The Hidden Costs of New Apartments

Hidden costs of new apartments
(Source: Barbara Krawcowicz via Flickr Creative Commons)

You might write off moving expenses as one of the smaller financial concerns of your apartment search (especially compared to broker fees, new furniture, etc.) but there are many hidden costs of moving in NYC that extend beyond renting a truck and tipping the man with the van. Security deposit disputes, painters, new carpets and cutting extra keys – they all add up. This guide reveals some of the hidden costs you might not expect and provides tips on how you can save a few bucks in the process.

Negotiate a Smooth Move

Your post-move-in happiness has a lot to do with the expectations you set before you move in. When you’re signing a new lease, the color of the walls or the dirty windows may seem trivial but don’t disregard these concerns entirely. Try to work a new paint job or a window cleaning into the terms of your new lease. This is especially advantageous if you already feel your landlord is getting the sweeter deal. A landlord is more likely to offer in-kind bonuses than lower the price of your rent but the savings still work in your favor. It costs between $150 and $300 for every 100 square feet that a painting service covers for you. Even in a small apartment, that can quickly add up to a $1,500 savings. Similarly, window washing costs are $40 – $50/hr. Also, speak up about that leaky faucet or peeling linoleum! Ask to have anything fixed before moving in and have those costs rolled into the agreed-upon rent. Your moving process will be much more satisfying if you move into an apartment that feels updated, clean and functional.

window washing hidden cost of moving
(Source: Christine Gleason via Flickr Creative Commons)

Accidents Happen

No one can plan a perfect move, even the professionals. As you sort through all of your boxes and take stock of the new space, be prepared for scuffs on the walls, a scratch on the floor or lackluster lighting. One thing to keep in mind is that even if you are upgrading your apartment, it likely won’t feel as cozy on day one as your old place did. This doesn’t mean you have to instantly hire someone to refinish your wooden floors, a cost that can easily exceed $1,000 on a 750 sq. ft. apartment. Ignore the small imperfections until after you have unpacked — maybe the scratch can be covered with a rug. A little ingenuity, maybe in the form of a well-placed mirror and lamp, could change your whole perspective. A nice rug can cost anywhere from $60 at Ikea to $600+ at Crate & Barrel and a mirror can range from $50 to $500+, but these are items that can stay with you for a lifetime.

Make Your House Into a Home

There is nothing wrong with working to make your humble abode into something special but this is likely where you will be spending the most money. New curtains, new art, new rugs – this might be just what the interior designer ordered but it can wreak havoc on a budget. The solution can be simple: retain and repurpose. The first step is to avoid the instinct to get rid of a lot of your stuff before your move. A few more boxes won’t be that much of a hassle to transport but that lamp that didn’t have a home in your last digs might be the centerpiece now.


That leads me to my next tip – repurposing. While things like pictures and cutlery are easy to place, you might have to get creative with the end tables and coat racks. A kitchen table may serve you better as a desk in new environs and those yoga blocks you used to hide in a closet could be the cornerstone of a new meditation space. There is plenty of time to add defining touches to your new space. Give yourself time to experiment with existing possessions, which means less waste and less unexpected costs.

Fixing the Quirks

Possibly the worst part of a new move is the discovery of a few oddities or inconveniences that come with the new digs – and, yes, every apartment has its quirks. For some, it’s the cabinet door that won’t stay closed. Others face the 10-minute wait for hot water to reach your floor and many suffer from windows with no insulation.

Again, we must weigh the cost of a fix against the diminishing tedium of putting up with these small pains. Think back to your last home and you can likely remember the light switch you had to tease into ignition or the pattern of creaky floorboards you learned how to navigate silently. The average cost of a plumber in NYC is $140- $180/hr. – enough to make you think twice.

That isn’t to say you delete your handyman’s number from your contacts and suffer every inconvenience. Simply separate the characteristic quirks from the truly frustrating ones. Separate issues into categories: a DIY-fix, call a professional or slap a poster over it and leave it for the next tenant.

Moving is a fact of life. The expenses of moving, however, can be kept in check. When the bubble wrap settles and the last box has been broken down will you be able to say you dodged the hidden costs of moving?