Looking for a first apartment or finding your next place can be a hassle, but there are ways you can take pain out of the process. The first step is to rely on professionals to help you find your new home and act as a go-between for you and the owner. Involving a realtor or property manager as an intermediary gives both you and the owner protection when you are working out rental contracts and details.

Look for your city and state association of realtors or the National Association of Residential Property Managers, and ask them for help in identifying who know the area you’re targeting. Find realtors who are familiar with school districts, neighborhoods and nearby churches and businesses. Research the online listings of those companies.

Renting in an unsafe neighborhood will put a serious damper on the quality of your life. Investigating the local crime rate before you make a move is just as important as finding the right apartment to lease. Consult websites such as SpotCrime, FamilyWatchdog, Neighborhoodscout and CrimeReports and that report neighborhood crime rates. They will help you evaluate whether a potential neighborhood is safe.

Don’t miss out on seeing a desirable house because you didn’t plan ahead. Call ahead to your chosen realtor or property manager to set up an appointment to view the apartment. Many apartments and rental homes are not available unless you make an appointment, and many rental offices close on weekends.

A tight rental markets means you need to be ready to act quickly. Bring the information you need to sign a lease along on your tour in case you find the apartment you want. Ask the realtor or property manager about deposits when you make the appointment to see the home. Come prepared to sign the lease with a good idea of how much money you need to bring to the table.

What security deposit will the landlord require if you damage the apartment or if you leave in the middle of a lease? There will be a penalty for breaking a lease. Either ask for a month-to-month lease or make sure you have enough to pay the extra cost for leaving before the lease ends. You should get the security deposit back when you move out if you leave the house in good condition, but make sure you understand the landlord’s definition of good shape.

Your potential landlord may ask for a list of personal references. Tell your references they can expect a call. The landlord may ask for a copy of your pay stub or proof of income. An offer letter will usually be accepted if you are moving for a new job.

Your landlord most likely will check your credit score. Credit score requirements vary, but a score above 660 typically is considered good. You still may get your chosen rental If your credit score or salary don’t satisfy your potential landlord’s requirements. A co-signer such as a parent or close friend can act as guarantor for your rent.

Be prepared to give the potential landlord two checks and two forms of identification. In areas where housing is in high demand, other prospective tenants may be ready to rent the house you want. You may not have the opportunity to come back with ID and checks later.