Picking out a place to temporarily call home can bring out the inner commitment-phobe in anyone. Once you sign a lease on an apartment, you’re locked in until death do you part (or the lease ends… whichever comes first). That means the pressure is on to find something in your price range that won’t come with unpleasant surprises in future.

To help you out, we asked real renters to share their best advice and tips that only come from being down in the trenches.

Check the cell phone signal

Even if you look like a crazy person, walk through every room and send a text. Not having cell service in certain parts of your house will make your life so much harder…no one likes having to get dressed and go outside to make a phone call.

Brandon, renter for 2 years

Carry a charger to test the outlets

My best tip is to bring a phone charger and plug it into all the main outlets, that way you can make sure they work. I’ve moved into apartments where there is only one outlet in the bathroom and it didn’t work. It sounds like a minor inconvenience, but it might have moved that apartment further down on my list if I had known.

Catelyn, renter for 8 years

Scope out the ratings

One thing I do when I’m apartment hunting is I always check the ratings on online sites to see what problems other people have had with the management or place. And If you go see a place in person, don’t be afraid to ask people outside if they like living there. They’ll tell you the truth.

Melanie, renter for 7 years

Be willing to move in the off months

I always find the best places when I look at “weird” times, like in September right after everyone in school has found their housing or in January when it’s freezing and no one wants to think about moving.

Jess, renter for 6 years

Get renters insurance

Get renter’s insurance! I didn’t have it for a long time just because I didn’t know how cheap it was. It covers all my music equipment for less than the price of a meal. Plus, you can usually roll it into your auto insurance if you have a car to make it even cheaper.

David, renter for 12 years

Check the fridge

Always see if the fridge and window tracks are clean- that’s a good indicator of how clean the apartment really is. And always get things in writing! It will make your life easier later on.

Tyson, renter for 4 years