For musician Katie Coleman, a move to NYC from San Francisco means a chance to start a new career as a real estate agent while she waits for the arts scene to return. It may sound shocking but she finds the rents here low compared to San Francisco. Perhaps even more surprising: She thinks New Yorkers are friendlier. Here’s her story.
I'm originally from California—born and raised in Silicon Valley. My pre-Covid career was as a pianist and music director in musical theater, so moving to NYC was always on my radar. I’ve lived in NYC before: The first time I took the plunge and headed east was in 2018 when I moved to Astoria because a friend offered me a room in her apartment. I ended up getting a job back in California [as a pianist for a production of “Hamilton”] so I moved to San Francisco later in the year, cutting my time in the Big Apple short.
I stayed there for just over one year and during that time lived in four places. Rent there is even higher than NYC, so it was hard to find a place I could afford. I ended up spending several months renting a 9-foot by 11-foot bedroom for $1,100 in a flat in North Beach (i.e., on a very steep hill) with two roommates.
[Editor's Note: We’re introducing Brick Underground's new series The Newcomers, which features first-person accounts about why a renter or buyer decided to take a chance on NYC and live here now. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]
Silicon Valley and San Francisco have changed a lot in my lifetime, and it's not an easy place for artists anymore. Rents are so high and in a different way than New York. In New York, you can move farther from Manhattan and still be in the city and find deals or sublets. In San Francisco there's just nothing to be found within hours of the city. Also, I didn't feel comfortable walking home from the theater after work at night (and even sometimes during the day) and public transit felt unsafe because after a certain hour it's deserted.
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I had already struggled to see a future for myself as a musician in the Bay Area after my job with “Hamilton” was supposed to end. When Covid hit and the show ended abruptly in March I left SF to quarantine with my family, but knew I needed to find work, both for financial reasons as well as just something to do every day. I had wanted to return to NYC eventually, so I started looking at apartments and the rents I saw made me jump at the chance.
Once I made the decision to do it, everything fell into place quickly. I found my apartment on StreetEasy. I fell in love with it the second I saw it online and did it all virtually. I hired CA NY Express movers who specialize in moves from SF to NY.
I pay $1,675 for my quite spacious one-bedroom apartment in a second-floor walkup in Astoria near 30th Avenue. It's close to two subway lines and everything I could possibly need is within walking distance. For the first two months after I moved, I never left my neighborhood. But I also love that it's easy to get to Manhattan—now that I'm working, I do that 30-minute commute every day. It doesn’t have many amenities—I do laundry down the block at the laundromat—but neither did my SF place.
Thankfully it was enough to show my unemployment benefit checks, great credit rating and ample savings, so I did not have to use a guarantor.
I quickly found not only a job, but a career I love. While the theater industry is still closed, I am currently a real estate agent. I didn't intend to get into real estate at first and I applied to many jobs. However, an opportunity to jump into real estate presented itself and I pushed through the course and the exam and landed at BOND New York, where there are many fellow artists.
Real estate suits me and my life in many ways. I'm a go-getter, and walking around cities and connecting with people are things I love to do. I've always loved looking at homes and apartments and figuring out how I would set them up, or what walls I would knock down. I've also always been interested in what real estate investing can do for people. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I saw families where one generation purchased a house in 1978 for $200,000 that is now worth $4 million. It's just unbelievable! Now, of course, it's impossible for most people to buy a house there and many people are leaving because it is so expensive. We'll see how Covid changes that.
I will always be a California girl (and once my family and I are vaccinated, I will definitely be visiting), but I will take New York over San Francisco in a heartbeat. SF is beautiful, but not only did I often feel unsafe there, the arts scene has taken a huge hit.
I love the variety of people in NYC—every day you mingle with people of all shapes and sizes and ages and colors who work in every industry you could imagine—the city is a machine that we're all trying to keep moving forward. The arts and theater are celebrated here. Astoria feels similar to North Beach in that it has a rich history with waves of people coming in.
There were plenty of great bars, music venues, and restaurants on the West Coast and NYC is no different. Restaurants and nightlife here seem great but are a bit tricky right now. I'm digging La Tiendita, Sweet Afton, The Last Word—they have good outdoor dining setups. La Luna Café and Kinship are my favorite coffee shops. And I walk to Astoria Park often. I haven't played live music since I arrived except for accompanying my friend Monica singing Christmas Carols over Instagram Live.
Of course, I miss the California weather, but with the right puffy coat and boots I've done ok this winter.
I have a few very close friends here now who have gotten me through these winter months. I do have to say that that is one thing I like better about NY than SF. People in SF don't really talk to each other, but in NY, it's easy to find someone to talk to, even if it's just a brief exchange.
Now that I have an apartment I love and started a new career here, I definitely plan to stick it out here for a long time. There's just something about New York.
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