What documents should a Canadian bring along when apartment-hunting in New York?
July 1, 2008 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Canadian moving to New York in September. Apartment-hunting in August. No credit history. Going to be a graduate student, so no fat salary either. But I can get a guarantor with ample funds, and I can pay several months in advance, if it's necessary. What documents should I bring with me to New York?

Also, is this going to be impossible? How much time should I set aside for apartment hunting? (Is two-three weeks too little?) I'm looking for an affordable 1 bedroom in Washington Heights or Inwood. Any other relevant tips much appreciated.
posted by limon to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No, it will not be impossible. A good credit history and a fat salary would be a big bonus, but having a guarantor with ample funds and having the ability to pay rent several months in advance, if necessary, is also a huge plus. And two to three weeks should be fine.

Among the many things you'll want to bring with you:

* Records of rental history. If you can get a letter of recommendation from a current landlord testifying that, yes, you do pay your rent on time, that would be good.

* Detailed bank statements, both checking and savings.

* Pay stubs if you have them. Tax forms. Any sort of official proof of annual salary, if applicable.

A fairly comprehensive list of things you might need can be found here. This is a daunting list, but keep in mind that some of this might be overkill. When I moved to New York last year, my broker asked me for about half of what was on that list, and in the end, she admitted to me that it really only came down to passing her credit check. Different landlords and brokers will have different levels of scrutiny, but it's probably in your best interest to be as prepared as possible with the paperwork.

I'd also say that if you find a place that you really like and if there seems to be a sticking point with a landlord or a broker -- i.e., you're a grad student without a huge Wall Street income to support you -- then don't be afraid to try some gentle negotiations. Remind them of the things you do have, like a guarantor and advance cash, and see if that won't level the playing field for you.

And also keep in mind that cash-strapped grad students successfully find apartments in New York every day, so don't get discouraged! With a little bit of hard work, you'll find a great place to live.
posted by TBoneMcCool at 10:18 AM on July 1, 2008

I just sent you an mefi mail with the contact info for my old landlord in that neighborhood.
posted by kimdog at 10:46 AM on July 1, 2008

Be aware of the fact that some landlords will not accept out-of-state guarantors, much less out of country. If you run into that situation and the landlord won't budge, move on...there are always more flexible landlords.
posted by JaredSeth at 10:58 AM on July 2, 2008

Here's what I dearly wish somebody had told me.

There are all kinds of micro-neighborhoods in Inwood and the Heights. I very, very strongly recommend you visit your potential apartment at many times of the night and day BEFORE signing a lease. Signing a 12-month lease in a bad building in the Heights was one of the most serious mistakes I made in almost a decade of NYC living. I was on a block that looked and felt fine to me during the day (full of families, culture, happy kids) and was absolute hell at night and on weekends. Be very, very aware of what your potential building is like at night. Understand there is a "noise culture" in the Heights that means there is absolutely NO such thing as a meaningful "noise complaint" in most of the affordable areas. When you visit your potential building: if you can hear blasting music from the street, imagine how much worse it would be living with multiple neighbors blasting music that vibrates your floor and walls, every night. Pay attention to your instincts. It really, really varies building by building and block by block, so you must visit as much as you can.

(If you want an affordable apt in upper Manhattan, be sure to look at west Harlem too -- especially if you can find something in a brownstone, you have a better chance of good neighbors and a livable noise situation).
posted by sparrows at 12:36 AM on July 8, 2008

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