When it comes to reader emails, the one question I get more frequently than "What should we do while visiting New York?" is "HELP ME I'M MOVING TO NEW YORK I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING!"

I remember this panicked feeling, because I experienced it while 7 months pregnant, and that is not something a person forgets easily.

And so I am about to share with you everything I know about moving to NYC!

Firstly, the most indulgent feeling in the world, and what doubtless saved my sanity from implosion during our move from New York to Idaho, was hiring a reputable moving company to box up our things, transport them cross-country, and then unbox our things once it all got here. I would not have handled well the emotions of the quick turnaround of this move had I needed to make time for boxing up our apartment while I was also busy finding a new place, meeting deadlines + obligations, caring for my four-year-old, hosting visitors, and squeezing every last drop out of our time in New York. 

For this move we hired High Touch Moving, a local moving company based out of Brooklyn, New York. Gilad stopped by, took note of our belongings and the number of boxes we'd need, and then we proceeded to not think about it at all until the day of the move arrived, when the High Touch team showed up right on time 8AM and got the whole thing put together and out the door by just after noon. 

And then I walked slowly and silently through our now-empty home, listening to the creaks and echoes of the neighbors upstairs and running my hands along the bumps in the walls, before turning out the lights one last time and locking the door behind me.

Oh, moving. What a funny experience to inhabit a place so fully and then leave it behind as though it weren't a beloved member of the family.

Well. By way of fond farewell to our time in the city (this time, anyway), everything I know about moving to NYC is hiding right after this jump.



First of all is I am definitely talking out of my ass here because I am not at all an expert in NYC real estate. Also, I've been gone a whole three weeks now and who even knows how much things have changed since then!? Also also it's been over a year since I last applied for an apartment in NYC, so pretty much everything I say from here on out is fully refutable and likely to be hideously incorrect, though it is all true to my own experience. And so, you know. Grain of salt, few pinches of pepper. Don't forget the cinnamon.

The first time we moved to NYC we stayed in a corporate apartment chosen for us by Brandon's company. They paid us a cost of living increase to cover the rent, and we paid it every month with full blinders on to the fact that somehow this place that we lived in that we considered to be kind of a dump (compared to our digs in Portland) was costing the company $3200 a month. Thirty Two Hunji. 

The second time we moved to NYC I was seven months pregnant, irritable as all hell, with just under 24 hours to find a place, apply for the place, and move into said place. It was fun. And then we lived with two dogs and one fetus and zero furniture for a month while we waited for our couch to be delivered, so Brandon constructed for me a "pregnant lady throne" out of our luggage and a couple empty cardboard boxes. Fancy.

Moving sucks.

I like to use Streeteasy to look at apartment listings. Scratch that, I love to use Streeteasy. I've been known to stay up till 3AM scouring Streeteasy for no good reason at all, just because it's that enthralling to look at apartment listings. There are many other apartment search sites you can use (Zillow, UrbanSherpa), but I always start with Streeteasy and then cross-reference the listings on other sites after.

You can use Craigslist but I say beware of Craigslist. Frequently a broker will list a fake apartment on Craigslist as bait. This listing will look so clean + bright + airy in a really great neighborhood for such a screaming deal that you call right away and then the broker says, "oh shoot, that one just rented, but I have do all these, if you want to take a look?" 

Well, yes. But also, no. 

Brokers are basically renters agents, and they will take a fee of anywhere from 12-15% of your yearly lease for their services once they find you a place. If they don't find you a place, they get not a dime. I always tend to fall a little bit in love with my brokers, they're sort of like therapists? You know, you really get to the root of your feelings on hardwoods with a broker. I say it's possible they're worth it.  

On the other hand, our first place on the UWS I found without a broker and it can definitely be done, even while pregnant and emotionally challenged. It *is* a lot more work, but it's the kind of work I usually think is sort of fun. Though worth noting: if you're interested in looking at a lot of places before making a decision it can be a little like juggling cats. Having a broker in those instances is really great. They save you a million phone calls + just tell you where to meet and when.

Some buildings are broker-only, and the management company absolutely won't work directly with a prospective tenant. Some buildings it's the wild wild west and it's every man for himself and you show up to an open house behind ten other interested renters and it's a little like The Bachelor? It's dog eat dog out there, man.

You might get to spend as little as $6500 a month! Hah! The answer is, it all depends. Friends of ours on the Upper West Side have rented a two bedroom for $10,000 and other friends have rented a similar -sized two bedroom for just under $3000. Some of our friends have rented studios for $1800 a month, other friends have rented studios for more than $3500. (PS-asking someone point blank what they pay in rent in New York City is something you should definitely do and don't even feel weird about it, okay? It's completely kosher. Nobody talks about their salaries, everybody talks about their rent.) But generally speaking, on average, you're looking at $2200 a month and up in Manhattan. To find something under $2000 you'll be living in Manhattan without a bedroom, or in an outer borough somewhere trekk-y to a subway, or with a roommate to split the cost. Or in Queens. But I know nothing about Queens so let's leave that out of this. 

Studios in Manhattan, in my experience, generally start around $1600 for the tiniest space and can go way, way up from there, depending on neighborhood + amenities. And consider this a vote for the studio! One ought to consider a studio! If you can save money on a similarly sized space by foregoing a couple of walls, I say do it! It's so easy to get creative, and when you're already living this crazy different lifestyle by living in the city, I think it adds an element of fun. If you ask me, anyway. Those kinds of studios are the exception, though. Most of these studios are glorified bedrooms, and some of them--especially the ones in the Village--won't even have kitchens, necessarily. Maybe a sink, a hot plate, and a very tiny fridge. The kind of fridge you might buy for your dorm room. Sometimes you'll find a shower in the kitchen as well! That is exciting. Is this kind of thing worth it to be able to live in the Village? Yes, it is always worth it to be able to live in the Village.


Really rent comes down entirely to these three things: 

Walk ups are cheaper, and the higher ya have to climb the cheaper the rent ya get. Luxury apartments and places with amenities charge more more more. Elevators and doormen. These are typically the first to go when you're trying to cut back on rent. I've been more than happy to do that in the past, even though it's really rad having someone to sign for your packages for you. You know.

School districts will have a huge bearing on the cost of your apartment, too. In certain parts of the Upper West Side, rents jump up by more than a couple grand, easily, just based on which school you are zoned for. Funnily enough, paying more to live in one of these zones does not actually guarantee you a seat at these schools. There's still an application process, there's usually a waiting list, and oftentimes seats are assigned via lottery. Isn't that fun? Waiting on Huck's acceptance letter to kindergarten was more stressful than waiting on Brandon's acceptance to NYU. 


You might get lucky and find what I like to call a Little Old Lady unit, where some old person or super rich family who bought the space for something silly like ten thousand dollars back in 1920 or whatever is willing to rent out or sub-lease to you long-term for cheap because she just wants a nice family to keep things up for them. Did you see that one movie with Drew Barrymore and Ben Stiller? It's generally not very likely that you'll come across something like this, though there are those people who seem to excel at finding these little spots and you sort of have to hate them because of it (I'm looking at you, Spencer + Erica! ;).

Obviously this goes all over the place but for a 1-bedroom, 500 square feet is the start of what's considered decent. For a 2-bedroom, 600 starts to feel pretty cramped, 800 feels like a sweet spot. Anything over 1000 square feet and it's like, WOW, who are you, Donald Trump? 250-400 square feet is where you'll find the most affordable options. It's also where you'll need a lot of patience with  your loved ones. ;)

Basically the name of the game is to figure out how many of these you can do without. For every single one of these you keep you tack on quite a bit more in rent. 

Central Air
Laundry in the building
Laundry in the UNIT - the golden unicorn of apartments
Bike storage
Basement storage

All apartments in NYC are required to provide free heat + hot water by law. A lot of NYC apartments you can't control the heater in your unit and you broil yourself to death every winter. But that's kind of fun, too.

What are the cheapest neighborhoods to live in?
In Manhattan: The Financial District, good for those who don't require too many grocery stores or if you're a vampire and prefer a lack of natural light; the Upper East Side, believe it or not, because it is BORING over there; Hells Kitchen, though increasingly less-so since all these new high rises are going up; and Inwood, but be sure to get an unlimited monthly Metrocard pass.

What are the most expensive neighborhoods to live in?
Who are you, Donald Trump? Good luck finding anything affordable in the West Village, Meatpacking District, or SoHo anymore if you also want to have room for a standard-sized sofa.

Stupidly, Chelsea is still really pricey and I honestly can't figure out how it's worth it?

I thought this place was supposed to be cheap, what happened?
Gentrification happened. And you can't escape it.

The East Village, most of Brooklyn, certain parts of Morningside Heights, Chinatown and Little Italy, these places have historically been thought of as rather affordable but it's all changing fast and there's not much you can do about it. 

In Brooklyn, there are still a few hoods left that are only in the early-early stages of hipster intervention and thus are still fairly affordable. Let's chunk them up into sub-categories, ready?

Neighborhoods to rent in now before it's too late:
Prospect Heights
Bed Stuy

You've got some time, kids:
Red Hook
Bay Ridge
Sunset Park
Crown Heights

Too late, suckers:
Cobble Hill
Brooklyn Heights
Park Slope
Williamsburg (lol)

You want real cheap? Move to Astoria. 

Manhattan is pretty family-friendly if you can afford it, but to maximize your search you should look in the UWS, the West Village, and TriBeCa--home of stupidly spendy kid's boutiques and really competitive mom's groups. In Brooklyn you can go just about anywhere, really, minus maybe certain parts of Bed Stuy? I don't know.

The least family-friendly Manhattan hoods are going to be Midtown / Murray Hill (bro central), the Financial District (there's, like, nothing down there but tall buildings and burger joints), and Chinatown, I'd say, just because it's crazy busy down there.

A "no-fee" apartment means you don't need a broker and won't be asked to pay any extra management or leasing fees. It sounds cheaper, though in my experience, it mostly evens out either way. In a no-fee case you might be asked to pay a security deposit, which is one month's rent and pretty much exactly what you'd pay a broker. In my experience, the places that have a fee or require that you work with a broker will leave off the requirement for a security deposit. A lot / most of the no-fee buildings ask a slightly higher-than-average monthly rent. 

Our first place on the UWS was no-fee. It was adorable + clean + getting approved was a super quick process, but we paid a lot more every month for the up-front convenience. The next year we moved to a brand new apartment in a renovated broker building that was more than twice the size of our first place AND had a washer/dryer in the unit, for the very same amount of rent. So . . . I mean.

A lot of cash. You will need all of the cash. 

First you'll need to pay an application fee, which is sometimes just $25 but is often a couple hundred, and then you'll need to be prepared to pay first and last month's rent pretty much immediately if your application is approved, and then, often, a security or broker's fee. We've never moved anywhere without needing a solid $10k in cash to throw around. What really sucks is when you apply for an apartment and then don't get it for whatever reason, and then you're just out the application fee. We once lost a good chunk of change for the privilege of being turned down by a co-op board for having "too much student debt," which is why one should always avoid dealing with a co-op board, and / or obtaining excessive education. Thank your, NYU! 

It's pretty standard for a building to require that you earn 40 times your monthly rent, which they'll want to see proof of via copies of your bank statement. Most times they'll want to see three months of pay stubs as well as a letter from your employer showing that you are in good standing with the company and your job is secure. Sometimes they'll want your credit card information? That just happened once though so I'm not sure it's standard. Usually also the rights to your firstborn child. You might also need a guarantor. Some even require a guarantor if your credit is spotless. A guarantor needs to be able to prove that s/he makes 80x the rent. Good luck with that, right? Ha-ha-haaaa. 

When you find a place you like it's a good idea to apply on the spot, immediatamente, so have all your docs ready to go the minute you show up to a potential apartment. I've lost places to applicants that applied faster than me by five minutes. 

If something is called a Junior 4 it means that the apartment you are looking at is legally a one bedroom, but that there is a walk-in closet or office space dining alcove area that you could easily convert into a second bedroom if you wanted, although since it has no windows or closets, it can't legally be considered a bedroom.

A Junior 1 is a studio that can be considered a 1-bedroom, due to an alcove layout.

I've noticed you tend to pay more for the places labelled Junior 1 or Junior 4 than for a straight up studio or 1-bedroom with big closets, so keep a look out for the magical phrase "walk-in closet."

Some places call their listings a 1 bedroom even when they are actually a studio. This is because you can technically consider the apartment itself to be a bedroom, right? Sneaky. So look for the phrases "true 1 bedroom" or "true 2 bedroom." Something called a "room" can indicate a bathroom, or even a kitchen. A four-room apartment is really just a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen, living room, and bathroom. 

Here's one reason you should hire a moving company, even if you are just moving down the block: boxes. The thought of getting all the boxes you'd need into your apartment on your own when you are mostly traveling on foot is hysterical. Here's another reason: insurance. If you bust up a shared hallway, that's on you, kid. A third reason: renting U-hauls by the hour gets pricey when you can't guarantee how long it'll take you to pack / unpack. Don't forget the extra cost of possible parking tickets if you happen to park in the wrong place at the wrong time . . . yikes.

You know what's wild, is the logistics involved in moving across the country. Something I didn't expect: after the movers pack you up, you're given an estimated arrival time of about two-three weeks. Then your belongings wait at a warehouse until a shipping truck is available to go in your direction. Once your things are on the road, you get an updated arrival time, and then, magically, they roll up right on time. I stood at our doorway on move-in day holding my breath and then, there they were, my knights in shining blanket padding.

Anyway, yeah, professional movers are the ultimate way to experience a hectic move.

If you get a window A/C unit, it's going to have to be installed by a licensed professional. Not by yourself. 

Your rent is going to go up every year. In my experience it's usually by $100 or so. Sometimes it's $500. No, you won't have any say in this. You don't like it, you can move out. Sometimes landlords will bump up your rent just enough to price you out so they can renovate the unit and charge more, or attract a different kind of renter. Rent controlled apartments don't really exist anymore, but rent stabilized apartments do, and that means your rent can only increase by a maximum of about 3% every year. 

Does rent ever go down some years? It's possible! After 9-11 a lot of my friends saw their rents go way down.

Finally and in conclusion, my best bit of apartment hunting advice is this: 
Be aggressive, be quick on your feet, and when you see a claw-foot tub, POUNCE.

This post was written in partnership with High Touch Moving, a team we hired and researched ourselves. We were offered a discount in exchange for this post. Writing it has been fairly therapeutic and has made me highly homesick. Thanks for the gentle care, High Touch! 


  1. Oh boy. This is the truth. However, I am also writing this having just moved in to a one bedroom in cobble hill with outdoor space and laundry in the unit (for less than $3200). so fairytales can come true. Some other points I feel the urge to share:
    1) look at broker websites (corcoran, halstead, brown harris stevens, etc) in addition to streeteasy/compass/etc. I heard from a broker once that streeteasy makes it very difficult to update listings once they've been posted, so it's possible that a great apartment will simply get buried and lost on the website even if it's amazing and still available.
    2) Always ask why the apartment hasn't rented yet if it's been available for more than 5 days.
    3) Check for information about the neighborhood you're moving into. This will save you from getting a great deal on a place because you're unwittingly moving in to a soon-to-be construction zone or because the building has inherent issues.
    4) Yes, you need 10k in your checking account at all times.
    5) Brokers fees are negotiable! Simply ask. Some people will say no, but most of the time, you can get it knocked down a bit. I asked, and got ours reduced $600, which may not be a lot when you look at all your costs, but it will certainly buy you some new furniture.
    5) Movers are necessary. There is no question in my mind about this. You can pack yourself up and just have them move the goods and it's usually not toooo expensive. helps you find a good mover with a good price based on what you have - it's a godsend.

    that's all. good luck everybody - it's a jungle out there.

  2. I can't imagine all the stress with this. -Hanna Lei

  3. gooooood god, i rent a 2000 sq foot loft in CINCINNATI (ever heard of it? haha) for $800 a month. i could cry into my bowl of cereal reading this post *sigh* new york, you are so out of my league! but as always, a good read for sure!

    1. Wow! That's a great deal! I've been looking at spaces but nothing that size for that awesome price!

  4. Making a pitch for Hoboken! Okay, it's definitely not New York City so if that's your dream, that's fine. Also, it's best if you work somewhere along the Path line. The Path is 100 times better than the Subway in terms of being pleasant, but there aren't many stops. If it gets you close to work, definitely worth it (it's also WAY more reliable than trying to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan or vice versa on weekend evenings).

    But Hoboken is so lovely! It has beautiful waterfront views of the city, tons and tons of restaurants and bars, is super dog and kid friendly, and is very charming. Also, if the thought of all the crowds in Manhattan freak you out a lot, it's like a lovely little respite every time you come home. I love it very much!

    1. i lived in hoboken and commuted to nolita for a year. had to pay both jersey and new york taxes. sucked the life right out of me.

  5. (Sorry my nerdy economist is coming out) New York rents were actually in a slump well before 9/11 because of the fall-out of the 90s dotcom bubble. Properties actually increased in value in the immediate years that followed the tragedy (with the exception of skyscrapers - 40+ stories).

    Lots of others effect rent prices on a daily basis and it's certainly not an upside of a cataclysmic tragedy!

    1. no such thing as an upside to a cataclysmic tragedy! hope you didn't think I was inferring there was!

  6. I have lived in Stuy-Town just above the East Village for a year now. We moved here last year after renting the place sight-unseen. My god what were we thinking, and thank god this is a complex. With my entire year's worth of experience I can safely say you are correct on every single front. Especially the professional movers front. And the over priced rent front.

  7. Wait wait wait, they want you to make 40X your rent? Does that mean like in a year make 40X one month's rent?

    1. Yep! If your rent is $2000/month you have to make $80k a year (pre-tax, at least). That's why so many NY-ers live with roommates and in teeny tiny apartments!

  8. Moving to NYC is my dream but is currently also my nightmare. Jobs are transferred and we're packed and on our way in about a week, but we still need to do that whole "find the perfect apartment" thing. I'm excited and terrified at the same time. Nothing has proved to be more intimidating or absolutely terrible than apartment hunting in Manhattan. Do you know much about temporary residences, or know anyone who has lived in one? It will be hard to be hanging out in NY and spending all of our money on hotels or AirB&Bs while we hunt for the perfect place to live, especially if we're going to need almost everything we have to get moved in!

    1. My husband and I are moving to NYC in a week too! We found our apartment (Sunnyside Queens!) in just 2 days but then it took two weeks for them to approve our application because we had all these crazy document requests since we are free-lancers. So a quick apartment find can be done! But we also used a broker and she was incredible. Good luck!

  9. Don't forget about Harlem! Sketchier than Inwood but only 20 minutes from Midtown. Our 1-bedroom in a walk-up costs $1650/mo (though full disclosure, all our friends in the same area are paying more so maybe we're just lucky ducks?). Plus groceries are hella cheap.

    1. I second Harlem! "Sketchiness" is definitely not keeping major retail and developments out (Whole Foods is in progress). I'd recommend the area around City College. I lived there 2007-2012. It's got great express train access, gorgeous architecture, lush parks and lots for kids to do! Fond memories of starting my family there.

  10. Holy COW... I'm from Melbourne, Australia and I have house repayments that aren't even close to what you guys pay and I'm near a beach! [ok, I am 20min drive from the City] but god damn you must all make a good wage or know how to budget incredibly well! :)

  11. Financial District has changed dramatically--very family friendly now. Two newish public elementary schools with great reps, Anthropologie, Zara, Gap, and Urban Outfitters all opened or opening, some great restaurants, new Fulton Street Subway station (and of course Century 21 in neighborhood) and new fancy shmancy Financial Center Mall close by..

  12. I have 1,000 square feet, original hardwood floors and fireplace circa 1932, a huge private patio with killer views, laundry in unit, and a parking space for the sweet sweet price of 1450 in a hip AF mid gentrified neighborhood of LA.

    My native east coaster manpanion wants to move back to NYC but I'm makin like the titanic and never letting go jack.

  13. Don't forget about Washington Heights (which is in Manhattan). I was there for two years (moved in March) in a 1 bedroom for $1,500. It also has a great elementary school on the west side of Washington Heights and is the second safest neighborhood in Manhattan (behind UWS). Little bit more of a commute (takes 45 minutes to get anywhere but UWS) but it is worth it to save all that money each month.

  14. Good overall info here. I have lived in NYC for more than 8 years and lots has changed. Financial District is not longer a cheaper's now one of the most expensive. And Greenpoint? Too late for a deal there. Hell's Kitchen isn't cheap either. If you want to be in Manhattan and need a deal, go to the UES, east of 2nd Ave even though you'll have to deal with the subway construction for a bit, but when it completes in 2016, the rents will skyrocket. Harlem still has plenty of deals, and the Heights also has good prices, but these uptown areas are a haul to downtown and Brooklyn. Lower East Side is still competitive, as is some of Midtown East. For more info, visit my blog about life in New York ––

  15. Astoria is not that cheap anymore :( a 1 bedroom go's easily for 2200 $ but it's better then Manhattan for sure!! And we are only 8-10 min from the city and it's also very family friendly :)

  16. Two high fives for mentioning Bay Ridge! Everyone always leaves out the Ridge! We loved it there!

  17. Astoria is most definitely not cheap!

  18. Great info! Representing Bud Stuy here...My roomie and I pay $1600 TOTAL for a good-sized 2 bedroom apartment with a third small room with a door that is our living room/guest room, a galley kitchen, and a good sized bathroom with a tub (that needs to be refinished before I'd take a bath in it, personally) and we are on the 3rd floor of a brownstone. Adore our landlords. I browse apartment listings for fun, I have no plans to move. I do daydream about a place with in-unit laundry though. Oh and I don't know that I'll ever move without movers again, I hired 2 guys just to unload the truck and that is worth EVERY PENNY.

  19. This was such an incredibly interesting read. Being in little old Springfield, Missouri (Queen City of the Ozarks, what what!), I am used to, what others consider to be, cheap rent. I once lived in a 1200 square foot, 2 bedroom 2 bathroom loft in the downtown area of my city for - get this - $600 per month, and the only utilities we paid on top of that was the electric bill. It was beautiful - exposed brick and beams and piping and amazing hardwood floors. It was the dream.

  20. I disagree with Astoria being super cheap (best deals = Flushing/Sunnyside)- but you get a lot of bang for your buck in Astoria. I live in the holy grail of NYC apts in Astoria - central air, dishwasher, W/D IN UNIT (OMG), and elevator - and pay 2600 for a 1 bed. So comparable prices, just much better standard of living.

  21. i'm not even planning a move to New York, but I found this so fascinating! i suppose just comparing it to the market in Los Angeles is super interesting. good info!

  22. Astoria is hardly cheap. Queens rents went up 14% last year. That's more than both Brookly and Manhattan...

  23. laughing so hard at the Brokers = Therapists comparison (laughing face emoji :) Soooooooo True!

  24. Laughing so hard at the Brokers = Therapists comparison. Hahaha Sooooooo true!


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