Cities, Moving

Moving to New York? Here are Three Points to Consider

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In her “Wear Sunscreen: A Primer for Real Life,” Mary Schmich once wrote, “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.” While this may be over-exaggerating, moving to NYC can be a life-changing experience. A cultural melting pot of nearly nine million people of which one out of every two residents came from outside the country, NYC is a vibrant, fast-paced city that may have no equal in the world.

But NYC presents very unique challenges. From the high costs to the extreme competition and the diverse nature of the city’s neighborhoods, here are three considerations to weigh before moving to the Big Apple.

1. Setting Expectations

New York City is a city of contradictions. The most populous city in the United States, it has more than twice the people of the second-largest city, Los Angeles. Despite this, the city is only the 28th largest by land area, comparably the same size as Charlotte, NC, Augusta, GA, and Memphis, TN. New York City is also, at the same time, home to the most billionaires in the world, while struggling with the huge challenges and problems of homelessness. 

There is no one New York City. NYC is heterogeneous, with each borough, neighborhood, and even street having its own flavor and identity.  While Manhattan is urban and seemingly always on the move, Staten Island is almost suburban and relatively sleepy.

When researching places to live in New York City, it is important to know what you are looking for and if your potential future community can deliver. You may need to visit your targeted neighborhood in person or even stay there over the short-term, if you can afford it. Walk the neighborhood, find out where the local stores and restaurants are. Talk to your potential neighbors and people in your building to see what they like and don’t like about the neighborhood.

Finally, take the time to look up the local traditions, the community’s crime rate, and the area’s general layout. In Manhattan, for example, it is easier to travel North (where Harlem and Central Park are) to South (where Wall Street and the Financial District are). Neighborhoods in the North like Greenwich Village and the Upper East Side are generally considered more livable and affordable than South Manhattan neighborhoods.

2. The Housing Crunch

New York City is the national hub for banking, finance, fashion, media, transportation, and international trade, among many other industries. It is also the United States’ primary gateway for immigration. The heavy influx of new residents means that finding housing is more expensive and competitive here than anywhere else in the country. On average, buying a home in the city costs around $750,000, more than twice the national average of $331,533.

This leaves most new New Yorkers to rent. This, though, offers new challenges. Due to the high cost of living in the Five Boroughs, most landlords expect new residents to earn 40 times the monthly rent annually, compared to the typical 25 times in the rest of the nation. That means to rent a $2,000 one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, the applicant must demonstrate $80,000 in verifiable annual income. For many, the high cost of rent—which can exceed $3,000 a month in Manhattan—and the high-income requirements make moving to NYC unfeasible.

Fortunately, there are options around this:

  • Older buildings charge lower rents than newer buildings, as they typically have fewer or aging amenities. Fewer amenities, in general, mean lower rent.
  • There is a rental season in NYC. Most apartments are made available in the summer, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Due to the increased competition, lease prices are higher at that time. While there are fewer apartments available off-season, you will be able to find a deal if you wait.
  • Every borough has neighborhoods that are less expensive than its neighbors. It may be that the neighborhood, like Hell’s Kitchen or Alphabet City, had a history of being crime-ridden or run-down. That may not be the case today, but because of the reputation, there may not be as much of a demand to move into these areas.
  • If you have good credit, you can sign up with an institutional guarantor that would co-sign your apartment lease for you. These guarantors have lower income requirements than most apartment brokers or landlords. If you know someone that has an income 80-100 times your monthly rent, you can ask them to co-sign as a personal guarantor. The guarantor would be responsible for paying your rent in case you default on your payments.
  • If all else fails, find a roommate or offer to move into an apartment looking for a roommate. You may also want to consider a co-living situation, where you would rent a fully-furnished room or apartment in a larger shared space

3. Moving In

Once you find the ideal place, there are still other things to consider. One is that NYC never sleeps. Many businesses close at 2 am, with some never closing. You will need to accept that there will be a certain level of noise and activity around you all the time.

Another is that you can’t just move into your apartment yourself. For most buildings, you will need to present a Certificate of Insurance that will guarantee against damage when moving in your furniture. Working with a reputable mover, such as Dolly, can help you with this.

Finally, there are hidden fees involved in renting a NYC apartment. One is the broker’s fee, which is paid by the renter. Even if you find the apartment through other means, such as online or an apartment broker, you may be responsible for this expense if the apartment’s leasing is managed by a broker. This can be as much as 15% of the annual lease cost. Another may be co-op fees or renters’ association fees.

New York City can be a great place to live. Your experience, however, will be determined by how prepared you are for the move and how much research you spent in finding exactly what you are looking for in the Big City. To help take the stress out of moving, visit

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