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Moving 15 Blocks Cost Me $2,560

Amanda McLoughlin

I found out last month that my landlord was not renewing the lease on my beloved two-bedroom apartment in East Harlem. After a few days of mourning, tearful phone calls, and undignified pleading, I decided to take this as an opportunity to finally get a place of my own. Three weeks and dozens of apartment viewings later, I have settled down in a lovely studio just 15 blocks from my old location. How much does it cost to move one single ZIP code in New York City, you ask?

The Hunt

  • Portable charger to keep my phone alive during viewings, $35.
  • Bottles of water grabbed between viewings, $3.
  • Emergency granola bar to keep from fainting one day in the August heat, $1.50.

The Close

  • Second cashier’s check to replace the one I accidentally dropped in a secure shred bin, $0 (waived by bank). Being employed by a bank is very convenient when dumb mistakes happen an hour before one’s lease signing.
  • Taxi to real estate agent’s office to fill out the application, $7.50.
  • Application fee, $100 (applied to the first month’s rent).
  • Broker fee, $1,500. Though I really tried to avoid paying a broker fee, a few things make me feel better about shelling out the cash: this listing was exclusive to my broker, he helped negotiate repairs, it is priced slightly below market value, and I did not pay anything besides an application fee to sign for my old apartment. Altogether not an unreasonable expense in my eyes.
  • Two copies of new apartment keys, $6.

Move Attempt No. 1

  • Home Depot run for bathroom fixtures and cleaning supplies, $65.
  • Bagels and coffee, $15. My parents drove in from Long Island to help move and I provided the breakfast. However, when we got to the new place, none of the repairs in my lease rider had been made: the bathtub needed grouting, the toilet leaked, the windowpane was cracked, and more. We decided to cut our losses and try again next week when the repairs were done.
  • Consolation drink, $5.

The Interim

  • Long Island Rail Road tickets, $76.50. With my old apartment totally packed and my new one not yet habitable, I crashed with my family on Long Island and commuted into the city for five days.
  • Two days of evening commute beers in Penn Station, $10.
  • Take-out breakfasts and lunches, $45. I would otherwise have brought my meals to work like I normally do, but I was kitchenless.
  • Lunch money for family friends who helped paint my new place, $40.

Move Attempt No. 2

  • Two move helpers for four hours, $150 each ($300 total). The family members I’d conscripted for the first move were unable to make it, so I hired my cousin and one of his friends to help out. They are young strong lifeguards with boundless energy who jogged up and down two flights of stairs, laden with bags or carrying furniture, dozens of times without breaking a sweat. This may be the best money I’ve ever spent. I highly recommend making friends with or marrying into a family of lifeguards.
  • Case of Gatorade, $35.

Settling In

  • Initial grocery run, $75. I tried to use up the food in my freezer and pantry in anticipation of the move, which helped decrease the load. However, that did leave me in need of staples like flour, cooking oils, and canned goods.
  • Initial liquor store run, $45. The new place has a cabinet that is the perfect size for a hobbyist bar, and I am excited to start stocking it.
  • Renters’ insurance renewal, $225. I initially got insurance for the old place because the lease required it, but I chose to renew even though my new landlord doesn’t require insurance for the peace of mind.
  • New rug for new living space, $265. I actually bought it for $295 but noticed that it went on sale the following weekend, so I called and got refunded the difference. I plan to sell my old rug on Craigslist for $150, discounting this purchase to roughly $110 net.
  • Flowers, $5. A quick way to make a new place feel homey!

The generosity of my friends and family helped mitigate the costs of unexpected delays and necessary repairs. Still, this move cost about $2,560, excluding the first month’s rent and deposit that I also put down. Though it cleared out my checking account and caused a lot of stressed-out sleepless nights, waking up in an apartment that is entirely my own is worth it.

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