Looking for a dreamy new place to call home? How exciting! Though searching for the perfect apartment should be a special time (hello, life milestone), it’s often super stressful — especially in jam-packed cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

To make it a little bit easier, we put together 10 tried and true tips you can use as a checklist while looking for your adorable new abode.

Look at listings/newspaper classifieds without photos. Gem apartments with unsavvy owners exist, even in this day and age! Don’t rule something out right away just because you don’t see a photo.

Ask around for the 411. Know people who live in the area? Don’t be shy! Call, text, Facebook message — basically, do whatever it takes to get a local’s take on a neighborhood you like (and maybe ask them to keep their eyes peeled for “For Rent” signs, too!).

Pay attention to the surroundings. Once you find an apartment you like (at least from the outside) do your research on the surroundings. Is there a noisy restaurant below? Do neighbors have yards and pets? Are tour buses constantly careening through? These things matter.

Scope things out on a rainy day. Oh, and from your car, Google street view, and at night while you’re at it. You’ll know it’s actually the perfect apartment when you love it in absolutely every circumstance.

Make sure the terms are a match. Do yourself a ginormous favor and actually read the lease. Feel positive that the costs, agreement, and length of time are all a true match for what you want or need.

Check that the outlets work. All of them. Your dream apartment should have functioning appliances (toilet, refrigerator, etc.) too, so test each one out to make sure they work perfectly. The unclutterer has great ideas on appliaces and their maintenance that you can implement.

Be realistic! Know what you can truly afford and do your best to uncover the best possible place to call home. It’s hard to admit, but it’s pretty darn impossible to live a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget. If you’re not sure how much you should be spending on rent, check out our guideline here.

Estimate utility costs. Your dream apartment budget should include the cost of utilities, like cable and internet, heat/AC, hot water, and trash. Make sure you can foot the bill before you sign on the dotted line to save yourself future stress.

Be yourself. Let’s get real — landing your dream apartment in a competitive market is no easy feat. Let your awesome personality and charisma comes through. Being likeable and trustworthy totally helps.

Make sure your furniture will fit. Remember the infamous Friends episode where Ross ruined his new couch trying to bring it upstairs to his apartment? Save yourself from screeching “pivot!” by measuring your future dream apartment and all of the things you already own — unless you plan to ditch ‘em, of course.

xx, The FabFitFun Team