Survival guide New York – Part 1 – Where to live?

Hello everyone!

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked upon arriving here is: Where are you going to live? It’s clear that finding a place to live is one of the most complicated goals people have when they move to New York. Since I’ve been through this process myself, here are some tips that I wish I had known before I moved to the United States.

First of all, it is important to decide in which area you want to live.

If you are going to work or study, be aware of how long it will take you to get there.  Usually, it will be at least 30 minutes by subway, as New York is a huge city. It is important that you don’t have more than 2 train connections, as sometimes there are some delays. In my case, I was clear in my mind that I wanted to bike to go to work. Biking in New York can sometimes be a risky sport, as there are many cars and they don’t always respect the bike lane. My recommendation would be to avoid downtown and always ride in lanes that are separated from the road. So I first looked for a safe bike lane that could connect my home to the office. There is a riverside lane that connects the entire West Side area to downtown Manhattan, it’s called Riverside Park.

Another point that helped me decide was the neighborhood amenities. Therefore, I decided to live on the Upper West Side, near Columbia University.  Also, it is important to know where the express stops are, as they will save you a lot of time.  The residential neighborhoods are typically Manhattan, Queens or Brooklyn.

Secondly, you should have a realistic budget in mind. In New York, housing prices are really expensive. In 2022, a room on the Upper West Side was $1,100-$2,000/month. If you are looking for a one-bedroom, it could be $2500-3500/month. Also, some of the landlords ask for a credit score which is a prediction of your credit behavior . However, if you are not from the US you may not have one. Other documents they might ask for are a letter from your company with your annual salary, your SSN (social security number) and, sometimes, references from your previous tenant. They may even ask you to earn 40 times more per year than the monthly rental price.

Furthermore, there are two rent types in New York, leasing and subletting. In the second case you are not renting the room from the landlord directly, so be very aware of that as you won’t have a real contract. There are many websites (streeteasy, Zilou, trulia…), but I personally used Facebook. There are plenty of scams so avoid paying anything until you see it in person. I tried to do a video call with all of them before the visit to get a general idea and help me realize if I was interested in it or not.

To conclude, New York is a really competitive city even when it comes to finding a place to sleep. Rooms and studios rent very fast, therefore, I recommend you to start looking for an apartment not too much in advance.

I hope this post was helpful! See you on the next one.

Alicia Muñoz


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