On my one-year New York anniversary, I realized I had moved four times in the previous twelve months. Woah, no wonder I felt displaced.
Two things my friends in New York had asked me when I told them I was moving…
One, do you have a place to live and two, do you have a job?
I learned quickly that both these factors were equally as impactful and tough as each other. My visa required me to secure a job before coming to the US, so I had that one in the bag (it only took a year!). My first mission when I landed in Manhattan was to find a place to live.
I had no idea what I was doing.
So let’s get down to brass tax. The point of this post is to share my experience of moving around in New York, the reality of the rent and my top tips for renting.
Choosing a neighborhood
I was never picky when it came to which Manhattan neighborhood I wanted to live in. (Except Chinatown, I definitely didn’t want to live there!) but now I feel like if grown to prefer certain areas. In terms of affordability, the Upper East Side, Lower East Side and FiDi are great choices. More pricier would be the West Village, Midtown, Soho and probably Chelsea.
Brooklyn is becoming increasingly expensive, but renters out there typically have more space, windows and…well, space. Parts of Queens, Long Island City, and Hoboken are easy to commute to the city as well.
It’s really about how much money you’re willing to put down on a pad to maximize space and the ease of your commute…or whatever your priorities may be.
Where I lived
When I first came to New York, I found an apartment in Long Island City (I didn’t know where it was either but it’s in Queens). I had fantastic roommates and plenty of space and light in my room and the apartment. It was two stops from Manhattan and the rent cheaper than Manhattan.Twas a great set-up but I had fought so hard to come to NYC that I wanted to be in the midst of it all. I wouldn’t settle until I was in Manhattan.
Seven months in and I moved to Chelsea. I LOVED IT. Chelsea was so ideal. It’s one of the quaintest parts of Manhattan, close to the Highline for outdoorsy walks and surrounded by numerous restaurants and bars. My apartment was in a row of brownstone type doorman buildings and a nest of popular brunch spots. I never wanted to leave.
Unfortunately, I had to leave. The landlord was not renewing the lease so yeah, moving once again.
Thankfully I found (with the help of my current roommate) a quaint apartment on the Lower East Side, close to Noho. I was in such a rush to move from Chelsea that I didn’t have much time to make a decision but the apartment was such a great deal and was close to everything we needed. (It has a roof deck that we can’t wait to use in the summer.) The East Village area is very busy and full of young people. Because I live close to New York University, there is a lot of students about and generally not a ton of families. So plenty of bars, gyms, restaurants and coffee shops. You couldn’t ask for more.
To rent or not to rent?
If you have the means to apply for a lease, and its necessary for your situation, I would definitely apply for a lease. It provides more security and stability. Something you can’t put a price on. You will need to surpass brokers fees, security deposits and typically, a guarantor so it’s not an easy move.
However, subletting can be helpful for anyone looking for something temporary or if you don’t have the means to put down the cash on securing a lease (they can ask for a number of months rent in advance) The drawback with subletting is that you have no security or anything to fall back on. If your roommates aren’t genuine, you may have no choice but to leave.
What you need to know about brokers
If you’re renting, it’s very difficult to find an apartment in New York without a broker. Brokers fees are typically 12%-15% of the annual rent. You’re talking a couple of grand just for them to find the apartment for you. Even if you’ve found the apartment yourself, you still have to pay the broker fee in order to call it yours. Add on the security deposit (usually one or two months rent) and you’re racking up a hell of a lot of money straight off the bat.
If you’re subletting, you obviously don’t pay a broker fee. So how do you get around the broker fee? Well, you can definitely search ‘no-fee’ apartments online but confirm with the person advertising the apartment that it really is a no-fee ad. I have fallen for this too many times. As a last resort, you can literally tell the broker you can’t pay the broker fee but love the apartment. This worked for me and I saved over $2,500. Boom. Ask and you shall receive.
Where to search
- Gypsey Housing
…I hope you found this helpful! Feel free to DM on Instagram or message below if you have any more specific questions!