We hear it all the time: moving is THE WORST. Almost everyone is shoved onto the housing roller coaster at some point. You have to find a place, maybe a roommate too, and to top it all off- actually move.
NYC may have a special notoriety, but no matter where you live, have you ever met anyone who skips down the street thinking about moving? That’s a no. A huge perk, however, is hopefully living in a sweet new spot, right?
I’ve ridden way up, plummeted back down, and gotten off that crazy ride having learned a thing or two about how to make moving slightly less painful. Lucky for you, I’m going to (virtually) swoop down and tap you with my fairy wand of KNOWLEDGE.
So You Have to Find an Apartment
- Apartment Search Tools: Filter by area, price, bedrooms, etc.! StreetEasy is the absolute best for finding an apartment, in my humble opinion. Other standouts: Zillow, which saved me in Boston; Trulia, the source for real estate listings and data; HotPads, the newer tool in your box, and Craigslist– it’s known to have hidden gems, don’t write it off! Top tip: save your search and you’ll be notified any time there’s a new listing that meets your criteria. That’s especially handy in fast-paced housing environments.
- Figure Out Your Non-Negotiables: No apartment will be perfect but there are some factors that are crucial and help cut out the clutter. Does your bedroom need to have a closet? Are you only willing to go above the 3rd floor of a walkup? Decide what’s really important before you waste your time going to appointments. Sometimes you will refine your non-negotiables after you’ve seen a couple of apartments.
- Ask Important Questions: Check if there are any crazy fees, chat with anyone you see in the building, see if it’s near subways, etc. Also, open cabinets, switch on lights, open doors, and take a video! (Sometimes better to reference than photos.)
- Make Contacts: Connect with the realtors listed on any interesting places in the apartment search tools by messaging them through the site or texting/emailing if the contact info is listed. Ask if they have related listings or anything new, and make sure to tell them your parameters.
- Save Up: Moving will cost more than you think. There are always crazy expenses that come up! You will need your first month’s rent, more than likely the last month’s rent, and a security deposit- which is also usually the amount of a month’s rent! When you do find a place you like, make sure that what you owe upfront is clearly outlined. Then you might also have a broker fee, need to hire movers, and buy new furniture. Do you have a trash can? You’ll have to buy a WiFi box.
- Cut Back: See? It adds up, so once you estimate your desired rent you can save accordingly. Cut back on indulgences and curb your spending overall. Contribute to your savings account- that you don’t touch- with each paycheck.
- NYC Listings: For NYC especially, note that apartments usually aren’t listed until a month out, and sometimes listings pop up as little as a week beforehand. Wait for those if you’re a real adrenaline junkie. The minute they’re listed, they are usually rented as quickly as they were put up in the first place. Once you’re notified of a good place and contact the realtor, see it immediately. Nothing is worse than an amazing prospect being taken before you can even check it out. In a time crunch? Hire a broker who does all the work for you, like searching for places, asking questions, handling the negotiations, and even organizing the paperwork! For New Yorkers, Citi Habitats’ brokers have extensive contacts and listings that aren’t on StreetEasy. Note, however, that they always have a broker’s fee. Citi Habitats, for example, has a baseline of 15% the annual rent.
You Found Your Place, Now What?
- Measure: Bring a measuring tape! Nothing worse than lugging furniture up the stairs just to find it doesn’t fit through the door at its new destination. Measure the front door’s height and width against your couch to see if it and your bed can fit through, and if they don’t, try and take the furniture apart before resigning to buying new ones. Check out the different living room wall lengths to see where your couch, chairs, and tables would go. See if you can comfortably fit your cushy queen bed in your bedroom (or if you need to switch to a full size).
- Find a Roommate: Roommate situation fall apart? Need someone to fill your place? You can list it on Craigslist and Facebook’s Gypsy Housing, post to your social media, and hustle, hustle, hustle. While the Roomi app is less known, it’s recommended for its effectiveness—apartments needing roommates and roommates needing apartments are both listed. They also do background checks and it links to your Facebook, so it’s nice and secure.
- Make That List: Write out everything you have and also what you have to get. Some items on your list are more immediate, like, you know, a bed. Some on the list are less urgent, like utensils, and a toilet brush/plunger- although you should definitely buy this before you (unfortunately) need it! Sign up for WiFi and pick up the box before move-in. Also, make sure to get cleaning supplies if don’t already have them. This is crucial for moving day, out with the old & in with the new- trust me.
- Change Your Address: All mailings need to be updated, especially with the post office and your bank. Cancel or update your service bills so you’re not charged after you’ve moved. Check your old lease for when you should have your security deposit refunded (usually 30 days) and make sure to communicate with the management company about the move-out procedure if they haven’t reached out. Also, leave your old keys in the apartment! That right there would be an unnecessary fine.
Oof, Okay, Moving Time
- Source Boxes: Ask around at work for boxes; try those responsible for the mail. Check with nearby restaurants/shops, like your local deli/bodega guy. Donations from friendly acquaintances are definitely cheaper than buying online! There is, however, a green option in Juggle Boxes, which sends, cleans, and then picks up the reusable boxes and delivers them to your next home whenever you’re ready. Easy and sustainable, who can resist!
- Start in Pieces: I know, moving is so overwhelming. Try to pack in pieces, size up your stuff. Start with anything you don’t need in the interim to get the packing process going- it’s always, always more stuff than you think.
- Get Organized: Pack things together that belong in the same room and optimize efficiency by wrapping fragile items in your clothes, sheets, and towels. Keep things that you’ll need right away at the top of boxes or in your moving backpack/bag, like shower toiletries and water bottles. That way, you won’t frantically be searching the abyss for your shampoo when you’re desperate for a shower. Same with chargers! Fill up boxes and bags you already own, but keep in mind the weight and carry-ability (yes, I just made up that word). Group little carriers together in one box but don’t add so much that you will not be able to make it up a flight of stairs, let alone multiple.
- Hanging Clothes Hack: Don’t waste time packing hanging clothes. Instead, make a hole in the top of trash bags, put the hangers through it and just pull to cover! Then once you move you can just hang ‘em up and take off the trash bags. Similar hack: clip necklaces through an empty toilet paper roll to prevent tangling. (Although if you need them untangled, hit me up- I’m the master.)
- Just Don’t Toss Indiscriminately: Internal screams are ready to burst when surveying all of your stuff, but try to refrain from just tossing everything. Think about what you own that you’ll just have to buy again, and how easy or light it is to pack. A drying rack can be filled with items, so can a microwave- maybe even with kitchen utensils, which you should not throw out! Things like spices are a pain and expensive to have to buy again and don’t weigh much. Dirty or worn down pieces can be laid to rest, though, like that half-melted spatula. This is also the perfect time to cleanse.
- Label Boxes: Help your future self by labeling boxes. Yes, hate to break it to you, but you still have to unpack after you pack and move them into your new place. Knowing which boxes belong in which room, and what they contain, is very handy. You can schlep each one right to its destination, and shove those winter sweaters you don’t yet need deep under your bed.
- That Muscle That Truck: Count yourself lucky if you have any friends or family with a truck to borrow, and/or can help you move! Bribe them with dinner, provide beers or treats (*cough* bribe). If you do have to hire movers, ask for a discount/negotiate. In NYC, Man With A Van is a flat, affordable rate, and Dumbo Moving won’t come up with extraneous charges during the move. Also ask around, friends could have referral codes!
- Talk to Management Co: Get your keys (and make a copy later to leave at work or with a friend), see when you can move, and ask if it can be earlier if the apartment is vacant. Always worth an ask! Also, check if you need a parking permit for your truck and try to make sure someone’s always with it when you’re moving in and out. Then use those cleaning supplies you thoughtfully kept or purchased.
- Acknowledge It’ll Take Time to Settle: You moved, whoop whoop! But don’t let tears fall in buckets looking at all that needs to be done. Breathe deeply, order food delivery, and catch up on sleep. You can get settled and unpack gradually over the coming nights and weekends. Meanwhile, take the time to explore your new neighborhood! Also, obviously, dreamily plot how to make your new place your own.
Feature image via Vanessa Granda