Happy Monday you guys! I’m excited to be starting out the week with a post that is a long time coming!
I’ve had requests over the years for addressing how I moved to New York, what I wish I had known, any tips for finding an apartment, etc. and I’ve often addressed them as one-offs but after announcing my next move, I got a lot more questions from those of you thinking of / planning on moving to New York so figured I’d do a big ol’ post about it! (And I’m serious when I say “big”…this is a long one, folks.)
When I thought about how to best give advice I recognized that my experience is just one in a tale of millions so I decided to crowdsource from my friends who have moved to New York to get their best advice alongside my own anecdotes and tips.
NYC Moving Tips
I can truly say moving to New York was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I remember thinking about it for so long and the burning feeling in my gut that started to gnaw away at me. It was silently telling me every day that there was opportunity awaiting me in the concrete jungle. My life is forever better because of the one way ticket I purchased back in February 2011 and I’m grateful to this city for the experiences, people, opportunities & challenges it has brought to my life. (Past love letters to this city can be read here and here.)
That being said, I don’t hesitate when I say: If you’re thinking about moving to New York…do.it! (Several of my friends echoed this sentiment as well when prompted for advice on moving to New York). The thing is, you’ll figure out all the administrative things and the costs associated with it and, more importantly, you’ll forever change your life and no longer wonder “What if?”
That being said, the most important thing to know is to save a lot of money before you move here. But there’s plenty else to know, too so let’s get to the advice and tips myself & my friends collectively curated as a helpful guide to those of you looking to change your postal code to that of The Big Apple.
Finding an apartment:
When looking at apartment units, be sure to pay attention to the quality of the building the unit is in as well. The upkeep of the building will be a good indicator of how attentive the management company / landlord might be when it comes to maintenance.
In terms of finding a neighborhood, if you have no idea what general area you want to live in, then prioritize distance from either friends or work, but make sure to take time to walk around the area before settling on something. Talk to people living in New York already regarding neighborhood vibes, etc. (I, Meghan, remember thinking living on the Upper East Side sounded so glamorous when I first moved to New York (thank you, Gossip Girl and Sex & the City) only to find it didn’t suite me or my lifestyle.)
Look at lots of sources for apartments.
There’s a lot of other options than just Craigslist. Look at StreetEasy and download the Trulia, Realtor and Hunt apps and set up alerts so that as soon as a new place meeting your criteria pops up you can call or email the broker and be first in line to see the place.
Know that in moving to New York will make concessions. And that’s OK. Everyone has to. Before you start looking at listings, decide what matters most to you. Do you want to live in the West Village so badly that you’ll put up with a tiny studio with a kitchen in your bedroom? Great – know that. If space is your priority, know what neighborhoods are best for you. If you know you need a dishwasher and central heat, but are OK with a communal laundry room, great. Know what your ‘musts’ and ‘wants’ are and be prepared for trade offs.
January and February are the best times to move to New York City.
Broker and building fees are often waved and inventory is high. If timing falls into place, consider moving during these months.
That being said, broker fees are a real reality (this fee could be the equivalent to one month’s rent or as much as 15% of the whole year’s rent.) Always ask what the fee is! And ask around to get referred to a broker your friend has had a good experience with. Practically every apartment in New York is tied to a broker even when it seems some aren’t. To deal with this, pick a broker you want to work with upfront. Know that you’ll end up writing that person a check for more than you think is reasonable. But remind yourself it’s a one time expense and then pour yourself a big glass of wine after you write the check. Following that, move in and then leave your apartment and see how lucky you are to live in New York City.
Lots of units will say guarantors are allowed.
Ask if you need one based on your salary but in general try and avoid this. Leases and landlords in New York are no joke and they can and will screw you – and ultimately your guarantor – over if they need to. (Remember this tale of mine…) Essentially you should look for a place where your income is more than ok to ensure you can confidently showcase to the landlord that you are good for the rent.
Alternatively, once you find a neighborhood, if you’re keen to live in a doorman building, pop your head into those you like the looks of and ask the best person to talk to about renting an apartment. There’s the possibility that this will allow you to bypass broker fees and go straight to the leasing office.
Find a place close to a subway line – everyone says it, so this shouldn’t be surprising news to you, but do it. The advice is real. Even if you find a place close by work know that your plans will take you all over the city and when the weather is crappy – too hot, too cold, too rainy, too windy – you’ll want to take the train so have one nearby.
Need to find a roommate for your move?
Tap into friends of friends of friends. Spread the word far and wide that you are planning a move and are looking for a room or roommates. This will be the best bet for finding a “normal” roommate but I also know of several Craigslist fairy tales so don’t think it’s that bad if you end up having to go that route.
Avoid if you can living above a restaurant. Not only do they attract mice and roaches, your apartment will smell like whatever food they cook.
When you find a spot you love, already be prepared for logistics! Have your checkbook and copies of your paperwork at the ready so you can be first in line for the apartment. You’ll want tax returns, bank statements, a letter from your employer and copies of your ID all prepped.
- Check unpakt.com to find reliable movers and easy quotes and take an honest inventory of what you own. Then take an inventory of everything you actually want to / need to move / aren’t willing to part with. New York apartments are SMALL. Before you begin packing up everything you own, get rid of as much as you can. You will be so surprised by how little storage space you have, and how much you realize you don’t really need!
- If you’re moving into a walkup apartment (aka no elevator) you should expect to pay more with movers for that and also any and all furniture deliveries.
- Relatedly, know that Burrow makes a relatively affordable couch that comes in a set of boxes and you can assemble it with no tools and Casper’s mattresses arrive in a really small, manageable box to bring up your stairs.
- If moving within NYC/NJ, consider Jugglebox which drops off and picks up plastic bins that allow you to avoid the dreaded box construction and it’s better for the environment.
- If you’re moving from far away, keep the move as easy as you can and plan on buying new furniture upon arrival (you’ll probably need smaller things anyway). Save yourself the hassle and just pay to have the new items delivered.
- If you have more clothes than your tiny closet can contain, use MakeSpace to store off-season stuff—they’ll ship you bags, you fill them and then just schedule a time for their crew to come by and pick it up. They’ll log everything with photos and upload your inventory to the cloud. Need something out of storage? Just schedule a drop off time. No visits to a storage unit required! I’ve used MakeSpace on numerous occasions while living in NYC and it is a lifesaver.
Once you move in:
- Upon moving in, outsource whatever you can. Get task rabbits to assemble furniture, set up your Wifi/cable, etc. You’ll spend more money but you will save yourself a lot of time and stress.
- After you move in, spend the first week exploring your neighborhood. Don’t be overwhelmed by trying to learn the whole city right away, stay focused on a 10 block radius at first. Find the closest dry cleaner, bodega, grocery store, 24-hour pharmacy, urgent care, coffee shop, cute restaurant, etc.
- Get to know your super. Be extra nice to this person as they will save you on many instances in the future. They know the building the best and can be your biggest ally when inevitably things go awry and you need help getting something fixed, hung, lifted, etc.
Living in New York:
When you arrive, get out.
Get out of your head (and those thoughts telling you are you aware of the magnitude of the life change you just made), get out of your apartment, get out of your comfort zone. Meet new people, talk with everyone, see new things. Do as much as you can and really seize all this city has to offer!
Relatedly, one of the first things I heard was to be prepared that New York can be a lonely place. So for anyone who’s heard that or is nervous to move because of that, let’s clear something up. New York can be lonely (as much as any city can be). It can also be anything but. You will have a relationship with this city unlike any relationship you’ve ever had. If you’re ever lonely, leave your apartment and walk outside – have a date night with NYC.
Remember that unlike other parts of the country, apartments are not everything in New York. New Yorkers don’t spend much time at home. Yes, some of us really do use ovens for storage. So don’t let that tiny, cramped apartment get you down. The best part about New York is New York. Get out into the streets. The island is your home – your apartment is just where you store your stuff and catch up on Bravo.
Know that the subway is the way to get around.
Avoid the hassle of traffic (that is literally 24/7) and the motion sickness that comes along with it and just get familiar with the trains.
Make a bucket list! Anytime you’re not sure what to do or are feeling lonely (these days will be numbered but they can happen after you first arrive), consult your bucket list of things to see/do/drink/eat in NYC. Your list will only grow as you stay but it’s a fun way to house all the amazing things there are to experience in the five boroughs.
I hope you find this post helpful! (I personally even was reminded of how lucky I am to call this city home in developing it and I can’t wait to begin my next chapter in my very own place in a few short weeks.) Huge thanks to my friends who were kind enough to give their best advice and words of wisdom. And of course if you have any follow up questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!