Shopping for an apartment or home to rent can be stressful—where to start, what to budget for, and of course, packing and moving! Add these things in with a competitive rental market and renters may find themselves more stressed than necessary. Take a step back, breathe, and follow these tips.

Search Within Your Budget

Sure, obvious enough—but we don’t mean just the rent. There are more to rentals than just rent. There are also utilities, internet, pool/lawn care, travel to work/school, and other necessary amenities to account for. When searching for a place for rent, filter out any options with a rent that is outside of your budget. Be sure your budget for rent accounts for the aforementioned extra costs. Some rentals include partial utilities or amenities and others may not include any at all.

Ideally, to keep your budget on track and in line with financial professional recommendations, housing expenses (rent, utilities, and related) should only account for only 30% of your income—after taxes and any deductions you may have.

Related Article: Tips On Sharing Expenses With A Roommate

Search Online Resources

Driving from apartment or condo complexes to the next can be time consuming—and waste gas—and not generate any feasible rental leads. Before you go driving around to hunt for a place to rent, utilize online resources like Trulia, Zillow, and Apartments.com. These sites gather information from public sources and real estate professionals about local rentals. This will allow you to verify if an area you are interested in has the number of rooms, amenities, and monthly payment you are looking for. These sites also provide direct contact information for the individual you need to speak with about confirming your interest, which is an important time saver in a competitive rental market.

Related Article: How To Avoid Rental Scams

Be Professional

We recommend treating your apartment or rental hunt like you would a job application. In a competitive market, property managers are receiving several requests from interested parties. Stand out by appearing well-dressed and on time when submitting your application or meeting with the property manager to see the rental. Also be sure your application is completed thoroughly and accurately. By coming off as professional and reliable, you’ll make a lasting first impression—and a good one.

You can take it one step further by collecting your rental history and submitting it along with your application, sort of like a resume. While the landlord or property manager may verify the information, it shows you are serious about the rental and more likely to be a responsible and reliable tenant.

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Be Prepared

Many places may also perform a credit check in addition to a rental history and criminal background check. Know what your score is and be prepared to counter with a higher deposit should your score need a little work. By verifying your credit in advance (30 days or more), you can take the time to improve it or have misinformation corrected.

Some rental companies may require tenants to carry renter’s insurance—speak with an independent insurance agent to discuss your rental hunt and possible need for insurance and get a quote for renter’s insurance. That way you can arrive to your meeting with the property manager fully prepared to meet all of their requirements.

You should also be prepared financially. Applicants who are able to make an immediate deposit may be considered over other prospects if the property manager is looking to fill the rental as soon as possible. Also, having your finances in order also shows you are a responsible tenant who will likely also be prepared to continue making the monthly rental payments on time.

Related Article: Why An Independent Insurance Agent Is Best For You

You can find your ideal rental in a competitive market if you are prepared and presentable as a prospective renter. Once you find the perfect rental and are approved, even if it is not required as a condition for your rental, you should shop for renter’s insurance to protect your belongings in the event something happens to your rental—like a fire or water damage or a break in.