How to Use Craigslist to Land a Great Apartment

These days, one of the best ways to find an amazing apartment is through Craigslist. The site has become the go-to place to research prices, scope out digs, and even find a place to call home for a few months or a few years. Like any other part of the Internet, however, not everything on Craigslist is legit and sometimes what appears to be a great deal really, well, isn't. Here are some tips that will help you navigate Craigslist like a pro in your apartment search, so you can find a place that meets your needs without any regrets.

Search smart. One of the most critical keys to getting the most out of a Craigslist-based apartment hunt is to be smart about your search terms. Narrow down your search by neighborhood, whether or not pets are allowed, number of bedrooms, or whatever other features that are must-haves for you. That will help reduce the amount of stuff you'll see that you're just not interested in. Of course, keep in mind that being less picky will increase your chances of finding a place.

Check often. The best apartments on Craigslist will be snatched up pretty quickly, so if you're in the market to get a place, be prepared to watch listings like an eagle and head out to see places ASAP. If you're the first to respond to a listing, you'll likely get first dibs on signing a lease, so don't be afraid to reach out if you think you might be interested. If you're in a highly competitive market (I'm thinking of you, San Francisco), sign up for a search-based RSS feed so you can view new apartment listings as they're posted.

Open communication. When you respond to a posting, you may be one among many vying for the place. Make yourself stand out by telling the poster a little bit about yourself. Disclose when you'd like to move in, what you're looking for, and ensure that you respond to any important suggestions or comments they put in their posting.

Ask questions. The only way that you're going to get a great apartment is by weeding out the ones that aren't so great. The best way to do that is by asking lots of questions. When you email a poster or go to see an apartment, don't forget to ask about amenities, safety, noise, and other concerns, and figure out what utilities (if any) are included with rent.

Time it. Timing it key when it comes to snagging a great place via Craigslist. The best times to look for apartments on Craigslist are far in advance (at least two months) or at the last minute. One offers a greater selection, the other better deals.

Watch out for scams. There are scammers on Craigslist like any other site. Beware of listings that ask for money up front or that appear to be from less-than-reputable companies.