Tips for moving to New York

Posted on April 3, 2016

Thanks to a whole lot of people in my network, giving me great advice on moving to New York, I decided to put together a blog post with everything I learned to pass it on!


There are a million nicknames for the neighbourhoods you’ll learn along the way – take a look at this map to get an idea  – but there are 3 main sections you should know:

  • Uptown – It’s quieter and feels more grown up/upper class with lots of families around. More affordable housing, the higher you go. Once you get super high, closer to Harlem, then the area is not as safe.
  • Midtown – Lots of tourists and loud, but everything is located here.
  • Downtown – At the super bottom tip, it’s people work and it’s not that fun. But a bit higher and you have NYC’s campus so there are tons of college students around with a great party and eating scene.

Renting an apartment

Yup, it’s expensive to live in Manhattan. Vancouver is pricey, but for the same price, it would be newer and bigger square footage in Vancouver than NYC.

Things to consider when looking for a place to rent:

  1. Do you want a doorman (24/7)?
  2. Do you require an elevator or are you ok with a 4/5 floor walk up?
  3. Do you want laundry in the building or pay $.85 to $.95 per pound for laundry service every time?
  4. Do you want central heat/AC?
  5. Are you ok walking in the cold to get to the train?

Each addition will add at least an extra $100 to your rent. You could find a studio for $1,600/month, but you may not have any of the amenities.

Also consider how far you’re willing to go. If you go deep into Brooklyn, about 45-60 mins by subway to get into central Manhattan, you might be able to get the upstairs of a house with 2/3 bedrooms for $1,600 or less.

The housing market is crazy in NY. It’s common for apartments to fill within days. If you are able to, arrive early so you have at least 1-2 weeks to find a place, but you’d need a place to crash while you look.


If you are willing to sublet? Meaning the renter rents out an extra bedroom/living room/closet to you and you wouldn’t be renting from the landlord. This usually requires less deposit and paperwork.

Try to bring

  • Last pay stub / bank statement
  • Credit check
  • Social security number
  • Check to make a deposit
  • 2 ID’s
  • Renter references

Keep in mind, even if you are willing to pay more for an apartment, they may not allow you if you don’t make enough money. They will want to know your annual salary, or see how much money you have in your bank account.

You should have enough money in your bank account to afford 1st month rent, last month’s rent, and broker fees, if any.


Many apartments go through brokers, these brokers will charge anywhere from 1 months rent to 15% of the annual rent as their fee. If you can find an apartment directly through the owner, you will save a lot of headache and hassle.

Sounding normal

Luckily, I had a really good experience finding my apartment. I emailed a million Craigslist ads before I arrived so I started learning the lingo and continuously tweaked my introduction email to get their attention.

Some places asked for a brief introduction of yourself and links to your social media accounts. This is a brilliant way to stand out from the crowd and show that you are a normal, awesome person. So even when listings did not ask for it, I still sent them my bio and Facebook link as a standard copy and paste message.

I mentioned my job placement in NYC, how long I’d be, what I plan to do in my free time (go out and not spend a lot of time at home), I mentioned I have no friends there so I wouldn’t be having people over, and that I like to be on my computer quietly when I’m at home. Basically tell them I’d be an awesome roommate.

Most of the time, they wanted people to come by for a showing that weekend so I didn’t hear back. When I did hear back, they would tell me they are hoping to have someone moved in by the time I arrive, but if that’s not the case, they’d let me know.

My apartment hunt

Finally, on the week of my move, I started emailing apartments for real. Of course, I was also freaking out that I won’t be able to find a place in time. But with the support of AIESEC, I stayed at an AIESEC member’s house for the first week while I finalized an apartment.

I set up appointments to see 4-5 apartments on one of the first days I arrived and fell in love with the fourth one I saw. It was a great location next to Grand Central, just two blocks away from the company I was about to work at, tons of subway lines nearby, plus central to shopping and Times Square!

It was a fourth floor walk up, which gave me good exercise, in an old but full of charm apartment. My room was a living room converted into a bedroom, meaning they added a wall and door, but it also meant my room was the cheapest out of the 4 rooms.

There were 3 other girls in the place and we all shared a kitchen and bathroom, which already had a lot of basics, which means I wouldn’t have to invest too much into pots and pans only to throw them away when I left. The bedroom also came furnished which was another selling point for me.

The landlord was a young Korean guy, who seemed nice. I guess he could tell I was responsible because he was the one to reach out to me to confirm if I wanted the place!

I said yes and agreed to $1,200/month. Not bad, but considering it was a tiny room in a dingy building, it’s not that great haha. But I paid for the location.


With such a hectic real estate market, there are a lot of scams online. People may say they want to rent out ‘their’ apartment while they travel, and ask for money in advance. You may think it won’t happen to you, but you definitely don’t want to be out a couple hundred dollars, so be careful.


The subway runs 24 hours including the buses so it’s amazing! We need this in Vancouver. But they definitely have rats in the subway haha. They are huge and you can see them sometimes scurrying around when standing on the platform, waiting for the train.

If you plan on taking the subway a lot, you’ll want to find a place where you can walk to the subway relatively fast. Keep in mind what subway line you live near and if it will connect to a lot of stations or if you’ll have to transfer.

Typically, the East side lines will connect all the way up and down. Transit is worse on West side and you’ll have to transfer.

From the airport

Transiting from the airport can be pretty complicated so I recommend paying for a shuttle bus if it will drop you off close to where you’re trying to get. You don’t want to be dragging your luggage around and trying to figure out subway lines, if you want Express or Local lines, where the elevator is (if they even have one), etc. Especially if you’ve never been to NYC and you’re alone.

Here is an example of an airport bus shuttle company, but you can Google for more companies and compare drop off locations, times, and prices.

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