Moving to New York City, even to rent a small studio apartment, can entail as much work as buying a house. You will need to save up in advance for upfront fees, just like buying a home, and the search for “the one” may last months. This is true regardless of your budget, but it should go without saying that the smaller your budget, the more creative you may have to get. Thankfully, it is possible to move to New York on a budget, so don’t allow yourself to get discouraged. Here’s how!
Step One: Find an Apartment!
Finding apartments for rent in NYC can be a nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be, if you know where (and how) to look. Use online tools like For Rent to find an apartment that meets your needs and budget. With thousands of listings and an ability to filter through many different options, such as monthly rent, number of rooms, and pet availability, you can easily weed out units that won’t work for you.
It also helps to know which neighborhoods to look at. For example, many parts of Brooklyn are quickly becoming gentrified (read: expensive), and may be well outside of your price range. On the other hand, Uptown Manhattan may be more affordable than you think. Narrow down which of the five boroughs you would like to live in (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island) and start from there. You can then search for units in your comfort zone.
Know the Difference Between “No-fee” and “Broker” Apartments
Unlike almost every other city in America, many apartments in New York are leased with the aid of a broker. Again, renting an apartment in NYC is surprisingly similar to buying a house, so be sure that you are prepared in advance. If you use a broker to find an apartment, you will not only owe upfront fees to the owner or landlord (for example, first and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit), but your broker as well. Typically, these fees are 8-15% of the full year’s lease. Note that an 8 percent fee is roughly equivalent to one month’s rent. Do you have the money to cover this fee? If not, be sure that you are searching for “No Fee” apartments exclusively.
Live with Roommates!
This should be somewhat self-evident if you’re moving to NYC on a budget, but consider reducing your financial burden by living with roommates. If you are new in the area and don’t know anybody in Greater New York, you may want to consider online services, like EasyRoommate or Roomiematch, to help find potential roommates that match your criteria (e.g., age, gender, lifestyle habits). Not only will having a roommate help your wallet, but you’ll have a jump start on your social life in an all-new city.
Save Up in Advance
As we discussed above, upfront fees may include first and last months’ rent, a security deposit, and brokerage fees. In total, these may amount to many thousands of dollars. Not to beat a dead horse, but renting an apartment in NYC is more like buying a home than a traditional rental arrangement in other parts of the country. Consider the sum total of these fees as your down payment and closing cost. If you haven’t saved up in advance, you are going to be in for a rude awakening. BUT, if you do save up in advance, you may find that living in NYC is easier (and cheaper) than you had originally thought it would be (especially if you have a roommate to help with the rent).
Buy a Monthly Metro Pass
If you plan to get around NYC using the Metro (you will likely find having a car to be a hassle), you are going to want to buy a monthly pass. The math simply makes sense. As of this writing, the fare for a subway or local bus ride is $2.75 while the fare for an express bus ride is $6.50. An unlimited monthly pass, good for subway and bus rides, costs just $116.50. And if you qualify for Reduced Fare (senior citizens and individuals with qualifying disabilities), this drops to just $58.25. If you buy tickets individually, you’ll only get 40 trips or so before you hit $115. If you make four trips a day, that’s just 10 days. Needless to say, you are going to want to buy the unlimited pass.
Buy Furniture on Craiglist or OfferUp
Finally, find used furniture online. You may be tempted to create an Andy Warhol-inspired modern art masterpiece, but know that such a curated apartment can wait until after you’ve settled down, learned the ins and outs of living in NYC, and perhaps most importantly, had an opportunity to find a good job and earn some decent money. Sites like Craigslist, OfferUp, and 5Miles are your friend, and will allow you to save a tremendous amount of money on home furnishings and other goods.
This is a guest post by Jennifer Thayer.