A Cautionary Note to Those of My Friends Considering Moving to New York City

A few folks out there have mentioned the possibility of moving to New York City, for the glamour, the youth scene, to find a job, or whatever. I would strongly advise you to think carefully before doing so. When I decided to move to New York I was in a situation where I would be taking out an incredible amount of student loans no matter where I went, and New York was only marginally more expensive than elsewhere. Moreover, Columbia has an office of institutional real estate that handled my housing for me. So I had finances taken care of (to the degree that taking out tons of loans is handling finances) as well as housing.

Along those lines, I direct you to this article in the New York Times about a group of architecture students who built a rig in their transom and stuffed a mattress in it while drunk. As a joke, they posted an ad on Craig's List offering to rent the right to sleep on the mattress for $35 a month. They got a dozen responses, and at least half of them were serious about it and wanted to go through with it after finding out what the set up was.

There's more anecdotal evidence in that story about people putting up curtains to create new bedrooms to rent, people sleeping in tents, on couches, in corners, etc. New York is a tough market to find housing in, and if you do find a place it'll be expensive. Moreover, if you're not coming in with a job already lined up don't even think about finding a place in Manhattan. Most apartments here require you to be able to show proof of income before they'll let you sign a lease. They want to know how much you make, to ensure that you can reasonably pay the rent every month. Moreover, a lot will want to see your bank statements; they want to make sure you have enough money stockpiled that, if you get fired, you can pay the rent for a few months while they find someone to replace you. To find a place on Manhattan you'll also need a broker. Most buildings won't talk to lone renters; they'll only offer places indirectly through brokers. The brokers, in exchange, will charge you a fee equal to 1-3 months rent on the place you get. So you can only get a place through the broker, and the broker has a vested interest in getting you into the most expensive apartment possible.

And there a dozen other things you might not like or be prepared for in New York City. I don't want to scare people off or anything, but I do think it's important to have a realistic idea of what you're getting into when you move here. Housing is hard to find, the city's expensive, and, while the jobs tend to pay somewhat more proportionately than the same jobs in other cities, they don't pay enough more to make up for how expensive it is. If you're going to move to New York, have a lot of money saved up, be prepared to live someplace cheap and squalid while you find a job and get into a secure financial position, and then get ready to go through a nasty hunt for a more permanent apartment.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on February 4, 2006 7:17 PM.

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