When we made our Into the City Moving Guide, I thought we had covered most of the top priorities for moving. But this past month I learned that there is no “right” or straightforward way to move in NYC. The place I had been living for the past year did not have a lease, was furnished, and comfortable. My rent included electric, cable, heat/air conditioning, water. I knew I wouldn’t stay there forever, but thought I’d be there through next spring. Well, a little bit into October my then-soon-to-be roommate told me her living situation had changed and would I be interested in looking for a place with her–and move at the beginning of November. It unleashed an incredibly stressful month and I learned some important lessons.
1. It’s all about who you know.
Throughout the process, I was constantly asking everyone I knew everything from information about different neighborhoods down to what company they use for Internet. Even after living in Brooklyn for the past year and learning about the city on my own, everyone has a different experience and every person I talked to had valuable tips to share.
2. Apartments move quickly in NYC.
Apparently, NYC is a very desirable place to live. (Who knew?) So apartments that are on the market do not last very long because there will always be someone out there looking for a place and snatching it up. So even though you don’t have to make a decision on the spot, you kind of have to.
3. Brokers are useful, but broker fees can hit hard.
You may start your search on Padmapper or Craigslist, but you’ll quickly find that places you contact on your own are often super sketchy or already rented out to someone else. If you don’t have the time to commit to a full-time search on your own, or if every place you contact from a listing is already rented, getting a broker can save you time. Be clear about your priorities (neighborhood, number of bedrooms, condition of furnishings, proximity to subway, safety, and price). Remember that you do not have to pay the broker until AFTER you get an apartment. Most broker fees will be 12-15% of the year’s rent, some are lower (ours was 10% and some are no fee when the landlord has an agreement to pay that fee).
4. Getting the required documents and financial requirements for your landlord and broker can be a challenge if you don’t have a local bank account. (Also, keep in mind that in addition to all the up-front charges, you may also need to get a guarantor or co-signer for your apartment if you don’t make 40X the rent.)
If you’re coming from outside the city, make sure you have access to your account (cash) when coming in. If you’re moving within the city, make sure you have an account with a bank that has locations in NYC. Be aware of the debit card limits and ask your institution for a raise in the limit if you’re stuck without cash. You can also opt for a cash advance at any bank. Then make your way to Western Union, giving yourself plenty of time, and be aware that the max amount for a money order is $500 so you may wind up with several money orders.
We hit about every roadblock on our mission to get the necessary money orders for our broker’s fee, first month’s rent, and security deposit.
– That day I had accidentally left my wallet in Brooklyn, so had to leave work to get it.
– The Western Union wouldn’t cash my personal check.
– The CitiBank (where I do not have an account) would not cash my check.
– The Chase bank, where another friend went to cash the check for us, would not cash the check because of the amount.
– My bank would not let me initiate a wire transfer since I was not able to come to one of their locations.
– My bank agreed to raise the ATM withdrawal limit on my debit card, but I DID NOT HAVE MY DEBIT CARD.
– My roommate’s bank would only raise the POS limit on her debit card, but not the ATM withdrawal limit.
– Duane Reade does not accept debit cards for money orders.
– Banks where you do not have an account WILL do a cash advance on your debit card as long as you have proper ID. (First success of the day.)
– Western Union in Manhattan has a very LONG line.
5. IKEA is a great option for less expensive necessities, like bedroom furniture. If you order online, though, it will take more than a couple of days before you see your order. Be prepared to sleep on a couch. If you have one.
6. When you finally get to the new apartment, you have to deal with things like switching over the electric, setting up internet, cleaning the weird stickiness off of the kitchen cabinets and fishing out the smelly hair (that IS NOT YOURS) from the shower drain so the tub doesn’t fill with water when you take a five-minute shower.
7. At the end of the day, despite all of the stress, frustration, and anxiety that is constant in every step of finding an apartment in NYC, when you finally move in to your new place it is a wonderful feeling.
Here’s to a new, exciting, and hopefully not too stressful adventure as a Manhattanite.