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gone (apartment) hunting finding the perfect pad by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2 3 4
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Neighborhood bulletin boards | Coffeeshops, bookstores, record stores and the like often have handy bulletin boards where people can post their ads; you'll often find "apartment for rent" signs pinned up amidst the car-for-sale and massage-therapy ads.

Ride-through/walk-through | If you're dead-set on a living in a specific neighborhood, take a morning to canvas the area. Grab a notebook and a pen, and go on bicycle/foot so you don't have to worry about holding up traffic. Head up and down each and every street of the area in which you're interested as you hunt down "for rent" signs.

Word of mouth| Let everyone you know that you're on the hunt for new digs. You never know who might have a lead on a great place that's about to be vacated.

viewing apartments
When you see an ad that looks promising, don't dawdle: pick up the phone and set up a viewing as soon as possible. In a competitive housing market, apartments go fast. Trust me, there's nothing more disheartening than spending a whole day circling newspaper rental ads, only to find that when you start making calls a day or two later, all the apartments have already been snatched up by folks way more on-the-ball than you. My boy still occasionally moans about the fabulous river-view apartment we missed out on when we were living in Australia. We let the three little Malaysian girls who were at the university housing office at the same time as us use the phone first -- which is how they were able to lay claim to the apartment that the boy continues to feel rightfully belonged to us.

The apartment viewing is an interview of sorts -- both for you and for your prospective landlord. Show up on time, and make an effort not to look like too much a slob/freak/miscreant. At the same time, bring a notebook and paper along and take the opportunity to ask the landlord whatever questions you might have. A few things you might want to throw out there: How long is the lease for? Is there the option to renew? Are there any additional housing-associated fees besides the rent that you should know about? (This is especially true if you're moving to another city/country, as I recently discovered when I learned that in addition to the monthly heap I'd have to pay to my landlord in Edinburgh, I'd also be shelling an additional couple hundred per month to cover city taxes.) Are utilities included, and if so, which ones (water, gas, electric)? Does the apartment building have laundry facilities? What's the parking situation? the apartment hunter's essentials
Don't head out sans these...
-- a notebook and pen
-- a good map
-- a checkbook (so you can make the deposit if you decide for certain you want the place)
-- enough money in your bank account to cover a deposit and first month's rent
-- credit report (check out ehow.com's guide on how to do this)
-- names of references (if you've never rented an apartment before, get character references and a pay stub/tax return/something that proves you have money coming in)

mosey on folks...

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