Moving to and Living in the City  (Thanks to special help of initial compilation by Sarah Evers)

You’re moving to New York City, the greatest City in the world! Congratulations! The New York Times recently reported that more than 800 languages are spoken here. It’s the most ethnically diverse city in the world. It is certainly the biggest city in the United States, and moving here is just as much of an adventure as living here.

This is an exciting and stressful time, but we hope our hard-learned tips will give you insight and wisdom as you prepare to kick off your great adventure in the Big Apple.

A few tips as you get started: this is not an exhaustive help sheet, but it will prove helpful. We suggest reading the whole thing and then zeroing in on what is specific to you. Because of the fluid nature of living in the City, pertinent information might be found in different sections.

Anticipated Initial Moving Expenses

• Rental Truck (check drop off locations to find one close to your new home)

• Hired day laborers to unload your truck (try to hire day


• Brooklyn (Red Hook) Ikea delivers any sized order for about $60

• Metro Card purchased in for Single Ride or in denominations of $10, $20, etc.

• (An unlimited monthly Metro Card is $109.00, but more about that later!)

Optional: Broker Fee for your new apartment

• Apartment’s first month’s rent + last month’s rent + security deposit ($$$$) +

Broker fee (if you use a broker)

The Apartment Search

Apartment hunting in NYC can be a full time job! Give yourself plenty of time to search the internet and make appointments to meet landlords and look at possible places. Be devoted to the hunt, for it took the Evers two full weeks of looking online and meeting with landlords to find their “perfect” place. You can do a lot of leg work online by double checking addresses with Google Maps to find nearby subway stops and look at pics of the immediate neighborhood.

**Rent is NEGOTIABLE!** A broker can often negotiate a deal for you, saving a few hundred dollars a month. We negotiated rent down about $75/month, but they wish they had started at a lower point. Who knew?? It’s a little like negotiating a price to buy a house. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

If you choose to use a broker (see below)  it will be helpful to have an appointment set up for your arrival in the City to schedule apartment viewings with landlords before you arrive.

As you look, brace yourself for an exhausting day of walking up and down stairs, riding the subway and looking in closets and out of windows. Wear comfortable, flat shoes. Lighten your load so you aren’t carrying a heavy bag all day. It will only get heavier as the day goes on!

Take lots of photos and take notes so you can remember details of each apartment. You may see so many potential homes that features will be quickly forgotten.

There’s nothing like “boots on the ground” to get a realistic feel for a neighborhood. Before signing a lease, pound the pavement at different times of the day, including the night time. A street can take on a very different personality after the sun sets. This is especially important for women.

It has been said that a safe area has three components: noise, people and light. If all three are there, it’s most likely safe to walk around. But if one if missing, you might be walking into a bad situation. Use your head.

Apartments can go quickly, so if you love it, take it. But before diving into that exhausting exercise, keep these tips in mind:

“No Fee” vs. “Fee” Apartments: the “fee” is a broker’s fee, similar to a “finder’s fee,” and search engines will allow you to search within these categories. If the ad doesn’t mention whether its a fee or a no-fee apartment, be sure to ask when you call or email for an appointment. These fees can come out to the equivalent of one month’s rent, or up to 15% of the annual rent. Some apartment buildings pay the brokers fee for you so the cost will not come from your pocket. However, it’s more common for YOU to pay the broker.

Working With A Broker

When you agree to work with a broker you sign a contract. If a broker shows you an apartment you can only rent it through them. You can’t run around afterwards and go back to the Landlord. The brokers have information about the City and they know how people try to get out of paying their fees.

Searching Online

One of the Shearer’s New York friends offered some helpful tips on the apartment search. He said the overall best apartment search engine is . It has great advanced tools like searching within a particular school zone. (If you have school-aged kids it is hard to get into a school for which you are not zoned.)

No-Fee Apts – probably your best overall bet finding a no-fee apartment, but they also have fee apartments, so check your search options. Apartments can be taken within a few hours of being listed, but apartments are seldom available more than a month out. The Evers primarily used Craigslist to find their no-fee place within two weeks. They moved in two weeks after signing their lease. – gives all listed “no fee” apts currently available so it is fairly comprehensive and often lists apartments from other sites. – mostly apartments in west harlem; completely no fee, well kept apts, nothing fancy.

Lower Broker Fee Apartments – The apartment descriptions were fairly accurate (very rare in the broker business – they usually way overestimate the square footage, etc. – we never looked at any of their listings b/c we found their website late in the game, but I’m impressed with their site – used to only charge 1 months rent as broker fee when we were looking 2 years ago

Broker Fee Apartments (15% of annual rent): Probably the biggest agency in the city overall with the most listings to see, but you’ll pay the full fee. There’s no room to negotiate the fee.

Subscription Service Agencies (pay $200, $40, etc, for access to a website with exclusive listings) – i think the most reputable subscription service agency, but a lot of their listings you will have already seen through craigslist, gonofee, etc. – have not used them, but their listings look a little too good to be true (if it looks too good to be true….) search by street, neighborhood, roommates, rooms, etc.

The Roommate Hunt

Planning to move in with strangers? It worked well for Julie. There are three churches who have roommate boards online, but just because someone posted an opening on a church website doesn’t mean they are believers. Be sure to ask good questions about:

• lifestyle • habits • cleanliness • privacy • night life preferences • visitors and overnight guests • sharing rent and utilities • Do they have ragers every weekend? You’ll want to know that before signing on! Julie found her roommates here. It’s a great site for singles who are looking for a room in a shared apartment. You might also be able to find whole apartments to live in. Sublet options are available, too. (you have to join their online group to see their online classifieds)

Search Criteria for an Apartment

This is really important, so take the time to evaluate your values, must-haves and non- negotiables. Most likely you’ll have to compromise somewhere, so keep an open mind. Here are a few categories to consider:


Where can you shop for groceries? Can you walk to that store? Do you know people who live in the neighborhood?

How long is the walk to the subway stop? ! Is there an express train stop?

Do you want to live near them? (“friends in the City” is different from “friends in the neighborhood”) Are there opportunities for community?  Do you want to walk to church? Is there a local church near by?

Can you easily get to/transfer to multiple subway lines? Does the closest stop have an elevator? (important if you have stroller-aged kids)  if not, are you able to get up and down the stairs? Will you feel comfortable walking here at night? Are there parks nearby? Are there restaurants or coffee shops within walking distance?

Ask people on the street what they think of the neighborhood.

Questions to ask about an Apartment

Does the building have laundry in the unit or the basement? If not, where is the nearest laundromat? Or is there a laundry service (pick up/wash/fold/delivery)? Does the building appear to be well cared for? Don’t be afraid to ask a tenant what they think of the building if you pass them in the hallway. Is there an option for additional storage? (may or may not be important depending on storage space in apartment itself) Is the apartment on the bedbug registry? What utilities are included in the rent? How accessible is the super if there’s a maintenance issue? On-site? Does at least one team apartment have space big enough for a team meeting?

Does a building have a lounge for group gatherings? Is there an apartment big enough to host events? Is there an elevator? How high is the apartment? Will your belongings fit up the stairs/through the door/in the elevator?


You made it! Congratulations! The truck is empty and you are finally here. Welcome to the City that Never Sleeps. There is so much to see and do, so start making your list so you can tackle it week by week.

Moving to NYC has a lot of parallels to moving internationally. If you’re from a small town or a rural area, you’ll bump into “city culture” and it will feel like a cross-cultural experience. It’s not unusual to hear at least three different languages once you leave your place! As well, many things simply take longer to do in the City. You can’t jump in your car and complete your list of errands.

Living, working and ministry in the City will sap you of energy. It’s common, and it’s called “Urban Stress.”

Just like an international move, moving to the city has it’s phases of adaptation:

The honeymoon: rose-colored glasses, everything is wonderful and ideal.

“Here it comes”: reality hits and life feels overwhelming. the city becomes a big challenge in every respect.

Hallelujah: you’ve settled in and are ready to embrace the bad days along with the good. Give yourself and your team the freedom to settle in at your own pace.

And remember, “It’s not wrong, it’s just different!”


If you are a follower of Christ, we strongly encourage you to go beyond being a consumer and find a local church family to be a part of consistently and to serve in.  We have great relationships with lots of pastors and churches in the city and would be glad to hear about where you live, what type of church you enjoy, etc and help narrow your search based on what we know about churches here and what we learned about you. Please contact us via the “Contact us” page if this interests you. You can also use to find churches near you. We have found that this sit is very thorough in finding all types of churches throughout the city and given a baseline perspective of what the church is like.

Getting things done…You can pay someone to do almost anything for you:

People love for groceries and now the new more affordable competitor, Others have their laundry service when they didn’t have access to a washer/dryer. Sometimes the financial expense of what sounds like an extravagance when you live in the suburbs, is actually a wise investment when you live in the City.

Normal Budgeted Expenses Groceries: Be prepared to increase your grocery budget! Most City people buy food almost daily, picking up a few items on their way home from work. It’s very European. If you have a car, or are willing to pay a car service, you can get to places like Target and BJ’s at the Gateway Center in the Bronx, Aldi’s in Queens or now in East Harlem, and Stop & Shop or Pathmark in northern Harlem and The Bronx.

Rent: Depending on where you live a 2 bedroom will cost anywhere from $1800- $3500 a month. Spend some time on craigslist to get a feel for rent prices.

Utilities: Does your apartment include utilities? Remember water.

Travel: A monthly metro pass costs $109 or you can pay $2.25 per ride.

Car Owners: Car insurance will go up. Parking, be prepared for the occasional break in, license plates, alternate side parking rules.

Living it Up!

This is a great place to live and work and play, but to make the most of it you’ll have to plan ahead. Sites like and offer discounts to NYC venues, and you can use twitter to keep you posted, too.


Here are some of our favorite TWITTER  feeds:

@I_Love_NY @NYCParks @TimesSquareNYC  @NYCMayorsOffice @Gothamist  @TKTS  @TimeOutNewYork @NYCASP (alternate side parking updates) @NewYorkology @NYCT (busses and trains) @MTA @NY1Headlines @NYCTrains @NotifyNYC  #FreeNYC