While you may already be gung-ho about the apartment hunting process, there are some important decisions you need to make before you even go on your first tour. After all, moving out of your place and finding another one is a big life moment!

[Your Essential Apartment Hunting Timeline]

The more you plan ahead of time, the easier the relocation process will be. So instead of falling in love with the first apartment you see, answer these questions first. That way, you’ll have all the tools you need to narrow your search on Rent.com and find the apartment of your dreams.

1. What is Your Budget?

First things first: You can’t start apartment hunting until you know your budget! Conventional wisdom says you can spend up to 30 percent of your net monthly income on rent, but there are other things to consider—utilities, after all, don’t come cheap.

[Establishing Your Apartment Budget]

Use this number to represent the high end of your budget, the absolute maximum amount you can spend on rent. Then, as you search, aim lower. Remember: You may have to pony up the first and last months’ rent, as well as a security deposit, when you sign your lease.

2. Where Do You Want to Live?

You likely already know which city you want to live in, but have you given the neighborhoods some serious thought? Every neighborhood has a distinct character, and there’s one out there that’s perfect for you.

Before you start searching for apartments, narrow down your list of ideal neighborhoods to two or three. Then, stick to the list! There’s no sense wasting time looking at apartments in areas where you don’t want to live.

3. Should You Have a Roommate (or Two or Three)?

If one of your top neighborhoods is on the pricey side, you may want to entertain the idea of having a few roommates so you can stay within your budget. It’s important to make the decision of whether or not to have a roommate early on the apartment hunting process, as your roomies will want a say in where they live.

[Pros and Cons of Having a Roommate]

If you decide that having a roommate is an absolute must, then you two (or three or four) can tackle the search for your new digs together.

4. What is Most Important to You?

OK, so you know how much you can spend, where you want to live, and whether or not you’ll be living by yourself. Now it’s time to decide what your apartment must-haves are.

[Which Apartment Amenities are Most Important to You?]

Begin by making a list of everything you’re looking for in an apartment, and then rank each item by priority. Use this list to guide you as you decide whether or not it’s worth touring the apartments you find online.

5. What Can You Live Without?

No one’s going to find an apartment with absolutely everything on their wish list (unless they have an unlimited budget, of course). So, what can you live without? Are all those “must-haves” really must-haves?

Create a new list of things you’d be willing to give up for a garbage disposal or a location near public transportation. Keep this list on hand as you begin your search and use it as you negotiate with yourself.

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Decisions to Make Before Apartment Hunting