Finding the right apartment or house to rent can be difficult and stressful. You may be competing with many others for a quality unit in a prime location.

The secret, say realtors, is to plan ahead. Tenants often wait until the last minute to look for another apartment. However, when tenants are in a hurry, they tend to take apartments they don’t really want.

Here are some tips for finding the best rental houses and apartments in your area.

1. Start your search 60 days before your move

The best rentals, in terms of price, location and amenities, go out at the beginning of the month, so don’t wait until the middle of the month to look for a new place to live, Macon says. It’s best to start looking 60 days before you need to move, especially if you’re looking for a rental property where not as much is available.

The second and third weekend of the month are usually the busiest. If you start your search on the first weekend of the month, there will be less competition and the best properties will still be available.

2. Search for rental listings online

About 90% of renters will start searching for apartments on the web. Searching online is a good way to start your search. You can get an idea of ​​the prices and the amenities of the apartment. However, if you’re moving to a new city, apartment rental sites won’t give you enough information about each neighborhood’s neighborhoods and local amenities, like public transportation or grocery stores.

3. Use a real estate broker

In most cases, real estate brokers are available to help renters find properties for free. The key is to find a broker who specializes in rental properties, not home sales.

If you’re looking in areas where there’s usually strong competition for apartments, you’ll want to talk to several real estate agents before committing to one because different agents have different relationships with different buildings. Be sure to speak with an agent who has access to the apartment buildings in the neighborhoods where you want to rent.

4. Don’t be fooled by scams

Beware of online scams, particularly ads on Craigslist that require you to provide your credit card to pay a deposit fee to be shown the apartment. No one should require a deposit to show you an apartment.

Also, be careful if you are renting an apartment directly from a private person because you will give a complete stranger your Social Security number and bank account information, and they will likely run a credit check on you. It is safest to work with a licensed and certified real estate broker.

5. Consider roommates

If you are considering sharing an apartment, make sure you know who your roommates will be and consider asking your landlord for separate leases. If you have a joint lease and your rent is $2,000 a month, you’re responsible for the full amount if your roommates don’t pay their share, Macon says. But if you have a separate lease, you are only responsible for your share of the rent.

Don’t be afraid to ask for references if you don’t know your roommates. You can also use social networks (LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook) to find out more about them.

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