10 Things to Know Before Moving to New York City

Although I was born and raised in Manhattan, I hadn’t lived in the city for a long time before I moved back with my now-husband. When I was younger, my dad was (and still is) in the Army, and we moved around the country. We generally lived well outside of cities. Despite our moves, Manhattan was always home to me, and I would visit my family who still lived in the city often. I was so happy that we were able to move back before we decided to live in Locust Valley prior to our son’s arrival. Although I have a long history with the city, I learned many things when I moved back as an adult. Here are ten things I wish I knew before moving to New York City!

Set a budget
Looking for an apartment in Manhattan is one of the most difficult things you will ever do in your life. It is so hard to find affordable real estate in the city. Figure out your budget range for an apartment and do not exceed it. Food, utilities, and just about everything else are more expensive in New York than anywhere else.

Don’t use a broker unless you have to
Brokers usually charge a 15% fee. For a $2,000/month apartment, that equals $3,600. Keep in mind that the broker’s fee must be paid when the lease is signed. You’re also paying your landlord a security deposit and perhaps the first and last month’s rent up front. If your security deposit is equivalent to one month’s rent, that means you’ll have to pay $9,600 upon signing your lease. You can avoid about a third of that charge by looking on sites like Streeteasy, or looking for apartments in buildings with a leasing department.

Choose a neighborhood
Even though it is so difficult to find an apartment in the city, there are hundreds and hundreds of apartments available at any given day. They just go very quickly! To save time and increase your odds of finding an apartment, pick one or several neighborhoods to focus on. Ideally, your chosen neighborhood should be commutable to your job, safe, and affordable. For example, even though the West Village is a great place to live, it is very expensive and not easily commutable if you work, say, on the Upper East Side.

When you are choosing a neighborhood, be sure to look at all commuting options
The subway is always crowded during rush hour. That is as true a statement as will ever be written. You’ll eventually be able to cram into a subway car, but there are other options for commuting. When we lived in Carnegie Hill, I took the bus to work every day. It was never crowded, I always got a seat, and it was actually quite pleasant. Looking at other options, even if you do end up taking the subway, is a good idea.

Keep an open mind!
When we were looking at apartments, we wanted to live on the east side. We looked at places from Sutton Place up to Carnegie Hill, and we ended up finding the perfect apartment! It was reasonably priced for a one bedroom, had a decent sized kitchen with LOTS of counter space, hardwood floors, high ceilings, several large closets, a HUGE bedroom, and windows in every room that overlooked Central Park. We were so lucky to find it! Better yet, it was three blocks from one subway line, two and a half blocks from two more, and four bus lines stopped right across the street from us. It was perfectly located and we were so lucky. We only found it because we kept an open mind when we were looking!

Find your “places”
Once you move into your new apartment, figure out “your” places. Find your grocery store, your bodega, your doctor’s office, and your go-to restaurant (and your go-to takeout places). Finding “your” places helps give a sense of community.

One of the best ways to get the lay of the land is to walk it. You’ll quickly learn your neighborhood and discover a lot of great places along the way. When I was growing up in the city, and when we lived there again, we would walk everywhere. It was a great way to see everything and you’ll figure out where everything is quicker if you are in a place that is unfamiliar to you!

Make new friends
If you already have friends who live in your neighborhood, that’s great! In any case, moving to a new place is a great time to make new friends. Check out my tips for making friends as an adult here.

Find an escape route
Sometimes things in the city can get overwhelming, especially if you’re not used to living in a city. Manhattan especially is a place where it is nearly impossible to ever be alone. Even when you’re in your apartment, you are surrounded by neighbors. Find a space where you can rest and recharge. It could be at the Temple of Dendur at the Met, a bench in Central Park, or even inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Find your place and visit it if you get too overwhelmed.

It doesn’t have to be forever
Even if you intend to live in the city and in your apartment forever, things change. For example, you might want to move apartments and find a better one in Brooklyn. You might get married and start a family and decide that you want to move where you can have more space, so you relocate to Yonkers. Or you might just be able to afford a better apartment, and you find one with a little garden. Whatever happens, things aren’t permanent. It may seem so at the time, but you can overcome most situations!

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