perfect rentalFinding the perfect rental these days takes more than just a Google search or a quick peruse in the paper to find a new home that will fit your needs.

Discovering that magic listing with all the features you want in a new abode may require some patience and pre-planning, but it’s entirely worth it in the end.

These tips make the task less painful–and even simple–and they could mean you’ll be picking out curtains for your new home in no time.

Know Your Price Range

Regardless of whether you are moving in as a family, with a roommate, or alone, feasible pricing is one area that is hard to make a concession on. Remember that you don’t want to find yourself in a stressful situation down the road. Don’t waste your time by looking at listings you will not be able to afford; be realistic while you begin your search, and crunch the numbers to see what you really manage from month to month.

Take into consideration important factors like utilities and the cost of living in the areas that you are looking. If you have a particular home or apartment in mind, some power companies will tell you the average utility bill in the summer and the winter for a specific address. Finding out this information can be incredibly useful to understanding how financially possible it will be to live at a particular rental. You can save yourself a lot of time and frustration by knowing what you can afford from the get go.

Pro Tip: Most housing guides advice that a renter can spend 30% of the take home pay on housing, including the housing costs mentioned above. Check out this rent calculator to see how much you can afford.

Focus on Location

There is a reason they say “location, location, location!” Where a listing is located should play a pivotal role in your rental selection. Don’t just focus on the obvious aspects to location, make sure to factor in the little details.

To start, make a list of your ideal areas and note specific benefits of potential rentals in your radius.

  • Do you desire an area with a great school district, walkability to local hot spots, a short commute to work?
  • Is one listing closer to your work than the rest, but another is next to your favorite coffee shop and has a bike path to the dog park?

This is where your list comes in; be sure to think about what aspects you can compromise on, and what qualities are vital. Mentally prioritizing your list is key. Chances are, you will not get everything on your list, but prioritizing will help you get the most important features to meet your needs.

Do Your Research

Learn as much as you can about a place before signing on the dotted line so there are no unpleasant surprises in the future. If you have found a suitable contender during your search, do research on both the listing and the surrounding area before committing.

Be sure to visit the neighborhood at various times during the day and note any differences–this can be especially important if you completed your original walk-through during work hours on a weekday. A home that seemed serene during the open-house, can be deceiving if the noisy neighbors were not yet home from work.

Don’t forget to review the lease agreement itself before signing, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be certain you understand what utilities you would be responsible for, and even ask how they are calculated. Some apartments calculate utilities based on a shared water bill, which is important to note if you’re looking to save money by taking shorter showers.

Other items to check on in the lease agreement: overnight guest policy, decorating policies, parking, and tenant maintenance responsibilities. If your landlord is overly strict with these policies, you might be better off finding a new property. No matter how inexpensive the rent is, an overbearing landlord can be miserable down the road.

Be Professional

Part of finding the perfect rental is looking the part of the perfect tenant, and coming prepared. If you are attending an open house or have scheduled a walk-through, treat it like an interview and put your best foot forward.

Set yourself up for success by dressing appropriately, speaking professionally. While you don’t have to come dressed in a suit and tie, remember that the chances are, if you are in love with a listing, someone else is too. Stand out from the crowd by taking a moment to chat with the landlord, and ask any questions you may have; this makes it known that you are serious in your interest and not just casually passing through for the open house’s free lemonade.

If you really want to make an impression your future landlord, consider putting together a Rental Resume.

Get to Know the Landlord

Ideally you will have a few moments to speak with the landlord before closing the deal, and if so, utilize those conversations to their fullest. Not only do walk-throughs and open houses provide the opportunity for landlords to meet and begin to vet prospective tenants, but they allow you the opportunity to conduct a mental interview of sorts. In every interaction with the landlord, ask yourself if you are ready and willing to work with this person for potential years to come.

Asking the landlord questions about how they respond to emergency repairs, or their plans for upkeep can shed light on their future dealings with you should you become a resident. Gage how you feel about their responses, and evaluate their overall friendliness and personality. After all, you two do not have to become best friends, but you will be in contact long-term.

In the end, finding the ideal rental might require a little legwork, some compromises and a bit of luck, but there are few better feelings than the sigh of relief that comes when you have moved into the perfect one. With these five tips, you are well on your way to finding the prime listing for your needs.