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Scoping Out a Rental 'Hood and Getting Ready to Sign a Lease

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Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to tips@curbed.com. Up now, figuring out where to rent and everything you need to sign a lease.

There are many places on the web that can tell you how to look for a new neighborhood in which to start your new NYC life. NY Mag has a Neighborhood Ranking System, and Time Out NY also has a yearly Apartment Guide. Here are a few main things that you want to look for when first moving to NYC:

First of all, cost. Obviously, this is the main issue for most new New Yorkers, since a good chunk of your money intake goes straight to rent. When newbies move to NYC, they’re thinking Manhattan. The sad and true fact is that it’s difficult to find a good apartment in a desirable neighborhood for under $1k a month, and that’s WITH a roommate. As you subtract more people from the equation, the cost goes up even more. If it’s that important to you, make it work. If not, look in the other boroughs. You can find an apartment in a borough (or even the Jerz) for a good price and not a bad commute. Think about it. But whether you end up living the dream in Manhattan or slumming it in the burbs, I mean...the boroughs, keep these next things in mind.

Transportation
Not only do you want to be somewhere near a train, you want it to be one that will actually come. There are a couple trains that have pretty dismal ratings. Also, ask yourself if you’re OK with walking more than 10 minutes to a train. You could live on the Upper East Side on 90th Street (near the express stop, woohoo!)... but you live on York Avenue. That’s a solid walk. Make sure you’re up for it. Which leads into:

Convenience
You’ll want to be in a place that is hopefully convenient to banks, shopping, restaurants, laundry, and even?gasp!?your job. Average commute time seems to hover around 35 to 40 minutes, so keep that in mind! Keep your job close, but your ATM and sandwich places closer, and make sure you know where the necessities are!

A couple other questions to ask yourself:

Do you mind having to travel for your restaurants and nightlife? Would you rather be right in the middle of everything or have a quiet place to go home? Most of all?do you feel comfortable? Go back at night with a buddy and take a stroll. Celebrating diversity is one of the best things about NYC, so if you feel uncomfortable in a new place, at least give it a chance! If you feel unsafe, though, always follow your instincts.

Rental Nirvana: What documents and info to bring in case you find the perfect rental
NYC’s rental market is a perfect metaphor for the city itself?fast moving, expensive, and sometimes difficult to navigate under 14th Street. It’s usually the biggest expenditure for New Yorkers, taking up 1/4 to 1/3 of a paycheck.

Say you’ve already made sure your rental broker isn’t screwing you and you’ve found your dream apartment. Quick! It’s time to put in an application. As any New Yorker knows, good apartments go in a split second. If you’re lucky enough to find something that you know is a diamond in the rough, you better have yourself together. Sidenote: We’re assuming this is for a rental building and not a co-op or condo. With them, you may even need to put together a board package, which means you have to get even more documentation. Lucky.

You’ll need the following paperwork before you even put in the application:

· First of all, you’ll definitely need ID. Either a driver’s license or a passport should work nicely.
· A letter of employment on company letterhead?make sure it has your salary and start date. If you’re going to college or grad school, get your letter of acceptance handy.
· Copies of recent pay stubs?three months back is usually enough.
· Landlord reference letter saying that you’re a dream tenant. You are, right?
· Depending on how intense the building is, you might even need other letters of reference, but it’s not that common. Just in case, keep in mind people from both your personal and business life who could speak highly of your character.
· Your most recent (or even the last two years) tax return(s). If you’re self employed, you’ll definitely need this, perhaps along with a letter from your accountant.
· Bank statements, bank statements, bank statements. Try to get them from the last three months if possible. If you’re not making a good enough salary, maybe you can put up an extra month’s rent or so?the statements will prove your worth.
· Though the management company will probably run a credit check on you as well, it can’t hurt to run one on yourself first to make sure there are no glaring problems on the horizon.

What if you don’t have ANY of those financial documents? Bust out your guarantor, baby.

A guarantor is someone (probably a parent or guardian) who will pay your rent if you mess up. The rule of thumb is that landlords generally want a renter who makes 40x the rent. A guarantor should make 80x the rent and also live in the tri-state area. If you can’t get someone to sign for you, there are companies that act as “surrogate” guarantors.

Of course, you’ll also have to fill out an application form. The management company or landlord usually provides this. You’ll also have to get together what the landlord really wants?your money. You’ll most likely pay (in certified checks) the first and last month’s rent and a security deposit (equal to 1 month’s rent.) There’s a possibility that you’ll be paying a broker’s fee, though that should have been agreed upon already. Before you write any checks (and really, before you apply) make sure you know if the management company is offering anything like free month’s rent, or a vespa. However, as we said before, if this is truly a gem of a place, they won’t be offering anything.

Get all your ducks in a row before you go rental hunting, or you’re going to have to chase them all around the Village before you put yourself back together again.
· The Rules of Subletting an Apartment [Curbed]
· Beginning the Hunt: Finding Comps and How to Use Them [Curbed]
· Curbed University [Curbed]