How I moved in NYC and came out unscathed (and happy!)

I have lived in NYC for a little over three years. The time flew by! Until now, I lived in the same apartment the whole time, mostly because I had heard it was such a pain to move in NYC.

After a long search process and a lot of tours, my roommate and I found a great place! Even though we moved less than 1 mile, it was still a huge pain in the butt. That's the funny thing about moving in NYC...moving just 1 block is more painful than moving all the way to Montana.

 

Thank goodness Ross wasn't there.

 

Packing up everything I own (which was a lot more than I would care to admit) took WAY longer than I was expecting. Why do I still have my notebooks from freshman year Ancient Greece class? Or my semi-ripped-mostly-faded T-shirts from high school? Some questions just don't have great answers, ok?

I took the opportunity to purge a good amount of my old clothes, and made a sizable donation to Goodwill. Phew! That cleared up some space in the truck.

So what did I learn from this process? I'll admit, some of these tips are NYC-specific. But hopefully those of you outside of NYC can at least get a laugh out of it.

Scope out the real estate market for yourself.

I spent months (felt like years) scoping out new apartments to get a lay of the land. The good apartments in NYC move fast, so I wanted to figure out which buildings I liked and which neighborhoods I could reasonably afford.

Streeteasy was my best friend in this process. Unfortunately, Streeteasy is NYC-only. So I would highly recommend for you to figure out which app/website/service in your city has the best listings and follow it religiously (Zillow is pretty solid too).

Brokers can be helpful in certain situations. But you need to remember that they are incentivized to get you into the most expensive place as possible, as quickly as possible. Doing your own research is the best way to avoid getting stuck in a closet with no windows.

Tip: Real estate can move fast! Being in-the-know is crucial. Ask yourself what you are looking for, what is on the market, and what is realistic. Then you can move faster than others who are not as well-informed.

Broker fee? No thanks.

As busy finance professionals, my roommate and I decided to get a broker to help us sift through the closets (oops, I meant apartments). They showed us some decent places, but they tended to fall juuust above our price range. Put a 15% broker fee on top of that, and it added hundreds of dollars per month to our rent bill.

For those unfamiliar with the NYC real estate market, broker fees are a generally accepted method of ripping off unsuspecting young people who don't have the time or knowledge to navigate the NYC real estate market. Let's say you sign a lease for $3,000 per month. Your broker fee would be $3,000 x 12 x 15% = $5,400! Welcome to New York. Put that over the course of the year ($5,400 / 12 = $450) and you're really paying $3,450 per month.

Instead of paying a few hundred dollars per month to a broker, we decided to search for NO FEE apartments ONLY, and raise our price range a bit, since we would be saving ourselves the broker fee.

The very next day we found our new place (amazingly within our original budget).

Tip: Think about any fees you are incurring and how much they will cost per month over a year (or the length of your lease). Is there a way to cut out that fee? It might be worth raising your price range a bit if you can make up for it by cutting out fees (i.e. rather than paying $3,000 per month plus $450 per month in broker fees, search for no fee listings only and raise your price range to $3,200).

 

A typical response to broker fees.

 

Movers are expensive, but can be worth it.

I had never used movers before. I just didn't think it would be worth it. If I can suck up over two years in investment banking I can suck up one crappy day of moving, right?

We had a narrow timing window in both buildings (less than 7 hours in total), so we decided to hire movers to help speed it along. Of course, I did a lot of research before choosing which one to go with. First I went through Yelp and found the highest-rated movers in NYC. Then I called the top 15 to get price quotes.

Believe it or not, it was totally worth it. They worked very quickly and got the entire job done in around 5 hours. The same job probably would have taken us over 10 hours (and a lot more stress) by ourselves!

Tip: Sometimes movers aren't worth it. If your leases overlap for a few days, it's probably better to do it yourself so you can save some money. But if you have a short time window or own a lot of stuff (or both), hiring movers can be a solid choice. Just remember to do your research up front! The last thing you want is to end up with broken furniture and a big moving bill.

Get rid of stuff you no longer use.

One of the reasons packing takes me so long is because I can get sentimental about my old stuff. I love reading through my old school notes, seeing old shirts that bring back memories, and finding things that I thought were lost forever. But there's no reason to keep my old running shoes or jeans that I have since replaced.

Besides the extra space they take up, they could also be used by someone else! I took this move as an opportunity to get rid of my old stuff.

I ended up having several loads of recycling (mostly papers and notes) and donations for Goodwill. Even though I was hesitant to donate some of my clothes, it felt better knowing that someone else would use them more often.

Tip: Since you're going through all of your stuff anyway, use this time to be critical of your belongings. You probably don't need that old softball glove from 12th grade gym class. Give it to someone who does.

Cut the cord? Oh yes, it feels good.

I hate cable bundles. Why does it cost more for me to have internet only? You're telling me the cable TV channels have negative value?

I called up Verizon Fios to transfer my service to my new apartment. I answered the automated prompts with "cancel service" and was immediately funneled to the retention team (Bonus tip: if you say "cancel service" you will skip the hold line!).

My monthly bill was $98 for internet and a basic TV package.

I took the opportunity to cancel the cable package that I barely use. After some entertaining back and forth (I love a good argument!) the Fios rep gave me their "best" offer. $98 for internet only.

Me: "No thanks, I'll cancel. I can switch to another provider for half that price."
Fios: "We can offer you more TV channels for the same price." (more evidence for my negative value theory)
Me: "How could the internet-only price be the same? I'd like to pay less since I'm dropping cable service."
Fios: "Let me see what I can do for you."

I thought they already offered me their "best" price? Nope. I forgot about the "Let me see what I can do for you" price.

Turns out, this worked. I ended up scaling down from 75mbps to 50mbps, which saved me $48 per month. Score.

Tip: It's ridiculous that consumers have to go to these lengths to get a reasonable price from a cable company. But if you hold your ground (and throw out the phrase "cancel service" a few times) you can get a better price. If you're unsure about cutting cable, take time to think about the channels you actually use. Can you use a combination of streaming services instead? The answer is likely yes, at least for 95% of your favorite content.

Do you have any moving hacks?

What have you learned about moving over the years? Do you have any nightmare moving stories? I have one, but that's another story entirely...