Boxes, Tape, $10,000: What It Takes to Move Into an N.Y.C. Apartment

Hannah Brooks needed a new apartment and she was running out of time.

It was last July — peak moving season — and Ms. Brooks, 29, had to move to New York City from Austin, Texas, before her boyfriend started a new job. Two applications were rejected. So when she found a promising place one morning, a broker told her to make a payment — fast — to get it off the market.

Ms. Brooks panicked when the broker explained how much she would have to come up with. “She said, ‘It’s first month, security deposit and broker’s fee, which comes out to $14,441 dollars,’” she recalled.

Living in New York City is notoriously expensive, a consequence of there being too few homes for the number of people seeking them. That has allowed landlords to continue raising rents. But the crisis has another dimension: The amount of money prospective tenants pay upfront before moving into an apartment has increased so much it is hard to move at all.

An analysis of data by the online renting platform StreetEasy, which was provided to The New York Times, found that the average upfront cost of moving — a month’s rent, broker’s fee and security deposit — was more than $10,400 last year. That was the largest sum in more than a decade and nearly 30 percent above the prepandemic figure in 2019.

In the survey, which was conducted for StreetEasy by the market research firm the Harris Poll, nearly a quarter of the more than 500 New York City area renters who responded said that upfront costs had prevented them from moving.

“A lot of people forget that it’s not just soaring rent keeping New York City renters in a really tight spot,” said Kenny Lee, a StreetEasy economist who helped conduct the analysis.

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