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Finding an apartment to call home can sometimes seem overwhelming. Between finding the right neighborhood, cost considerations, property types and design specificities, there are plenty of factors to go into your search and decision process. To help you begin, here are some steps and tips to follow in your hunt for a new place to call home.

1. Determine the Basics

The first step is determining whether it makes more sense to buy or rent. It’s important to review your finances, current living costs and income to help establish a range in price that you are comfortable dedicating to housing. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to spend no more than one-third of your take-home pay on rent and utilities so you can still afford daily expenses while banking some savings.

Next, think about what you are looking for in an apartment — from number of bedrooms to kitchen capabilities. You want an apartment that accommodates your lifestyle as well as your budget. One of the most important things about this phase is being honest about what you want and what you can afford. This will save you lots of time later in the process and save you headaches when it comes to the paperwork.

2. Do Some Preliminary Work

Once you know what you are in the market for, it’s a good idea to do an online search for your desired location. Looking at what is realistic in your price range ahead of time means you will be more educated when it’s time to negotiate the price. How far you are willing to wiggle on space and location features will become clear in this part of your search. You can also call a few property management companies to find out what they have available. Be aware that most landlords will check your credit and bad credit could limit your options. You can and should check your credit yourself, beforehand. You can see two of your scores and get a personalized credit analysis for free at Credit.com. You can also check your credit reports for free once a year from each of the major credit reporting agencies — here’s how.

3. Do the Legwork

Whether you found what you want online or are just now sure of what you want in a home, it is time to get out there and see some options in person. Choose up to five properties to look at to start.

If you look at too many properties right away, you will likely get exhausted and the spaces will start to blur together. It’s important to take detailed pictures of the building from outside and the interior of each room so you can remember each apartment when looking back to compare your choices. Be aware of the safety and accessibility of the properties you look at. Sometimes viewing an apartment you hate — to see what it lacks — can be just as beneficial as seeing one that you would seriously consider.

Once you have found an apartment that is right for you, consider taking 24 hours to think over your choice. Be sure you will not lose the property in this time, but also know for certain that this should be the right place for you in terms of location, layout, amenities and budget. You will need to fill out the application and pay the application fee next, then wait for approval. Whether you are buying or renting, your home should fill your requirements without breaking your bank. The next step is transforming the apartment to your home — check out how to make the most of micro-living in apartments so you can maximize your new space.

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