Moving to New York City: it’s a notion that figures in the wildest dreams of people the world over, but usually it remains just that – a dream.
Not so for Claire Weller and Josh Evans, who made the move to the Big Apple two years ago.
The couple first became enamoured of New York while holidaying with friends a few years ago. They noticed, however, that there was one problem with the place.
“There was a distinct lack of good coffee and cafes in the city,” says Weller, an event designer. “It seemed so strange that a city with such a diverse restaurant scene was lacking in any really great cafe that provided the type of breakfast fare that we had come to expect in Melbourne.”
Evans quit his job in construction management and started work in a Melbourne cafe, and within 12 months the pair had moved to New York. In February this year Evans opened hot new Melbourne-style cafe Banter in Greenwich Village, just across the road from Anna Wintour’s townhouse.
“It has an amazing neighbourhood vibe and in large part the demographic is real old-school New Yorkers who have lived in the neighbourhood for decades and have seen some serious changes over the years,” says Evans.
Weller and Evans rent nearby on the border of Nolita (North of Little Italy) and Noho (North of Houston) – a quiet, tree-lined area in downtown Manhattan that boasts boutiques and New York food institutions like il Buco, Lovely Day and Ruby’s.
The couple say they got very lucky in a pretty competitive rental scene.
“This area is usually extremely expensive to live in, however we managed to stumble across a great deal the second day we arrived in New York – I guess it was beginners’ luck!” says Weller. “The compromise being that the apartment is a six-floor walk up, so it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted.”
In New York, a “great deal” means a one-bedroom apartment for just over $US2500 a month. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre is around $US3000 per month, according to cost-of-living website Numbeo.
“It is super competitive and ridiculously expensive—I think most people would be shocked to find out how expensive the market is and how little you get for what you pay for,” says Weller. “Things like a dishwasher and washing machine are a rarity and a luxury that you will pay a premium for.”
The famous rent control system still exists in New York, but is passed down within families. Another challenge for foreigners is proving financial security in the absence of a local credit history.
“We prepared a very detailed application which included all the savings for Banter, and also had to pay a security deposit,” says Evans. “We’ve had a lot of friends have to pay six months’ rent as security deposit – we’ve even heard stories of one year!”
With their lease soon coming to an end, the couple is once again on the hunt for a new home. They’re looking on the Lower East Side, which is sometimes referred to as “Little Australia” for its high concentration of Aussie expats.
“Every morning I am on all the apps and websites trying to find the perfect new home for us,” says Weller. “You can still find some bargains every now and then –you just have to dedicate a lot of effort into finding the perfect apartment and sometimes make a few compromises on the way.”
Yet despite all the obstacles, Weller and Evans say that living in New York is worth it.
“It shouldn’t deter anyone from moving here,” says Weller. “It truly is an amazing city and the Australian community definitely looks out for one another.”