If you’ve been thinking about moving to NYC, you’re certainly not the only one. Many have dreamed of one-day moving to New York City. From the incomparable cultural diversity and world-class food, art, events, lifestyles, and business, to the uniquely resilient community spirit, America’s biggest and greatest city has something for everyone.
Let's start with the basics. Living in NYC is not for everyone, and making it in the city is not easy. If you're looking for a comfortable lifestyle or a low cost of living, NYC might not be the right place for you. That being said, if you're ready to experience the thrill of living in the greatest city in the world, moving to New York City can be an incredible decision, especially if you're in your 20s or 30s. While deciding to move to NYC may seem bold or risky, it also gives you the opportunity to grow or start fresh and become whoever you want to be.
For all the perks that come with living in NYC, it is also one of the most challenging cities to move to, as almost anyone who’s done so will tell you. Whether it’s the comparatively higher cost of the property or the sheer volume of options to choose from, it can be daunting just to figure out how to start planning. To that end, we’ve put together some practical tips that you can use to guide you in preparation for your move to the big city.
Part One: Do Your Research
This cannot be overstated: do your research, from reading up on NYC’s neighborhoods and street grid, to familiarizing yourself with the subway map and other inner-city transport options, to finding a home, and so on.
Odds are you’re more likely to rent than to buy, at least at first, so we’ll jump right into the essentials of preparing to rent an apartment in NYC.
Get your priorities straight
Whether you are taking this step with a companion, or are moving to NYC alone, decide early on what is an absolute must for you, and be open to compromise on everything else. When you know how much you can, or want, to spend on rent, check out a ton of properties in different neighborhoods, and understand what you can expect to get within your budget.
Let yourself be surprised, but do check reviews if available
Don’t assume that a place in Manhattan is automatically more expensive than a rental in other boroughs. You might find a comfortably-sized Upper East Side apartment for rent at a lower monthly cost than you’d find in Brooklyn. If you know someone already living in the city, reach out and ask about their experience. Otherwise, there are numerous Facebook and Reddit groups where you can learn more about living in the city. Or if you’re curious about learning more about various areas, you can check out some of the best neighborhoods in Manhattan, the best neighborhoods in Brooklyn, and the best neighborhoods in Queens.
Location sort of matters
If you already have a job lined up and you would rather not have to commute, searching for a place in the vicinity of your employment certainly makes sense. However, if this proximity is not an absolute must for you, consider that New York City is not only a highly walkable city but also home to one of the best public transport systems in the world — and by best, we mean that it is highly complex and can take a daily ridership of more than 10 million passengers. So, if you don’t mind a bit of a walk, or if your job is located close to a transit route, consider checking out rentals along or near the appropriate subway line.
If this is your situation, you undoubtedly have an appetite for risk and a taste for adventure! Nothing is impossible in the Big Apple for anyone with enough resolve. It is, however, generally advisable to have at least three months’ worth of rent saved up, unless you have a literal couch to crash on until you can get settled in. Depending on your skills, occupational preferences, or adventurer open-mindedness, you’re sure to find a decent source of income with some leg work, networking, and the good habit of not being late.
So, let’s say you’ve spent at least a month in virtual New York City and now feel well-informed enough to level up from the map to the territory. These next practical tips we’ve selected may save you some time and other resources in the long run, so be sure to consider each of them.
1. Know your rights
Each rental market is different depending on local rules and regulations. In a highly competitive market like New York City, the speed of decision can make all the difference in the world. You might not have enough time on-site to learn everything that is new for you, so it is in your best interest to brush up on your rights as a tenant in NYC. Go in knowing things like:
- what fees you can expect — such as application fees and broker commission;
- which fees are legal and which are not;
- what is or isn’t refundable;
- whether or not it’s the renter who has to pay for repairs or maintenance of the unit;
- that you should always ask for a receipt for anything you pay!
2. Everything is negotiable
Keep in mind that nothing is non-negotiable when it comes to finding a place in NYC, starting with the broker fee. You may be reluctant to employ a broker in your search for a place to stay, but hear us out. In such a vast and fast-paced market, the guidance of a professional can really come in handy, especially if you are new to the city, don’t yet know how to get around or how to listen to the grapevine. Check online broker reviews and maybe reach out to several before you pick one. Broker fees are almost always negotiable, and you should definitely at least ask about it upfront. The good news is that broker fees might soon become a thing of the past, but for the moment, you’ll still have to take them into account.
3. Have everything in writing
Conventional wisdom dictates that you don’t take the first apartment you see, unless, of course, it magically checks all your boxes. When you do decide on a place, make sure you ask for receipts for the first and last month’s rent, the security deposit, any move-in fees - basically for anything you pay. Have all communication with brokers, landlords, and building management in writing. Make sure your name is on the lease as soon as possible, whether you are renting on your own or with roommates. Take time-stamped photos of the unit before you move in.
4. Remember to budget for the little things
Unless you’re moving to NYC with nothing but a suitcase-worth of stuff, the actual moving day will come with pretty high costs. Moving professionals and services often charge hourly rates, so the better organized you are ahead of time, the faster the move will happen. Remember to factor in little things like renter’s insurance and “settling-in supplies” such as cleaning, painting, and whatever else is necessary to cozy the place up to your taste.
Last, but certainly not least, locate a pizza place nearby and celebrate your achievement with a delicious slice of New York pizza!