put together a file with all the documents a potential landlord might ask for, such as:

  • photo ID (drivers license or passport)
  • credit report
  • proof of income/employment (W-2, pay stubs, or bank statement)
  • letters of reference from landlords and neighbors

And don’t forget your checkbook — you can stand out from the crowd by being ready to pay any application fees or even the deposit to secure your new spot. Also in your favor: being willing to move in quickly. During high season, for example, move-in dates can be just a few days after securing your new apartment, depending on the month’s timing.

Happy hunting!

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about Hannah

Hannah Fairbanks is a freelance writer living in San Francisco with her husband and 2 daughters. When she’s not writing, you might find her reading, packing bento box lunches for her kids, and making sure she gets in at least 10,000 Fitbit steps a day.