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17 Things to Know Before Moving to New York

17 Things to Know About Moving to New York

Any New Yorker will tell you that NYC is the greatest city in the world, with better food, better entertainment, and, well, better everything than anyplace else on the planet. But it takes some getting used to, especially if you’ve never visited or if you’re coming from a smaller city or town. So, for anyone who’s moving to New York (or even thinking about it), we’ve compiled a list of some of the most important things you should know about life in the City That Never Sleeps before you get here. Keep in mind that moving can get expensive so you may want to speak with a financial advisor who can help you plan your finances out appropriately.

1. New York City Really Is That Expensive

The reason many New Yorkers have roommates is that New York City’s cost of living is insane. It’s not just housing, either. Nearly all your bills will be higher in NYC. This includes groceries, entertainment, and alcohol. You can expect that your budget is going to increase substantially when moving here and should plan beforehand how you’ll make it work.

2. You May Have to Pay a Broker’s Fee to Get an Apartment

Moving to New York: Broker's Fees

New York’s rental market can be crazy at times, or all the time. In order to lease an apartment, you often have to pay a “broker’s fee,” which is equal to 10% – 15% of annual rent. There are no-fee apartments out there, but competition for these is fierce (more so than the already fierce competition for regular apartments).

One way to skip broker’s fees is to use a service or website that puts you in touch with people searching for a roommate so that you don’t have to be the first one to lease an empty apartment. While moving in with a stranger may sound odd to those from other parts of the country, it is fairly common in New York City because at times it’s a necessity.

3. Rent a Storage Unit or Ditch Some of Your Belongings

New York apartments are small and can feel even smaller if you’re used to larger homes in the south or midwest. You probably won’t have space for all your stuff unless you’re already pretty good at being a minimalist. It’s a good idea to either cut down on your belongings quite dramatically or work having a storage unit into your monthly budget. Many believe that if they don’t need it in their apartment then they probably can do without it.

4. NYC Has Some of the Highest Taxes in the U.S.

There are three different income taxes paid by New York City residents: the federal income tax, the state income tax, and the city income tax. Depending on your income, tax rates can be higher than 50%. The sales tax in NYC is quite high too, at 8.875%, although New York property tax rates are actually fairly reasonable (if you own a home).

Calculate what your NYC income taxes will be with our New York tax calculator.

5. Most People Don’t Own a Car

Moving to New York: Owning a Car

According to the U.S. Census, about 56% of New York households don’t have a car, which can be a budget saver. Generally, having a car in New York is a big hassle. In many neighborhoods – including most of Manhattan and the denser parts of the other four boroughs – free parking is a rare beast. In the evenings, it is not unusual to spend 30 minutes or more searching for a spot.

Even if you do find one, you likely can’t leave it there for long. Alternate side parking means once or twice a week you have to move your car to the other side of the street so that street cleaners can come through. And then, a few days later, move it back. This isn’t just inconvenient, it’s pretty annoying to residents. But, without a car, you can do away with insurance, car loan costs, gas, and maintenance costs that can go towards the higher costs you’re already going to be paying.

6. It Helps to Know the Subway Map

The good news is that New York is one of the rare American cities where you can easily get by without a car. According to, it is the most walkable city in the country, with a score of 88. Plus, taxis are everywhere if you don’t mind spending some cash.

And the city’s transit system is vast and (fairly) efficient. The highlight, of course, is the subway system. It can be a little confusing at first, so we suggest you download the system map to your cell phone or snag a paper version to keep in your pocket. Public transportation adds a bit more to your budget as well.

7. New York Has Beaches

Moving to New York: Beaches

You don’t need to make the trek to the Jersey Shore to build a sandcastle if you live in NYC. Instead, you can take the subway to places like Rockaway Beach or Coney Island. These tend to be pretty crowded but there are also more scenic options. Areas like Fort Tilden Beach are a little harder to get to but may be worth the extra effort. Or, travel further out on Long Island to someplace like Robert Moses State Park. You may even forget the city for a few hours.

8. Everyone Walks Really Fast

If you want to go for a leisurely stroll, find a park. New York City sidewalks are the fast lane and no one is going to apologize if you feel like they are in your way or ushering you along. In fact, many people walk so fast that they ignore the lights of when they should cross a side street and just cross as fast as they can regardless of what the cars are doing.

9. Avenues Are Longer Than Blocks

City blocks in New York (especially Manhattan) are not squares but rectangles. Streets run east-west and are about 250 feet apart – 20 of these is one mile. Avenues run north-south and are typically 750 feet apart, or about three times the length of a standard block. So, if someone says they’re four avenues over, they are actually more than half a mile away – further than it sounds!

10. There Are Five Boroughs

Moving to New York: The Five Boroughs

Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island. Each is its own little city, with separate neighborhoods within. Queens is the largest by area. Brooklyn is the largest by population. Manhattan is the most expensive. The Yankees play in the Bronx. You have to take a boat to get to Staten Island from Manhattan but you can drive there from Brooklyn, over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Each has its own culture and plenty to explore.

11. It Takes a Long Time to Get Almost Anywhere

Distances are deceiving in New York. Even traveling by subway, it can take over an hour to get between two neighborhoods that look relatively close on a map. Plus, there are constant delays unless you’re walking so prepare extra time than you think to get from place to place.

12. New York Drivers Are Aggressive

Whether you’re driving down Madison Avenue or walking across a side street in Brooklyn, keep your head on a swivel. New York drivers are known to flaunt speed limits, stop signs, and basic courtesy. Don’t assume you have the right of way. And be prepared for a lot of honking. New Yorkers love their horns (you get used to this – eventually).

13. There Are Quiet, Residential Neighborhoods

Most people hear “New York City” and think of Manhattan: taxis, traffic, crowds. Noise. But much of the city isn’t like this at all. Further from the city center, there are neighborhoods with houses, driveways, and even lawns. Check out, for example, Little Neck, Queens.

14. When It Rains, It Pours

Moving to New York: Weather

New York isn’t quite as cold as say, Boston or Chicago, or as dreary as Seattle, or as hot as Houston. But one aspect of its weather may catch some newcomers off guard: the rain. It rains a lot in NYC, and much of it comes in the form of heavy downpours. If you don’t have an umbrella, you’ll get drenched. Occasionally, there’s also a giant snowstorm, which can cause the city to shut down for a few hours – or days.

15. Good Shoes Are a Must

New Yorkers walk a lot. To the subway. To the store. To the park. This can take a toll on your feet if you don’t have a solid pair of kicks. Plus, with all that rain, the slush in the winter, and the general nastiness of the streets, you don’t want to put your feet in anything substandard.

16. Exploring Takes Some Effort, But It’s Worth It

After a long hard week, you may not feel like braving the streets or the subway system to see a new part of the city. Do it anyway. It’s a great way to learn the layout of the city and you are guaranteed to see something new and different every time you go out.

17. At Some Point, You’ll Have a New York Moment

This is the best part about moving to New York. This could mean something very different to you than it will to someone else but you’ll know when it happens.

Tips For Planning A Move

  • If you are moving to New York City, it’s a good idea to understand how the change will impact your budget. A financial advisor can help you navigate big life changes like a move, or just help you to identify and meet your financial goals in general. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • If you’ll be switching jobs, your paycheck may end up looking quite different than it does now. Try using our New York paycheck calculator to estimate what your new take-home pay will be. This will help you to create a more accurate budget.
  • Before you decide where you’re going to live in the city, you should learn more about whether it’s better to rent or to buy.

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