The Big Apple! New York City as a Relocation Destination

A relocation guide to New York, what are the characteristics of its different neighbourhoods, the cost of living, how to rent a flat and other key information for people thinking of moving to The Big Apple.

New York skyline
There is no place like New York City. It’s the city that never sleeps. You can go anywhere, do anything, at any hour. It is one of the world’s most prominent commercial, financial and cultural centers, filled with iconic attractions and points of interest that provide something for everyone. A great place to visit, to be sure. But, could you live here? In a city of 8.55 million people and vertical living as your one option, how does one navigate a relocation to NYC and make it work? It is fair to say that it won’t work for everyone. There are those that opt to live in the outlying suburbs of the New York Tri-State area (New York, Connecticut, New Jersey), selecting a more suburban lifestyle. However, for those that are not of the faint of heart and want to live THE New York experience, it can be an extraordinary destination filled with a lifestyle of culture, energy, diversity, the arts, recreation, education, museums, commerce, and a million other things too numerous to mention here.

Choosing the right neighbourhood in New York

When an employee accepts a relocation to New York City and decides to live in Manhattan, housing is the focus (along with schools if there are accompanying children). Understanding the pace of the rental market in Manhattan is critical to finding a suitable apartment in a reasonable amount of time.  With a rental vacancy rate most recently recorded in 2018 at 3.63 percent and approximately 69% of those 8.5 million Manhattan residents being renters, many apartments will not last more than a few hours on the market.  Zeroing in on a neighborhood to live in and its proximity to the office will help define the apartment search.  If the office is downtown on Wall Street, the employee might not want to live on the Upper West Side of the Island.  If the office is in Midtown, the employee has good options for most city neighborhoods north, south, east or west.  Public transportation is excellent and available everywhere.  The neighborhoods of Manhattan all offer surprisingly different lifestyles with some having a more residential style and others that are much livelier with everything just a step away. While selecting a neighborhood can seem overwhelming at first, the differences of each will be evident as the area tour and home search take place. Here are some neighborhood options:
  • Harlem: continues its incredible transformation offering new hi-rise housing, great dining, historical sites, beautiful architecture, good public transportation and nearby access to Central Park
  • The Upper East Side: “The Gold Coast” offers stunning hi-rises, high end mansions and townhouses along with magnificent museums – The Metropolitan and the Frick to name two. The UES is walking distance to everything and has an abundance of restaurants, cafés, museums, movies and shopping. Families find the UES a very desirable location with great public and private schools in the neighborhood
  • The Upper West Side: tree-lined streets with many pre-war apartment buildings creates a cozy, residential neighborhood along beautiful Riverside Park overlooking the Hudson River. Like the UES, the UWS is a desirable neighborhood for families  
  • Midtown East: co-mingles hi-rise residences with the shopping and business district of Fifth Avenue. This neighborhood is easy access to uptown, downtown and crosstown business areas
  • Midtown West: The heart of the theater district, Times Square, Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall. New hi-rise apartment buildings are being built every day and includes the sparking new jewel of the City: Hudson Yards, a community that sits on the Hudson River and offers the newest in hi-rise living, dining and shopping right within its complex.
  • Chelsea: New luxury hi-rises are being constructed alongside quaint townhouses on residential streets. The bustling nightlife coupled with edgy art galleries alongside the famous High Line makes it a neighborhood to consider
  • Gramercy: A short walk from the shopping of Union Square and offers a quiet lifestyle yet with easy access to everything
  • The off-the-grid West Village is unlike any other neighborhood. Historic, charming and relaxed all describe this fantastic part of Manhattan.
  • SoHo (South of Houston Street): Art, boutiques and restaurants all contribute to the eclectic feel and trendy, upscale living
  • Tribeca (Triangle Below Canal): Hosts the annual Tribeca Film Festival and is a mix of old and new housing and restaurants on the water. There is ongoing development of new residences here pushing the pricing limits of this trendy neighborhood

Cost of rent in New York

Those are some of the neighborhoods.  Preparing to relocate to New York City, it is essential to understand the cost of living, beginning with the cost of apartments.  According to the Citi Habitats Residential Market Report for September and Third Quarter 2018, the overall blended averages for Q3 ’18 were:  New Development with Doorman (built after 2006) studio $3,636; 1BR $4,866; 2BR $8,564; 3BR $16,385.  These are average and may go up/down depending on the neighborhoods and building amenities.  Some buildings will offer rental concessions such as a month’s free rent or the landlord paying for a certain amenity.  Fully understanding the terms of the lease and the concessions are vital.  It could be a significant savings initially then increase substantially once the concession timeframe or duration is over.For foreign nationals coming to live in Manhattan, working with a licensed realtor is not only the most efficient means of apartment search, it is also the safest as they know well the legalities and requirements of renting in this market and will pave the way as smoothly and quickly as possible.  Recommendations for a realtor are best gotten from the relocation management company or destination services company the employer is contracted with to ensure the employee is working with an experienced, knowledgeable agent.  The logistics of an apartment search in Manhattan are best left to the professional agents.  

Fees and financial requirements to rent an apartment

So, what are the costs incurred in finding an apartment?  Realtor fees are typically 15% of one year’s rent.  If one has leased an apartment for US$3,500/month, the realtor/broker will earn $6,300.  Realtor fees are most often paid by the renter but there are some that are paid by the landlord or offer a “no fee” option. The landlord generally requires first and last month’s rent in advance at the minimum.   You must qualify to lease an apartment in the City.  For a US resident to financially qualify to rent an apartment, documentation of an income that is 40 to 45 times the monthly rent in addition to a stellar credit rating and references are generally required.  If the rent is $3,000/month, documentation must reflect an annual salary (or combined salary) of $120,000 to $135,000.  For a foreign national with no US credit or rental history, the financial requirement might increase significantly with the landlord requiring six months to one year’s rent upfront in addition to a letter of employment and other documentation needed to satisfy their requirements.  A service utilized by some corporations for their foreign national employees renting in Manhattan is a lease guaranty program.  Jeffrey L. Geller is Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of the Insurent Agency Corporation, one such guarantor.  He says Insurent qualifies renters online 24/7 and issues the Insurent Guaranty generally within 24 hours.  What this represents to the landlord is an absolute guaranty of rent payment by a $1billion dollar insurance company versus the pledge of collection by an individual co-signer. 

Cost of a deposit or guaranty program

The average cost for a guaranty program for foreign nationals without a U.S. based credit history is 95% - 110% of one month’s rent for one-year lease guarantees.    The cost for a two-year lease guarantee is 85% higher than the one-year lease guarantee.  While this is an additional cost to the employer, it not only expedites the rental process for the relocating employee; it eliminates the need for the employer having to pay six months to one year’s rent upfront.  This a viable option to consider and a way for the employee to establish credit in the US.For employees relocating to New York City with children, there are good public schools throughout the City and a selection of some of the best private schools in the country from pre-K to grade 12 such as Horace Mann School, Trinity School, The Dalton School, Riverdale Country School, Collegiate School and many others. Private school entrance is very competitive and submission cut-offs are early in the school calendar year. Average tuition costs may range from US$15,000 to US$50,000+ a year depending on grade and the school’s competitive positioning. It would be recommended that the employee use an education consulting company to navigate through this very challenging school selection and enrollment process.New York City is an entity all to itself: an exciting, challenging “melting pot” of people from all over the world. Who could ever imagine that approximately 23 square miles of land could offer such an experience!Authors:Gail Rabasca
Executive Vice President
Chamness WorldWide
gail@chamnessrelo.comClaudine Tahan-Tunbakji, CRP, GMS, CIPS
Simply Real Estate LLC
Chamness WorldWide have been delivering personalised and high quality relocation services for over 30 years. Follow the links above for more US focused Chamness content on Relocate Global or visit the Chamness website.

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