So you’re one of those crazies that wants to give New York living a try, congratulations! Preparing to move to a new city is scary, preparing to move to New York city is downright terrifying. Here are some tips to keep in mind before your big move:

10. Rent, Location, Size: Get Ready to Sacrifice Two

Here’s the deal, unless you are one of the lucky few who has copious amounts of money to spend upon your move to one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., you will have to throw your idea of the perfect place out the window.

My personal apartment search took me three months. Moving from a huge two bedroom apartment overlooking a lake for a total of $518 a month ($295 a person), I was shocked when I found out the cheapest, livable two bedroom apartment will run between $2,300 to $4,000 based on averages pulled from Craigslist. An awesome infograph from shows that rent averages run from:

  • Studio: $1,300 – $2,800
  • 1BR: $1,400 – $3,000
  • 2BR: $1,800 -$3,500
  • 3BR: $2,600 – $6,000
  • OVERALL: $3,000 – $3,500

I learned that of the three main selling points to an apartment; rent, location, size — most places only had one feature. I ranked these three things by personal value and was able to find a place in my budget, my Brooklyn 2BR apartment is less than the average low of 2BR’s in NYC.

The apartment gods smiled on me when I found my place because not only was my rent within my budget, but I loved the location; the size however, is comparable to my parent’s walk-in closet. The best piece of advice I got when looking at apartments, was “use your imagination”.

9. Utilize Craigslist, But Don’t Trust It

Love it or hate it, Craigslist is pretty convenient. Many people, not knowing where to begin, often turn to the classifieds site in order to get a bigger scope of avaliable places. One thing to watch out for are posters who lie about location. People posting apartments often take the liberty of extending the boundaries of safe, trendy neighborhoods several subways stops and miles from their actual limits. For example, East Williamsburg is a label to watch out for. The neighborhood is real, insofar as it exists on subway maps and is different from actual Williamsburg, that crushingly hip neighborhood packed with people you’ve read about in New York Times trend pieces, but it’s not as big as real estate agents like to pretend.

Nearby Bushwick and Bed-Stuy, to real estate agents, fall well within the boundaries of East Williamsburg, though they don’t provide the safety or amenities that East Williamsburg does. Still more confusing is that many people who live in East Williamsburg call it Bushwick because they want to sound cool, or are under the impression that East Williamsburg is a misnomer. Either way, you should consult with a friend or Wikipedia if you’re curious about actual neighborhood boundaries (for quick reference, these stops are actually in, or on the border of, East Williamsburg. L train: Grand Ave, Montrose Ave, Morgan Ave. J Train: Lorimer Ave, Flushing Ave). Don’t expect real estate agents to be forthcoming with this sort of information, especially in rapidly gentrifying North Brooklyn.

8. No-Fee vs. Broker Fees

If you can, avoid broker fees at all costs. You already have all the typical expenses to worry about, broker fees mean you are paying a person to find an apartment for you. If it’s something you think you can afford, then this can be a great help in your search. Be careful though, most brokers charge between 10%-15% of your yearly rent. You’ll be paying about a month’s rent just because someone showed you the apartment.

One thing people do not know is you can often negotiate the brokers fee down to only one month’s rent (if it’s more). If you want to take the risk of falling in love with an apartment with a brokers fee, at least try to haggle down the price a bit.

7. Prepare to Pay

One of the worst shocks of moving to New York is how much you have to pay up front. I am telling you, people go to apartment viewings with checkbooks. I had a couple of places snatched up before I could even go to see them. The quick turnaround means one thing, be prepared to pay. The standard formula is:

  • First Month Rent + Last Month Rent + Deposit = Payment Upfront (may also include credit check fee).

So when looking at apartments remember that you will be writing a check for double that  and then some up front.

6. Consider a Month-to-Month Rental

Month-to-month rentals are an excellent option for someone who is unfamiliar with New York City. By not committing yourself to a year lease you can figure out your how your spending will change and adjust your budget. Month-to-month rentals are typically a little run down and may not be in the most ideal areas, but they buy you time to find a place that fits perfectly for you.

5. Get Rid of 75% of Your Belongings

New York City is not a city that offers a wealthy supply of space. So when you are moving, try your best to get rid of everything that you can live without. My roommate didn’t follow this rule and brought a couch he was attached to, now we have a couch in our kitchen.

If you are one of those people that has trouble parting with material things, then maybe New York is not the city for you. A great way to make some money to pay off the steep moving costs is having a sale for your items.

4. It’s Cheaper to Ship

Did you get rid of everything like I told you? Great! Now that you have compacted what you need to move, I suggest shipping items (if you’re flying). It is much more cost-efficient to rely on USPS than it is to pay hefty baggage fees when your luggage is over the limit. I personally like cramming as much as I can into the flat rate boxes, as long as you are under 70 lbs you only have to pay however much the packaging costs, their largest boxes (23-11/16″ x 11-3/4″ x 3″) are $14.95.

This is a much better rate than excess baggage fees which can run from $90 to $170, just for being one pound over the 50-pound limit.

3. Monthly Metro Passes vs. Pay-Per-Ride

When I first moved to New York I didn’t want to worry about whether or not I had enough money on my MetroCard so I bought a monthly unlimited card for $97 (now $104). A few weeks later I realized I could walk to work and decided to recalculate how often I used the subway — about 10 times per week.

I was able to lower this number to 6 per a week, by walking whenever I could and investing in a bike. This meant that it would cost me approximately $54 a month to ride the subway, a big difference from the initial $97 payment. Don’t pay the metro more than you have to, monitor your transportation use.

NOTE: Your first month or so you may be traveling more to see the city and/or lost more often, your usage should decrease a bit as you settle in.

2. The Yellow Ones Do Stop

The second you step off the plane you will be greeted by a guy in sunglasses and a leather jacket offering you a ride. A seasoned New Yorker knows never to take him up on his offer no matter how good it sounds. Private car services are notorious for up-charging their patrons, plus they typically do not accept credit cards. Although these cars sometimes seem to be the more convenient choice, go for a yellow cab to avoid paying more.

1. Breathe. No Seriously, BREATHE

This is probably the most important tip. Moving to New York is often a scary and exciting time and it is easy to get caught up in the worries of finding a place, finding financial stability and fighting your footing in general. Relax, take a breath and realize you are in (or about to be) the greatest city on Earth. Take advantage of the opportunities around every corner; some of your favorite memories will take place in the next few months.

Are you a New Yorker who has tips of your own? Please share in out comments section:

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  • Jane

    Excellent tips. Would love to see one for LA. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Great idea Jane, I’ll have to pick the brain of some of my LA friends to get some good tips. Thanks for reading!

  • Cassie

    Thank you for writing this post. It’s actually somewhat difficult to find posts with moving to new york tips. I like that your post actually had helpful info and not just generalities. Actually posting price ranges and how much you usually have to spend putting down something on an apt. was REALLY helpful. Any other advice I would love to hear! My plan is to move out there this fall. I’m trying to be as smart as possible about it.

  • Tony

    When choosing a roommate (as you probably will need one) be very selective. It’s really best if you know the individual. If that’s not possible, check employment history, references, where he/she lived before. Years ago when living in Brooklyn Heights, I chose a roommate from fifteen applicants. Within one week I realized I had made a mistake.

  • Natalia

    Great Tips! Our plan is to move there before the end of 2013 ๐Ÿ™‚ but what im wondering and maybe somebody could help is how much (estimate) would other expenses be for example the water, Electricity, Internet, groceries, Etc…) Im just trying to get an idea of what our monthly expenses would be like.