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Farm to City: An open letter to recent graduates/New York newbies

By Emmalie Vance  | June 18, 2012 - 10:17AM

Dear Recent Grads,

I'm proud that you have decided to take the plunge and move to NYC so soon after graduation. Rest assured, the summer is young, the Madison Square Park free concerts will soon begin (Bryant Park movies already have), and you will have the time of your life in the city that never sleeps.

First, though, you need to find an apartment.

As someone who recently took the plunge herself, I feel the need to pass on some do’s and don’ts, and why’s.

1. Don’t be afraid of stairs.

A doorman and a lobby provide a sense of security for many, and sometimes it’s just really cool to have someone open the door for you like you’re Kate Middleton, but it’s not necessary (and is sometimes unnecessarily expensive).

I live on the fourth floor of a walkup, and although it has no discernable health benefits—no weight loss or toned calves to speak of—it also hasn’t killed me yet. Just plan ahead for grocery runs and you’ll be thankful for the extra cash in your pocket each month.

2. Forgo the sense of entitlement.

Unless your parents can fork over thousands of dollars every month, you will likely need a roommate to survive here.

If you have a friend already living in NYC, that’s great. Shack up with them. If not, you will need to make a really good friend really quickly, and since this person will see you at your best—being successful at your new job and working your way quickly up the career ladder—and your worst—Saturday mornings—you need to choose wisely.

It’s basically a game of speed dating where you need to fit someone to your personality, cleanliness, and wake/sleep hours as accurately as possible and in the shortest amount of time. Ready, GO!

3. Consider a short-term sublet.

Unless you have a career job already lined up and a comfy amount of cash coming in, you’ll want a few freebie months to get your feet wet—I definitely did.

My sublet has been a dream for a few reasons: I didn’t have to provide any furniture, my monthly payments are paid in a lump sum to the tenant currently in California and he takes care of separating it to rent and the utilities, and I get 10 months to live here and work on getting established with essentially no small print. If I need to vacate early, I just repost the original roommate wanted ad on Craigslist and my current roommate Sarah will choose the next traveler. It’s amazing!

4. Get to know the building ahead of time.

This is more for your own peace of mind, but you may want to know the last time the place had a bed bug problem (if ever) or if anyone has ever died there (for you superstitious folk). (See also "How to find an apartment without bed bugs".)

Also, make nice with your super (who else is going to fix that clogged toilet on Sunday at 7 a.m.?), or let you into your apartment at 2 a.m. when you lose your keys (maybe even without chargin you a lockout fee?).

Note: I am still uncertain about whether I even have a super, so thankfully I haven’t had any real issues with the place because I wouldn’t know where to go to get them resolved.

My one final piece of advice: Don’t be afraid. The city is not as foreboding as many make it out to be, and it is by far the most fun place I have ever lived.


Emmalie Vance is a New York newbie who grew up on a hay farm in western New York. In Farm to City, she chronicles her real estate adventures here in the big city.

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