The Complete Guide to Moving to New York City
(Update: This post is now several years old but continues to get consistent traffic! I’m glad it’s been so useful for you! Please feel free to follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter or connect on LinkedIn to keep in touch!)
I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, but it only seemed fair that I actually complete all the aspects of moving to NYC first. Now that I’ve unpacked the last box, I think it’s OK. So, without further ado, here’s you complete guide to moving to New York City, from finding a place and moving in, to becoming an official resident and fitting in. I’ve separated it into sections to you can browse through or take it in bite sized chunks.
Finding A Place
- Most landlords are going to require that you make 40 times the rent. (If that place costs $1000/month, you need to make at least $40,000/year to qualify for the apartment. If it’s $2500/month, you and your roommate’s combined pay needs to be $100,000/year.) Keep this in mind when you’re making your budget and deciding your standard of living.
- A guarantor is someone who can sign a lease with you, if you don’t make the minimum 40X the rent. This person typically has to make 80 times the rent. It’s similar to having a co-signer on a loan; they’re attaching their name to it because you don’t have the record or money to secure it alone, and if you bail or disappear, they’re held accountable. There are also companies like Insurent that will be your guarantor if you can’t find one. Obviously, read the fine print.
- A broker is like a middleman during your apartment search. They work on behalf of a landlord or on behalf of their clients (sometimes both) to help fill apartments with new residents. They can be a lifesaver is you’re from out of the area, in a hurry or not able to do searching on your own for whatever reason, but they charge a fee—usually 12-18% of the annual rent. (So if your rent is $2000/month, that’s $20,000/year, you’re looking at a broker’s fee of around $3000 or more, depending on their percentage.) If you can swing it, you’ll probably end up with a better place. If you want to avoid it, here are some sites to help.
- When you’re checking listings, be sure to ask a few vital questions before a viewing. Most importantly, if looking with roommates, ask if it’s a “true two bedroom” or “true three bedroom,” because you’ll often find apartments listed at more bedrooms than they actually have, assuming a living room could be converted. Here are some other questions to ask: 25 questions if you’re in a rush, or 100 questions if you’re feeling extra diligent.
Moving Into Your Place
- Make a moving inventory—a list of all the furniture items you have and a rough estimate of boxes. Any mover you call for a quote will want this information, and it’s better to have it prepared.
- If you’re shopping for the cheapest estimate for your move, try Unpakt. It’s the Progressive of movers—you fill out your item estimates and it gives you quotes from different companies, saving you the calling and re-hashing of your inventory. You could also check out these yelp ratings for NYC movers or try Angie’s List for mover ratings. And check out TLC’s tips for hiring movers, too.
- Once you’ve picked a mover, check out these packing and moving tips from BuzzFeed and TLC to make the process as smooth as possible. (The Reader’s digest version: label everything, number/color-code boxes, pack an overnight bag, take before and after photos, and creatively use what you’ve got instead of buying supplies.)
- You’ll need to set up electricity. In NYC, that means getting set up with ConEd. Here’s where you can find more information about becoming a new customer with ConEd.
- You’ll also probably want Internet and TV. Common providers in the NYC area are Time Warner, Verizon, Optimum among others. You’ll have to shop prices and availability once you have a place. Ask your neighbors what they have and how the service is.
Making Your New Address Official
- In order to get mail at your new apartment, be sure to fill out a change of address form with the US Postal Service. You can do this online for a $1 convenience fee, or do it in person at any post office.
- Go online to your various accounts and change your billing and shipping addresses. Here are some suggestions for accounts that will need to be updated: your bank, magazines or other subscriptions, student loan agencies, credit card companies, work self service payroll system, online health care account, any shopping sites where you have a shipping address saved and more.
- You should also let your friends and family know. First, for safety, but also, they may want to send gifts or cards to welcome you and congratulate you! Consider sending out announcement cards, which gives them a record of your address. Here’s 10% off Moo.com if you want to get some custom cards printed!
- If you’ve got a doorman, getting deliveries is nothing to worry about—most doormen or front desk workers will take deliveries for you. If you don’t, it’s a little harder. Ask about getting packages delivered at work. (This is fairly common in NYC, so don’t feel embarrassed.) Wait for a first attempt and then use the confirmation number on the missed delivery slip to go online and request re-delivery to the nearest FedEx or UPS Store location, where you can pick up your package. If you get a lot of deliveries or don’t have convenient locations near you, consider renting a PO Box.
- Updating your voter registration is fairly easy. Check out the NY State Board of Elections site for full details. Otherwise, you can have the form mailed to you, print the PDF of the form and mail it, or fill the form out online and print it before mailing it.
- Trading your out-of-state license for a NY license is a little more complicated, but I’ve gathered all the links you need right here. First, you’re going to need to fill out the MV44 form. You’re going to have to bring your Social Security Card. You’re going to need to bring your out-of-state license to surrender it. You’re going to need two proofs of ID and one proof of name, per this list of acceptable ID forms. You’ll also need to pay the $10 application fee plus the license fee, which varies by age. Then, you’ll have to take all of these things to the NY DMV office closest to you (search “Manhattan” and you’ll see that there’s one in Harlem, Herald Square and on Greenwich Street. The one on West 34th doesn’t do out-of-state exchanges). When you get there, you’ll have to pass a vision test.
- You’ll also need to get a Metro Card. There are vending machines in most subway stations where you can buy a card with cash or a debit/credit card. Each subway ride costs $2.75 (as of 3/2016, anyway.) You can buy a card that you refill with cash and use like a debit card, called a pay-per-ride card, if you don’t use the subway often. If you plan to use the subway every day, you may want to buy a 30-day unlimited pass for $116.50. You can find information about MetroCard options on the MTA website.
- If you’re interested in getting a New York Public Library Card, you can apply online or in person at any of the library locations. You’ll get a temporary card first, and you’ll have to show proof of address to get a permanent card.
Getting Around The City
- You’re going to need to get to know the neighborhoods, and there are a lot of them. Check out this very basic neighborhood map to familiarize yourself with the basics. Here’s a slightly more detailed neighborhood map, if you’re feeling ambitious, but people pretty much make up neighborhoods as they see fit, so knowing the first and more simple map should be fine. NY Magazine has this great interactive neighborhood map, where clicking the name of the neighborhood brings you to a page with descriptions, facts and highlights.
- You probably don’t need a car. The traffic is terrible and driving in it is miserable. Parking is scarce and expensive, damage appears out of nowhere, and you’ll have to clean, gas and shovel that thing… As much as it hurts, you probably ought to just sell your car and move on. (Not sold? Let someone else convince you).
- Sometimes, you may just need to grab a taxi cab. They can be expensive, but here’s everything you need to know about cabs, if you do take one. That link to the NYC Taxi Guide will explain the taxi rooftop lighting system, the best times and places to get a cab, and general costs associated with a ride. Tipping 15% is standard, according to The New York Times. (Update 3/2016. Uber is a thing now too. So there’s that.)
- Learning the subway system isn’t as hard as it sounds. You can start by downloading an app like EmbarkNYC (Update 3/2016: Being sunset 🙁 Get it while you can.) or HopStop; plug your starting location and destination in whenever you have somewhere to go and it walks you through. Helpful tips: Each train line has “uptown” trains that go toward higher numbered streets and “downtown” cars that go toward lower number streets (same route/stops, opposite directions). Express trains only stop at the major platforms. Use them whenever possible, as long as your stop is on the express route.
Since You’re Not A Tourist Anymore…
- People who stop in the middle of sidewalks, or stop at the tops or bottoms of stairwells, or block use of the subway doors will start to drive you insane. Like, really insane. They don’t know. Deep breaths.
- Don’t wear anything with any variation of “I <3 NY.” You’re here, that’s love enough.
- Play it cool when you see celebrities; it’ll become fairly routine.
- Don’t make eye contact with the guys in Times Square who ask if you like comedy, or if you need a haircut, even if they compliment you, and you DO NOT want anyone’s mix CD no matter how “fire” it is. They are trying to sell you something. They will want money. You don’t have that anymore, remember?
Calling Yourself “A New Yorker”
Congrats! You’re a New Yorker. Ok, maybe not quite yet. Some say you’re not a New Yorker unless you were born and raised there. Time Out NY asked readers how long someone had to live in NY to be a New Yorker (most say 5-10 years) and also listed some of the official time requirements for qualifying for various New York jobs or benefits. Get NYCd collected some of the estimates, which range from five or 10 years to when you’ve lived there longer than where you grew up. Gothamist offers this list of ways to know, but also says if you have to ask if you’re a New Yorker, then you’re probably not. Thought Catalog also has an entire abstract emotional piece about it. Sounds like the general conclusion is nobody knows, and everyone has an opinion, so you might as well add your own to the cacophony. My thought? You’re a New Yorker whenever you think you are.
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And follow me on Twitter at @mdeziel for daily musings on life in New York.