Are you thinking about moving to New York City? I think I can help.
I ended up moving to New York City two years ago and would like to share everything I learned during the process. My hope is to make moving to NYC easier on you.
I’m not one for small talk and don’t want to regale you with stories of my great-grandmother’s famous chicken noodle soup recipe. So let’s just cut to the chase. Read on for everything you need to know about moving to New York City.
The million dollar question: How much should I save before moving to New York City?
My sister is currently in the process of moving to NYC and asked me this very question six months ago. The answer will vary vastly depending on your standard of living, but I suggest saving a minimum of $20,000 before moving to New York City.
Finding an apartment in NYC won’t come cheap and almost all landlords require first & last month’s rent in addition to a security deposit (the equivalent of one month’s rent) up front.
Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in my neighborhood is $3,000 per month (I weep as I type this). Which means I forked over $9,000 just to move into an apartment (including a non-negotiable $3,000 broker fee).
Broker fee? Oh yes, we’re definitely covering that sneaky bugger below. Like I said, read on to learn everything you need to know about moving to New York City.
Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
Moving to New York City
I believe in New Yorkers. Whether they’ve ever questioned the dream in which they live, I wouldn’t know, because I won’t ever dare ask that question.Dylan Thomas
The neighborhood matters more than you think
I know, understatement of the century, right?
But before I get flack, I’d like to point out that I am indeed aware of the importance of a neighborhood regardless of the city you move to. However, I didn’t understand the extent to which this is true in New York City until my husband and I started touring apartments in various neighborhoods.
Your budget will afford you drastically different living arrangements based on the neighborhood you choose. It was really eye-opening for us. For example, $3,000 will get you a decent one-bedroom in the Upper West Side and questionable living quarters (at best) in SoHo.
We toured a shoe-box of an apartment in SoHo and couldn’t get out fast enough –the light was non existent, the bathroom wall was half torn down and exposed a dusty pipe. The icing on the cake was the dead cockroach in the kitchen, it felt like he was sending a smug message from the afterlife, “try further north, honey.”
All this to say, do your research before moving to New York City. What do you want daily access to? What’s important for you to have? What are you willing to sacrifice for location?
If you’d like to get a better feel for the unique neighborhoods in New York City, check out these helpful guides.
Get familiar with broker fees
New Yorkers understand the significance of broker fees like no one else. But folks that are moving to New York City for the first time are always caught off guard by these, so what are they?
Broker fees are an infamous NYC practice where you must use a broker to secure an apartment. You are then expected to pay the broker the equivalent of one months’ rent or 15% of the annual net rent. In our case the apartment was $3,000 so we had to pay a brokers fee of $3,000.
This non-negotiable fee is in addition to a security deposit and one/two months rent. The strangest thing about the broker fee, in my opinion, is that the onus is on you to find an apartment and the broker merely opens the door for you. But alas, they get a whopping one-month’s worth of rent in compensation because they hold the golden keys.
But that’s the thing about living in New York City, you quickly learn to adapt to things that seem unusual. This is the way it works in the Big Apple and the rules won’t change for you, you have to adjust your expectations (and write those big checks).
Broker fees are currently being litigated in court but until the issue gets resolved, you must budget them in when moving to NYC.
Searching for an apartment in New York City is a bear
Finding an apartment in any city feels like a daunting task, but NYC takes the cake. I’ve lived in two cities prior to moving to NYC and finding an apartment in New York City was by far the most challenging. Competition is steep and prices are sky high.
The best website for finding an apartment in New York City is StreetEasy. They have a great selection of apartments and a friendly user experience, what more could you ask for? But heads up — finding an apartment in NYC is an addicting endeavor! We were glued to the screen, refreshing the page every ten minutes for an entire month straight.
A helpful tip we learned during our apartment search:
One helpful tip my husband and I discovered during our move to NYC was to ask the broker for an application before touring the apartment. We completed the application and sent it to the broker before visiting the apartment (but didn’t pay the fee, so it was technically “incomplete”) and had the advantage of being the first to “technically” apply for the apartment.
When we (finally) found the apartment we loved most, we simply signed the application and sent over the application fee — typically $25, if I recall correctly. Because we completed the application beforehand, we were the first to submit the required documents and had first dibs at the apartment.
The downside of this advice is that you’ll be providing sensitive information and sharing it with a lot of brokers. We had to share our bank statements, W2, etc. every time we applied and that required a great deal of trust. If this is something that you’re not comfortable with, trust your gut! It worked for us and our information was safe even after nine applications.
If you’re visiting NYC for the first time, make sure to read: Where to Stay in New York City (The BEST neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid)
You must (must, must) tour the apartment in person
Seriously, believe me on this one. I can’t tell you how many times I toured an apartment and found myself genuinely convinced I stepped into the wrong one.
For example, the kitchen cabinets were blue and I swore they were white in the photos. I asked the realtor about the difference and she mentioned that brokers sometimes use stock photos when posting rental apartment. Moral of the story — NEVER sign a lease sight unseen unless you like surprises…especially bad ones.
Think about it, we toured 9+ apartments and would have been severely disappointed if we signed a lease for any of them based on the photos alone. Plus, when you tour the apartment in person you’ll get a better feel for the building as a whole.
One of the apartments we toured was nice enough, but the mouse traps in the hallway made it hard to seal the deal.
So I went to New York City to be born again. It was, and remains, easy for most Americans to go somewhere else and start anew. I wasn’t like my parents. I didn’t have any supposedly sacred piece of land or shoals of friends to leave behind.Kurt Vonnegut
Give yourself 1-2 months to find an apartment
This is a tall ask, I get it, but I’m offering my honest advice about moving to New York City. We subleased an apartment for one month while searching for an apartment and that was a game changer for us. By allowing ourselves a full month to search for an apartment while staying the city we were able to ease up the stress substantially.
I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable signing a year long lease sight unseen from the west coast and knew I wouldn’t want to rent an apartment sight unseen (for the reasons stated above). I made sure to budget enough money to cover a month of living expenses while searching for an apartment before officially moving to New York City.
If you’re interested in doing the same, I suggest scouring Craigslist for sublease options or searching for long term (30+ days) AirBnB options. Note, short-term AirBnBs are illegal in NYC, but a long-term stay of 30+ days is allowed.
Brace yourself, the application paperwork is insane
Not only is the application process incredibly intrusive, it varies from one realtor to the next. Some realtors ask for two years of tax records, three pays stubs, letter of employment, letter from a previous landlord, screenshot of savings/checking balances and certified letters from a CPA. Basically everything except for a blood sample from your firstborn child.
The reason? Most New York landlords require that your annual income must be 40 times the monthly rent. Here’s how it works — take your monthly rent and multiply it by 40. For example, if you’re applying for an apartment that costs $3,000 per month then your rent needs to be $120,000 ($3,000 x 40).
If that’s confusing, fret not. Here’s a great resource for helping you calculate what you can afford when moving to New York City.
Airing your dirty laundry
I mean this literally but if you took it figuratively, I’m intrigued.
It never occurred to me to ask about laundry prior to moving to New York City. It wasn’t until we stayed in NYC for a month prior to moving here that I thought to ask about the laundry. The answer? Walk it to the nearest cleaners and pay them to wash and fold it for you.
Granted, you may be able to find self-service laundry not too far from your place, but even then the prices really add up. I found a self-service laundromat three blocks from my apartment and pay $10 per large load of laundry (the equivalent of 3 regular loads).
If I’m pressed for time and request the wash + fold service, I typically pay $30 per laundry bag. The price depends on the weight of your laundry. Yeah, your laundry bag will get weighed on a scale. It’s an interesting world we live in, my friends.
In L.A. everyone wants to find themselves, in New York we just want to find an apartment with a washer/dryer.
Moving to New York City in the summer? Forget about it
Not only is NYC’s rental market comically expensive, but it actually gets worse in the summer because the highest concentration of folks tend to move during those months. Which makes sense when you think about it – college students moving to the city, college grads starting jobs in the fall after graduation, etc.
Summer is by far the most competitive time to find an apartment in New York City. Inventory will be low, so prices are bound to surge. Do whatever you can to avoid moving to New York City between June – September. This will improve your chances of finding a decent apartment and you won’t be subject to the surge prices being charged in the summer.
If helpful, I did extensive research on this topic before and learned that winter is the best time to move to New York City, especially February – March.
Further Reading: How to Spend 4 EPIC Days in New York City
Let’s talk about air conditioners and heaters
Let’s cut to the chase: you can’t live in New York City without an AC unless you’re a glutton for punishment. The summer heat and humidity is no joke and you’ll want to budget for an AC before moving to New York City, no two ways about this. Air conditioners range between $300 – $1,000 depending on the model you get, so make sure you’re aware of that expense.
It might seem funny to mention budgeting for an AC on this list, but the reality is expenses add up. You might think $300 is no big deal now, but a few months of paying sky-high rent may change your mind.
As for heaters, most older buildings in the city run on steam heat, which is usually provided by the landlord. In our building we don’t pay for the heat, which saves so much money during the winter. I’m probably not the first to tell you that winters in New York City are brutal! Thankfully, the heat is covered more often than not but here’s the kicker — you can’t control the heat.
A common joke among New Yorkers is that they need to crack their windows even in the dead of winter. That’s because steam heat isn’t possible to control as it typically has two settings — on and off. To ventilate the heat, most people open their windows.
But at the end of the day, it’s really nice to have steam heat, even if the thing is trying to bake you to death.
New York City is so damn expensive it will make you cry
Obviously you already know that New York City is expensive but did you know it’s the 6th most expensive city in the world?
I mention this because you need to have a lot of money or a foolproof game plan. If you don’t have either, at least get a decent cellphone plan because your mother will be getting a lot of phone calls.
Everything is going to cost so much more when living in New York City. From groceries to entertainment and rent. Heck, sometimes it feels like just waking up in NYC will run you $400!
To that end, let’s cover the next thing you should know about moving to New York City — the importance of landing a job.
Have a job lined up before you move here
Every year thousand of bushy-tailed hopefuls move to New York City with stars in their eyes and fires in their hearts. The problem? They don’t have a job lined up before moving to NYC and merely cross their fingers in the hopes that something will come up.
The bigger problem? Job competition is steep (NYC is the most populous city in the country) and they’re going to burn through their savings faster than you can imagine.
Living in New York City is the experience of a lifetime precisely because you have access to the best of everything. But you simply can’t enjoy everything if you don’t have a job and are constantly broke. Which is why I can’t stress this enough — have a job before moving to New York City.
Don’t take the chance of winging it with the hopes that some company will see how special you are, because in reality you will probably be one of thousands of applicants. Do the leg work before your move to set yourself up for success.
Not all grocery stores are created equal
Here’s a tip on moving to New York City that some people don’t mention — not all grocery stores are created equal. During my first month in NYC I made the mistake of shopping for groceries at Citerella and walked out completely confused. I paid $6 for one container of chicken stock (one container!!).
I had no idea that Citerella was such an opulent grocery store and learned my lesson quickly. After that I started doing research on grocery stores and made a commitment to Trader Joe’s.
Did you know that Trader Joe’s has the same prices for all items regardless of the location?
That means that the snacks you buy at a Trader Joe’s in Oregon will cost you the same in New York City. Trader Joe’s is probably one of the most affordable grocery stores in NYC and I’d recommend shopping there exclusively when possible.
The downside of shopping at Trader Joe’s is that the secret is out and it will feel like half of NYC will be shopping with you. The Traders Joe’s in the Upper West Side is the busiest in the world and if you try shopping anytime after 10am, you’ll find yourself in a very long line.
Another tip is ordering grocery items from Costco online. I stock up on pantry items like chicken stock, beans, nuts, snacks, etc. by buying them in bulk. It saves me a trip to the grocery store and Costco’s prices are hard to beat. Plus, you don’t have to be a Costco member to shop online, which is really nice.
You won’t need a car when moving to NYC
Perhaps the biggest perk of moving to NYC is getting to leave the car at home (or better yet, sell it). Leave behind the hefty expense of gas, maintenance, auto insurance and parking.
In fact, not needing a car is the only thing I can think of that actually saves you money when moving to New York City. The subway system is very efficient (even though everyone loves to hate on public transportation). The subway will get you where you need to go 24/7 and for the small cost of $2.75 per ride ($33 for a 7 day pass, $127 for monthly pass) the price can’t be beat. Plus, some employers provide monthly subway passes.
All this to say, don’t bring a car with you when moving to NYC. The hassle is too great and the benefit it too little. If you bring a car you’ll be spending most of your time in traffic anyway, plus you’ll have a very hard time parking. Parking is very expensive in NYC, and if you park your car in a residential area then you’ll need to move it once or twice a week (along with everyone else on the block).
Moving to New York City with a car will add ten years to your life, don’t do it.
New York City is an active city
One thing you quickly learn after moving to New York City is how active people are. And no, I’m not just talking about Mr. Washboard Abs running the six-mile loop in Central Park at 5am. I’m talking about regular people (like you and me).
New Yorkers walk, bike and subway everywhere they go (because a lot of us don’t have cars). You’ll get in a lot of steps and climb a lot of stairs when living in New York City, which is a huge advantage because you’ll stay in shape.
A common saying in the Big Apple is that locals don’t pay for space, they pay for access. And what that means is that people move to NYC to experience NYC, not stay cooped up in their apartment. Make sure you have a quality pair of walking shoes (I really like Hoka brand) when moving to New York City.
The city is inspiring and makes you feel invincible
It’s probably no surprise that with more than 200+ languages spoken on a daily basis, the habits, food and dress reflect the vibrant diversity of life in New York City. In fact, New York City is the most diverse city in the country.
In many ways, it feels like there’s zero judgement while living in New York City. I personally feel like I can be whoever I want to be – seriously. It seems that no matter what I do, I can never stick out, which has so many benefits.
What’s more, the age old adage “New York City: If You Can Make it Here, You Can Make it Anywhere” rings true. There’s something contagious about the energy in New York City. Whenever I’m starting to feel burned out the city streets recharge me. It seems like people that move to NYC do so to follow their dreams, and I can’t help but hustle at the thought of that.
You’ll have access to world-class museums
Perhaps my favorite thing about living in New York City is having access to world-class museums. New York City is home to a whopping 83 museums, including the fifth largest museum in the world, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (colloquially known as the MET).
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more culturally exciting city than New York. For example, my friend starts every weekend by exploring a museum with her kids and at the rate she’s going, her kids will see more world-renowned art by the age of 7 than most people do in a lifetime!
You can find incredible food 24/7
New York City is a melting pot of different cultures which makes you privy to the best-of-the-best regarding all types of cuisine. After living in New York City, it’s hard to find other cities that satisfy my cravings for good food all hours of the day.
I mean, let’s get real real, you haven’t lived until you find yourself with a hot bowl of award-winning ramen at 1am. But fair warning, you’ll never be the same.
- 10 Memorable Manhattan Bars Everyone Should Visit
- 10 EPIC NYC Pizza Joints You Can’t Afford to Miss
- 15 Mouth-Watering New York City Bagels
P.S. I’m working on a post about the best cheap eats in NYC, stay tuned! Or better yet, sign up for our email list to be notified when it’s wrapped up. We hate spam as much as you do, so we only send emails once a month.
Living in NYC may ruin all other cities for you
Chances are good that if you’re researching moving to New York City you have a soft spot for the City that Never Sleeps. Speaking from firsthand experience, moving to New York City was the best decision I’ve ever made. The city feels as good as it looks, and I can’t imagine leaving.
Why do I mention this? Because you should know that NYC ruins all other cities. I feel like I’m forever stuck paying astronomical rents and justifying $30 drinks. In fact, it’s not until I return home for the holidays that I find myself genuinely shocked when I see the prices outside of NYC. I forget that $30 for a drink is not normal! But would I ever move out of NYC? I couldn’t dream of it.
If you want to become a real New Yorker, there’s only one rule: You have to believe New York is, has been, and always will be the greatest city on earth. The center of the universe.– Ellen R. Shapiro
It’s normal to get depressed after moving to NYC
Let’s have an honest and frank conversation — a lot of people feel depressed after moving to New York City. This might seem counterintuitive since a lot of folks that move to NYC do so to pursue a dream, but it’s true (and it makes sense when you think about it).
Moving to NYC is a huge life change. There’s no other city in the world quite like it, and there’s a lot of anxiety that comes with the territory. It’s not uncommon to have sleepless nights and the daily weight of stress while living in NYC — can I afford to pay the bills? My credit card bill is how high? Did I really just spend $30 on a drink?
It takes time to get adjusted to a new rhythm, don’t hesitate to get help! Go easy on yourself. You’re a regular person with regular emotions and feeling depressed after moving to NYC happens to a lot of people.
My best advice is to establish a routine that reflects what you found comforting before. For me, I now start every morning with a walk — I made this non-negotiable. It helps clear my head and allows me to enjoy the city I spend too much money to live in.
New York, I love you but you’re bringing me down.
If you hate living in NYC, don’t feel pressured to stay
Finally, allow me to share my last bit of wisdom — you’re not a tree. You don’t have roots, you can move around. If you find that living to New York City doesn’t jive with your vibe as expected, give yourself some grace. The city is not for everyone and some folks discover that only after moving to NYC.
There’s a lot of opportunities here, to be sure, but there’s also a lot of pressure. And noise. Millions of people have moved to New York City to restart (or start) their lives and there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t do the same. Of those millions that moved to NYC, millions have moved out as well.
Give life in NYC a good college try, but give yourself some grace if you discover that you enjoy a different pace of life. The city will always be here when you return, and so will New York Simply (shameless, I know). 😉
Things to know before moving to NYC (Post Overview)
In summary, here’s a list of important things to know before moving to New York City.
- The neighborhood matters more than you think
- Get familiar with broker fees
- Searching for an apartment in New York City is a bear
- You must (must, must) tour the apartment in person
- Give yourself 1-2 months to find an apartment
- The application paperwork is insane
- Airing your dirty laundry
- Moving to New York City in the summer? Forget about it
- Let’s talk about ACs and heaters
- New York City is so damn expensive it will make you cry
- Have a job lined up before you move here
- Not all grocery stores are created equal
- You won’t need a car when moving to NYC
- NYC is an active city
- The city is inspiring and makes you feel invisible
- You’ll have access to world-class museums
- And incredible food almost 24/7
- Leaving New York City will feel impossible
- It’s normal to get depressed after moving to NYC
- If you hate living in NYC, don’t feel pressured to stay
I feel like moving to New York City aged me prematurely. But honestly, I’m happier for it. I’m living in a dream and hope you can too. I hope you found these tips on moving to New York City helpful, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions below, always happy to help.
Want to know what it’s like to actually live in NYC? Read: 20 HONEST Pros & Cons of Living in New York City
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