The Best Rentals: How to Find the Perfect Apartment

best rentalsWhen Jenny Mickleson of Austin, Tex., went looking for her apartment she had a hard time figuring out which were the best rentals. "It wasn't that I couldn't find a good place, but I just kept thinking the next one might be better," she says. "I had the hardest time saying yes!"

Some people are lucky enough to have Mickleson's problem. In cities such as San Francisco and New York -- where the markets can be a lot less renter-friendly -- a great rental apartment in the right price range can be tough to come by.

But no matter where you live -- or are looking to move -- here are a few great tips to make sure when you sign that lease you are signing for the best rental apartment that your market has to offer.
1. Make a List

Start by writing out everything you want in an apartment. Then, when you go to see each place, check them off the list. It's okay to sacrifice a few of your must-have items, but, like a shopping list at a grocery store, it will help to keep you focused.

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Apartment Home Living Leasing Tip - Location

2. Find a Realtor You Already Know

Social networking -- as with Facebook and Twitter -- is a great tool to find out who you already know that is working in real estate. Just as good is discovering that your friends have friends who are in the business. If you can find a Realtor who feels a responsibility to you that goes beyond business, you are going to get the best rental deals.

3. Speak to the Previous Tenant

"We broke the lease on a great apartment because poisonous wild mushrooms were growing all over the place," says Katy Rubio in San Francisco. "I would have loved to warn the new tenants."

No matter how perfect a place looks, before you sign anywhere, make sure you know how and why the last tenant gave it up. Ideally, try to contact them directly. If you are unable to do that, ask the landlord straight out. If you get any answer other than, "She got a job overseas," or something similar, get your guard up and make sure there are no mushrooms growing in the coat closet.

4. Find Out If Your Rent Will Skyrocket

Fewer markets offer rent controlled apartments these days. If you are looking at a place that is not protected, make sure you ask other tenants in the building or under the same management about annual rent increases. There is nothing worse than moving into the best rental ever, only to have to move out again one year later.

5. Get It From Your Friends

"My friend was moving out from his place to move in with his girlfriend," says Gina Martin in Queens, N.Y. "He loved his old place so much, I decided to move into it."

The best rental apartments come with great word of mouth. Who better to get it from than a trustworthy friend who lived there?

6. Pound the Pavement

Do more than troll the internet to find the best rental. Of course it's easy to apartment hunt the lazy way, but sometimes getting in your car and driving around (or walking) the neighborhoods in which you'd like to live will yield gems you can't find online. Call while you are sitting outside a "for rent" sign and ask to see it on the spot. Or make an appointment.

7. Take Your Time

"I was going to just take this place because it was fine and I was so sick of apartment hunting," says Chris Greenberg in Brooklyn, N.Y. "But I had one more appointment the next day, so I went –- and I'm so glad I waited. It was perfect!"

Whether you are staying in the same town or moving from another, make sure you give yourself time to get to know your new neighborhood and the rental market. Some will argue you will lose out if you are too slow, but being too quick can be a mistake as well. Trust that no matter how tough the market is, you will find what you want if you are prepared to hunt carefully and deliberately.

8. Meet Your Neighbors

Everyone who goes apartment hunting knows to turn on the hot water, check the water pressure in the shower and find out where the outlets are – but not everyone thinks to knock on a neighbor's door. Maybe you don't want to seem rude, but they are going to come with your apartment, like it or not, and they can give you some valuable insight before you make the commitment.

Jenny Mickleson finally chose an apartment after a grueling six week hunt. "You'd have thought it was my other full time job," she laughs. "But I found a great place and four years later, I never want to leave it."

And isn't that exactly how home should be?

Want to know how to deal with other rental issues? Here are some AOL Real Estateguides that can help:
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