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The Beginner's Guide to Renting in Washington, D.C.

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Sometimes, renting in the nation's capital can seem kind of scary, but it's time to conquer those fears and move on up to something bigger and better. In this case, by moving to Washington, D.C., you'll be transitioning into one of the fastest changing, fastest growing cities in the nation. The nation's capital from 10 years ago is not the same nation's capital as it is today; it's become more expensive and more competitive. So, before taking on the big bad real estate market in the District, here are a few basic tricks to become the successful renter you know you can be.

First off, have all your paperwork prepared when you see a place. If 20 or so people come to an initial showing, and you're the only one there set and ready to lock that rental down, you are way more likely to be chosen to get the place.

Here's an inside secret: the best deals are in the dead of winter. The real estate market in Washington, D.C. is the least competitive in the winter, and there are way fewer people willing to go through the snow to go to an open house. Because of this, you are more likely to be seen as the best candidate for the deal.

Do not look further than one-and-a-half months in advance for an apartment. Just don't do it. Give up. You're not going to find anything. The rentals on the D.C. market are snagged within a matter of weeks if not a matter of days. If interested in figuring out how much bang you can get for your buck, just check out Curbed Comparisons.

You have more options than Craigslist. Some of the best online tools for apartment searches include Bozzuto, Zillow, and Padmapper. They're easy to use, clear and accurate, and make comparing different rentals a snap. Give them a whirl.

Lastly, some listings really are too good to be true. Be prepared for scams, and know what your rights are if you ever have your back against the wall.
· Renters Week 2015 coverage [Curbed DC]