Finding your perfect apartment may feel like a full time job. You want to be happy with your apartment’s cost, amenities, location and, if you are sharing it, whoever lives with you. This article is the first in a three-part series of apartment hunting. Look for Part 2 on Wednesday, and Part 3 on Friday!

The Secrets to Finding the Perfect Apartment

Prioritize Your Needs

Finding the perfect apartment is a daunting task, and so the easiest way to start your search is by prioritizing your needs. Would you sacrifice the size of your bedroom if you’re saving more of your paycheck? Is it more important to have an ideal location or your own bathroom? Will you be happier living with your best friend, significant other or coworker?

Write a list ranking the qualities your perfect apartment ”needs to have” vs what’s “nice to have.” Here are some things to consider weighing:

1. Is rent 30 percent or more of your monthly paycheck?
2. How close the location is to the bus stop for work, grocery store, yoga studio, dive bar, etc.
3. Who the roommate is or would be.
4. Will you have a separate bathroom?
5. If one friend lives within 10 minutes walking distance.

Activate Your Networks

Inform your friends, family and coworkers you are looking for an apartment. There’s a surprising amount of apartment turnover in most cities, so you never know who is moving out or looking for a sub-leaser. LocalLEVOs have even connected women in search of roommates. No luck? Time to turn to the power of the Internet.

Initiate the Hunt

Padmapper simplifies apartment hunting by showing available apartments within your criteria like rent range and number of bedrooms or bathrooms. To see if the neighborhood is right for you, check out Walk Score to learn about neighborhood perks like a 24-hour café, wash-and-fold cleaners or dog park.

Identify the Apartment

Compile a list of potential perfect apartments. Contact the landlord, owner or renter to schedule a time to see the apartment. You don’t want to read about your potential apartment’s spacious, sunny bedroom and realize it’s the size of your current closet. If you are unable to find an apartment and are in need of a quick fix, CouchSurfing.org and Airbnb are excellent short-term alternatives.

Close the Deal

Apartment hunting is competitive, and when you find “the one,” you want to close the deal ASAP so it is yours. You should be prepared with all the proper documents for the landlord when you first visit the apartment, like proof of employment, salary and maybe even your latest credit report. (If you are applying for an apartment with a roommate, make sure they come prepared, too.) Make a follow-up appointment with the landlord to complete any additional paperwork. You want those apartment keys in your hand the sooner, the better!

How did you find your first apartment? Tell us in the comments section.

Photo Courtesy of Dia de Brilho