Welcome to NYC – Guide to moving in the Big Apple

There’s never been a better time to call yourself a New Yorker. If you’re thinking about moving to New York City, congrats! But before you start celebrating, let’s get real for a minute.


Moving in New York City isn’t for the timid. There’s a lot of time, research, and, to be blunt, cash involved, whether you’re moving to the city for the first time or just moving a few blocks over.


This guide will help you make the most out of your move. We reached out to a few of our renters insurance clients who have moved in NYC and found out what made their move easy and what they wish they would have known beforehand.


Before you start packing, read this first!


Determine your budget

It’s no secret that living in NYC is going to take a little extra cash. But if it’s your first time moving into NYC, you’re probably a little unsure of exactly how much you’ll need to not just make ends meet but also enjoy the splendor of the city.


Even though Mike knew what to expect, he was still shocked. “The two things that I heard about moving in NYC is how quickly the process happens and how expensive it is. Yet, it still took me by surprise how much money I would have to lay out and how pushy brokers can be for you to sign.” 


The average rent for a NYC apartment is $3,164. Of course, this number can go up or down depending on what you’re looking for in terms of location and square footage.


The first step to take when moving in New York City is to determine your budget and it’s not just about what you think you can afford. While most parts of the country suggest never spending more than 30% of your monthly income on rent or your mortgage, the stats in NYC are a little different. Some landlords require that you make at least 40 times your monthly rent a year.


Sound impossible? For some, it is. That’s why you might need a roommate or maybe even 10. But if you want to explore NYC on your own, you have one other option. If you can get a guarantor to sign, or someone that meets the income requirements and will pay your rent if you, for whatever reason, can’t, you could still get approved for that dream apartment.


Determine location and housing type

Now that you have a budget in mind, it’s time to figure out what part of NYC you want to call home. Start by narrowing down by borough. There are five, all with their own unique claim to fame. From there, narrow down the neighborhoods. Median rent will be a deciding factor but also consider available transportation, nightlife, safety, schools, and parking.


If you’re having trouble deciding, ask a few friends like Jess did. “Local friends helped me find the best neighborhood to move to and good places to eat, mainly where to get a good cup of coffee.”


So now that you have an ideal neighborhood, how do you picture your NYC lifestyle? Do you want a roommate? Can you afford an apartment on your own? Maybe you prefer a sublet scenario. If you want to go all in, you can consider purchasing a co-op or condo. There are pros and cons to all so take some time to soul search and see which situation fits your needs best.


Fee and no fee listings

You’ll find two main types of rentals in NYC. Some include a fee that pays a real estate broker while no-fee options will have you working through a management company. A broker’s fee can be as much as 15% of a full year’s lease so choose wisely.


Working with a broker will save you time and they’ll handle making appointments and taking care of paperwork. But the expense can be off-putting. Finding an apartment on your own puts you in control and saves you money but you’ll spend plenty of time making phone calls, setting up appointments, and could face higher rent costs without the help of an agent.


Tour and apply

Here’s where your research pays off. Physically tour the apartments that make the cut. It’s important to understand that you probably won’t get everything from your wish list.


Amanda says, “…When looking for an apartment, you have to decide what is important to you or a deal breaker, and just find an apartment that fits into that.”


But it’s also important to make sure your needs are being met. Mike found out after he signed his lease that there were things he should have included on his wish list but didn’t.


“Having enough electrical outlets, a working AC unit and dishwasher, and laundry in the building are things I never knew would be so important until I realized I didn’t have them.”


But if you like what you see, fill out applications as soon as possible. Units go quickly. You might want to try your luck in an apartment lottery if you’re feeling discouraged. In the meantime, consider looking for a roommate until you find your perfect apartment.


Sign the lease

It might not happen the first time, but you will eventually get approved for an apartment. If today’s the day, congrats! We’re down to the wire now. But before you sign, make sure to review your lease in its entirety and check the following:


  • Are the terms of your lease correct (if renting)? Make sure you’re not signing a 6-month lease when you thought it was a 12-month.
  • Check the terms of your security deposit. How much is it and what are the contingencies for getting it back when you move out?
  • Come to the lease signing with a list of questions. Make sure they’re all addressed within your lease. If not, get the information before you sign. How can you reach the landlord? What type of repairs are you responsible for? Can you hang pictures on the wall? No matter how silly a question seems, ask it.


Once you feel completely comfortable, go ahead and sign. Grab your keys and get ready to move in!


Bonus moving in NYC tips

Don’t start packing just yet. Read these tips to make moving day a breeze.


  • If your budget allows, hire movers. They’re professionals when it comes to moving in New York City and can save you a few headaches. Prices will vary between companies but on average, you can expect to pay about $95 an hour for movers in NYC. The less you move, the less it will cost you as prices rise with heavier items or excessive boxes. Amanda says, “Try to take as little as possible. Moving is difficult and you won’t have nearly enough storage space. You really don’t need much to be comfortable and happy.”
  • If you’re on your own, rent a moving truck to shorten the number of trips you’ll have to make, especially if it‘s your first time moving into NYC. Save yourself some stress by visiting your new street before moving day and scoping out the parking. All neighborhoods have different rules but in general, commercial vehicles can double park and park in a “No Standing” zone. Just don’t park in front of a fire hydrant, in a bus lane, or in a construction zone. Doing this will result in a ticket. You’ll have to be quick as well. Commercial vehicles can only remain parked for three hours.
  • As soon as you can, change your address with the post office. Reach out to any credit cards, cell phone providers, or other monthly bills and change your address with them as well. When it comes to services and utilities, you’ll need to know which are included with your monthly payments and which aren’t. For those that aren’t, set up a date to have the service turned on, ideally the same day you move in.
  • Be sure to purchase renters insurance. This should be done before you take ownership of the apartment. If you’re not sure what type of coverage you need, speak with an insurance broker before the move so that your items are fully covered.


Still ready to make the big move? You can do it! Prepare as much as you can, remain patient, and eventually you’ll have a part of the city to call your own. That’s when the real adventure starts.


Just ask Kerry, who found herself pleasantly surprised with her move to NYC. “You will meet people you’d never thought you’d be friends with from very different backgrounds!”


Good luck on your big move!


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