Are you planning on moving to NYC alone in your 20s and don’t know where to begin? I’m here to help make it a whole lot less stressful for you! First of all, congratulations; New York City is amazing! While moving can seem daunting, this post will break it down for ya, NYC local style.
For a bit of background, I made the big move to NYC alone in 2018 from AZ, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Thus, this post is packed with insider tips and knowledge you can only get from living through it, and I’m here to share it with ya.
You are going to have the time of your life there, so sit back, and scroll on, as this ultimate guide to moving to NYC alone in your 20s has the answers to everything you need to know!
WHERE TO LIVE?
Neighborhoods, neighborhoods, neighborhoods!
Finding a place that feels like home is key to living happily in New York City. Now, how on earth might you find that? If you have an upcoming trip booked, definitely explore a bunch of different areas. As each neighborhood truly has its own charm, character and livelihood.
When you’re in town, you can schedule a showing at an apartment or attend a free open-house. This will help you get a lay of the apartment, make sure the space is the same as in the photographs, check out the neighborhood, noise levels, etc.
If you aren’t going to be in the city, or perhaps haven’t ever been there before the big move (eek!), don’t worry one bit! Google maps is a great place to start. You can zoom in on each area to see what types of shops, grocery, restaurants and local gems surround it. I did this when I found my first apartment, and was thrilled to see all of the goodies on every corner.
Proximity to the subway (major 🗝️!)
THIS. Picking an apartment close to a major subway line(s) is everything. It will literally save you endless amounts of stress, money spent on cars, and time walking to/from your destinations.
If you will be working out of an office (I know many of us aren’t these days) you can see what subway lines easily get you there and back home. New York City’s subway system is vast, so as long as you are close to a few lines, you will be good!
LOCAL’S TIP #1: BUY THE MONTHLY UNLIMITED SUBWAY PASS!
This LITTLE YELLOW CARD will be your BFF. Take full advantage of New York City’s affordable and convenient transportation system! Here’s why:
It is about $128 (factoring in the $1 fee for a new subway card) for the monthly unlimited pass. This will grant you unlimited rides on both the city’s subways and buses.
A one-way ride via the bus or subway is $2.75. Let’s say you go out and come back to your apartment once a day (two swipes = $5.50), six days a week. That’s $33. Times that by four weeks each month. That gets you to $132. Now, this is if you are ONLY leaving that seldom. Chances are, living in NYC, you will be going around town a lot more than that!
What’s even nicer, is let’s say your feet hurt, or it’s pouring rain, and you want to take the subway/bus just a stop or two. You can! You will never need to “validate” taking it 100 times a day, nor spend time and money reloading your card.
LOCAL’S TIP #2: The subway will always get you there faster than a car will. i promise you this.
NYC traffic is insane. You can easily wait 45 minutes to go about 10 blocks. Wild. During New York Fashion Week, I thought taking a car uptown would get me there faster than the subway. Boy, was I wrong.
I ended up ditching the car and ran to The Plaza Hotel before the light turned green. It was like a scene out of a movie.
I nearly missed the show due to the traffic (luckily, my feet got me there in no time.) Below ground, on the subway, you won’t have that same issue. Oh, and there won’t be the constant sound of car horns.
Finding a New York City apartment while not in NYC can be quite the task. But trust me, it can be done (and successfully so!) I found my first apartment via a Facebook group while I was still living in Arizona. I know, it sounds CRAZY, but it was the best place I’ve lived in the city so far.
You can utilize Facebook housing groups for many different things. Such as finding roomies to apartment hunt with, scoring short-duration subleases, and even free furniture!
There are lots of other amazing humans moving to NYC alone in their 20s, so let’s dive into this route first.
Facebook Housing Groups
If you go this route, there are a lot of potential scams you need to be wary of. The top three groups with the least amount of scams that I recommend are:
- NYC Sublets & Apartments
- Gypsy Housing NYC
- New York University (NYU) Housing, Sublets & Roommates
The NYU page is private, however, you can request to join. Once you’re accepted into the groups, you can search by keywords or the newest posts to see what’s most recently available.
There are frequently people subleasing out their space, which can be a blessing for many reasons. A handful of subleases don’t require you to make 40x the rent, sign a year lease, etc. It will also give you the flexibility to live in new-to-you neighborhoods for a shorter amount of time.
I’ve had a lot of luck with the groups above, and have found gals to sublease my space that have turned into lifelong friends. Hey, Serena! 🙂
How do I know if it's a scammer?
If you make a post in one of these Facebook groups stating what you’re looking for, you might receive a few scam comments/messages. Often it will be fairly obvious after taking a quick glance at the commenter’s profile to see if it’s legit.
Red flags would be no profile image, incorrect grammar in the comment/message, no info on their page, etc. If so, just ignore it and move on.
StreetEasy is the best (it’s free!) website for finding New York City apartments. I’ve trusted this option from the get-go and found two of my past apartments this way. Whether you are moving to NYC alone in your 20s, 30s, 40s+, with a friend, etc. it is a great trustworthy choice.
The website lets you filter your preferences for nearly everything. Price range, neighborhoods, amenities, pet-friendly, you name it.
Each listing typically has images or a video showing the space, a description, open-house times, when it’s available to move-in, and more. You can also see other units that are available in the building, the rent history, learn about the building, etc.
Fee or No Fee Apartment?
You can find many amazing apartments in NYC that have no fees. I love a good no-fee apartment, because who wants to pay extra if you don’t have to?
That being said, sometimes your perfect apartment will have a fee. Typically the fees are about one months rent. If you’ll be signing a lease with a roomie, you can split the price.
Do I need a realtor?
I would say no! While they can be quite helpful, there are a lot of ways to go about finding the right apartment in NYC without paying for a realtor. *Ahem, like the options above 😇*
If you choose to work with a realtor, they can help get you appointments to see apartments not yet listed online, communicate with your building managers, etc. Realtors have a price tag to work with them, so be prepared to pay about one to 1.5x your month’s rent for their fee.
I found the perfect apartment, but it doesn’t have “x”
Woohoo! Moving to NYC alone in your 20s is a big milestone, so cheers if you’ve found the perfect apartment! It will likely be you’ve found the most incredible place, but it doesn’t have everything you’d like. Maybe it doesn’t have a doorman, maybe it’s a six-floor walk-up, maybe it doesn’t have modern appliances.
That is okay!! We all have to give and take somewhere, so if the apartment you’re eyeing has 9/10 things you want – run with it!
What if my building doesn't have laundry?
Many apartments, especially in and around lower Manhattan (Greenwich Village, Soho, Lower East Side, West + East Village, etc.), don’t have laundry in the building. This is totally the norm. I know, it seems crazy coming from any other city where each unit has its own laundry. You will now take that as a luxury, haha.
If this is your situation as well, you can look to find a “Wash and Fold” or laundry mat somewhat close by, as you will likely become a frequent visitor. 😉
Help! The nyc apt application requirements are crazy!
I KNOW! Trust and believe me when I say we all agree on this. If you’re moving to NYC alone in your 20s (or at any age, tbh) for the first time, you’ll be blown away with the “requirements” to be approved for an apartment. Most have a laundry-list (sans the laundry 😉) of the below necessities to be considered to rent an apartment:
- Make 40x the monthly rent
- If you have guarantor, they need to make 80x the monthly rent
- A month’s rent (or two) for the security deposit
- Proof of income and a letter of employment
- Recent bank stubs (usually three or more recent ones)
- Valid IDs
- Credit check (which you pay for – usually around $100)
- A referral from a previous landlord (this is more rare, but I have seen this asked before)
The thing that truly gets me is the 40x monthly rent. New York apartments are wildly expensive to begin with, so asking for someone moving to NYC alone in their 20s to qualify for that amount is i n s a n e.
Many of us don’t meet that income requirement. If you plan on having a roomie/s, you can combine your salaries to hit the 40x amount. This is a great reason for having a roommate in NYC — of course, one whom you love (hi, Lisa!) — to help get a really amazing apartment.
What if you can’t make the 40x requirement? (Join the club!!) Well, here comes the next step!
I need a guarantor
You’ve probably never heard of a guarantor before. I hadn’t either. Until I was 22 years old and moving to New York City (alone) full-time. Ah, the things we learn.
A guarantor is someone who can sign your lease with you to prove a guarantee of credit/payments. As mentioned above, in NYC, a guarantor must make 80x your desired apartment’s monthly rent. A guarantor can be anyone from a close friend, to a family member, or even found online.
If your family/friends aren’t comfortable being liable as your guarantor, or don’t meet the ridiculous requirement, you can use a third-party company.
While I haven’t used a third-party company before, there are a handful out there that plenty of people rely on. The service won’t be free, but it can help land you the apartment you have your eyes on.
Ah, onto this lovely step. If you’re moving to NYC alone in your 20s, you probably aren’t going to be bringing more than a suitcase or two with you. I’m right there with ya. Here are a few ways you can furnish your new NYC apartment for a bargain.
Take advantage of checked bags on airlines
If you’re flying for your big move to the city, bring as much as you can fit in those suitcases. When you go back home or have family/friends visit, have them pack their bags full of things you want them to bring, but aren’t in a rush to have. I did this every time my wonderful fam visited, and after a handful of times, I had all my knicknacks, clothes, etc.
Craigslist free + for sale listings
This can be an incredible place to score furniture in NYC! While you need to take all of the safety precautions while using Craigslist, you can get really lucky. Search the “Free” and “For Sale” sections in the area you’re willing to travel to, and viola!
I bought a $1,500+ new (and so comfy) couch for less than $300 that I found on Craigslist. It was listed the morning of from a single-owner home. The guy selling it was moving in with his GF and it didn’t fit in her place, so he sold it for a great price. Score!!
If possible, try and grab furniture that’s from a one-owner home, pet-free, etc. This can keep your risk of ickies lower (even by a smidge) — hey, we’ll take that!
Also, for all of you fellow thrift-lovers, this can be so fun.
P.S. Thrift queens & Kings
If you’re moving to NYC and have way too much stuff to bring, try selling it online! I legit use second-hand thrifting apps like Poshmark and Mercari to sell all of the clothes I no longer wear. (And buy new ones, hehe. 🙈) If you’ve never used the apps (or want to know the ins-and-outs), I have a 3,000+ word step-by-step blog post all about how to be successful on Poshmark and how to ship on Mercari. You should totally check them out!
Here we go again, haha. In NYC, Facebook can be such a useful tool. Not only for finding your dream apartment sublease, but finding friends, and amazing furniture.
Try looking in the Facebook Marketplace section, as there will be a bunch of listings in there. You can search for keywords to find more of what you’re looking for.
You can also join groups specifically to find furniture. Ones I’ve had success with are:
- NYC GYPSY HOUSING *Goods & FURNITURE*
- GYPSY FURNITURE NYC
NYC Stoop Sales + Free Finds
There are GEMS to be found this way. You can search for these keywords on Craigslist or Facebook, but oftentimes, it is day-of type things. Most likely, it will happen when you are walking home and see some awesome furniture on the sidewalk that catches your eye. Something you just must take.
Once in a while, there will be a little note that says the items are free. However, most of the time, it is implied that you can take what you like.
LOCAL’S TIP #3: Thoroughly inspect all furniture!
When finding furniture on the street to take home and make your own, definitely thoroughly inspect each item. Things I am mindful of and look for are:
- Proximity to trash (if it’s near a heap of open bags, I would pass)
- Major flaws, dents, etc.
- It’s helpful to use your phone’s flashlight for spotting minor scrapes.
Take extra precautions when looking at fabric furniture. Check for stains and inspect the stitching to be sure you don’t see anything gross or unusual. My main concern is bb (I don’t even want to say the word) – so be mindful about what you grab. For items like mattresses, it’s advised to never take one off of the street. Ever.
Now, don’t fret, as truly perfect furniture goes on the sidewalks in NYC daily. I bet you 90% of people living in the city have either taken a piece from the street or a stoop-sale.
People are moving in and out of apartments all year. As a result, a lot of furniture gets thrown away as there isn’t space or they simply can’t carry it there. You can definitely find treasures that are clean!
I hope you find something exciting that you love.
ARE YOU READY?!
There you have it, future big city babe! My ultimate guide to moving to NYC alone in your 20s! I hope this informative guide shared the answers, tips, and tricks you were seeking!
It’s gigantic to be moving to NYC – not to mention, alone in your 20s!! A massive congratulations to you; I hope you’re proud of yourself!
If you found this thorough post helpful, I would SO appreciate you leaving a comment, pinning this on Pinterest, or sharing this with family & friends! It means the world to hear your feedback. If you have any questions, drop them below and I’ll get back to ya. 😊
P.S. I want to know all about your move and what neighborhood you end up loving!! Let’s connect! Follow/tag me in your IG pics or shoot me a DM (@gabwithmeblog) to let me know what you decided. 🤗
Thank you for reading, babe!! I hope this becomes your new reference for all things moving to New York City. The big apple is a magical place, and I am so excited for you to tackle the city.
Komal Singh says
These are great tips! As someone who’s grown up in NYC her whole life, I didn’t realize this is what my parents did when they made the move back in their 20s. Great read!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! NYC is a magical place to live, so how special you got to grow up there! x
Omg and I thought 3x rent in Paris was too much! I didn’t know about the apartment rental process in NYC.
Ah! All of these big, beautiful cities have such insane rental requirements! How amazing you’re living in Paris. x
Marcie Hardy says
You have no idea how jealous I am…it was my dream to live in NYC. I can’t wait to read more of your posts about your time in The City. I guess I can vicariously live through you. LOL
Marcie, this is so sweet! Thank you so much for saying so! 😊 I hope you get to visit the big apple sometime soon. 🙂 Can’t wait to keep sharing more NYC content with amazing readers like you!
My very best, xx Gabriella
Wow, what a fabulous and helpful post! I moved to New York City (mind you, a number of years ago) and was completely in the dark about how to proceed. I would have loved having this post as my guide and inspiration. It certainly would have helped my move be far less stressful. You seem to know so much about life in New York City. I hope you might consider doing further posts where you share other hidden gems, great eateries, your favorite outdoor spaces–anything you could think of–that would help newcomers to New York City feel in the know and successful in their great new adventure. Thanks Gabwithme!!!
This comment touches me and makes me feel so good! Your kind words mean so much, and I’m absolutely thrilled you liked this post and found it helpful. Kudos to you for moving to NYC without having any guide!! More NYC-focused content is definitely on the horizon, and I am so excited to share it soon. I appreciate you and your support more than you know!!
All my best, xx Gabriella