You’ve heard of horror stories about moving to New York City — hidden fees, terror landlords, bogus listings, and losing out to another renter in a New York minute.

The New York City housing market is confusing even for long-time renters. Here are some tips to help minimize your stress levels during your New York City apartment hunt:

1. Find out your budget and stick to it

New York City apartments go fast, and if you haven’t figured out the preliminaries such as your maximum budget, you’re going to lose your dream apartment to someone else. You should be ready with your documents which include blank checks and cash.

The first thing to find out is how much you are willing to spend on an apartment. And once you do, it’s easier to stick to it. Before you view apartments in NYC, you should have an awareness of your expenses. Do not budge and do not spend more than the budget you’ve allotted for rent. It’s important that you don’t starve just to afford your apartment.

Plus, if you’re doing this without a guarantor, New York City landlords require that your gross annual income be 40 times your monthly rent.

2. Apartment hunt in the winter

The most inconvenient months to move are the cheapest months to move — December to March. People are generally reluctant to move while it’s freezing or snowing.

Summer and Spring are when apartment prices rise and when the competition is particularly fierce. In the winter, you can get a better deal where the rent is lower and the landlord may even pay for the broker’s fee just to get the listing off the market and to fill the apartment.

3. Make a list of your must-haves

After you’ve figured out your maximum budget for an apartment, sit down and list down your must-haves. It’s a list of your non-negotiables such as being less than 30 minutes away from the nearest subway station or having elevator access or a pet-friendly apartment where you can bring your dog with you.

4. Have your documents ready

This is so important. Once you find an apartment that you love, don’t wait around for a day or two to get your documents ready. You can count on someone else more prepared than you to snatch it out of your hands.

If you have a guarantor, then you will also need his or her documents.

5. Do your research on the landlord

Google is your friend and will protect you from shady brokers or landlords. Before you give out your documents and sign a lease, always run a search on them!

There are websites that rank New York City landlords, don’t hesitate to use them. There are also sites that list down the worst New York City landlords.

Find out complaints, pending lawsuits, and other