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What does a typical NYC relocation package include? And is it negotiable?

Some companies offer a lump sum, others provide services or a hybrid of cash and services. 

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Making the decision to relocate to NYC requires crunching some numbers to see if it's the right decision for you and your family, if that's part of the equation. If you're lucky enough to have a company supporting your move, you'll likely be offered a relocation package and you'll want to work out how far it will go in NYC, where everything costs more.

The package will vary depending on the company and your role within the firm. The trend in the past was to give a lump sum to cover broker fees and moving costs. Sylvia Ehrlich, president at the relocation company Intrepid New Yorker, says, many companies did this as an alternative to paying for expensive short term, "but what companies found was that people were pocketing that money, couch surfing and not being very productive."

That's when companies started covering moving expenses rather than offering cash. At the time, these were not taxed, but after last year's tax reforms, expenses like these are no longer tax-free. Now relocation packages are more often a hybrid of both cash and services.

Moving costs

If your relocation package comes in the form of a lump sum or sign-on bonus, Ehrlich says it is important to get an estimate of what it will cost to ship the contents of your apartment to NYC. Her company recently helped someone who came from overseas and although he had a small apartment, "his books weighted a lot, and the cost of the shipment became much higher," she says.

That's why you need to figure out your shipping costs before you accept a lump sum. "It may sound great but it may not cover what you really need", says Ehrlich. Another consideration might be your car if you own one. Figure out early whether it's worth having one in the city

Housing support

Some packages will offer lease-break coverage if you rent and have to pay a penalty for breaking a contract. Others might even help with closing costs and commissions on the sale of your home, but that's rare. What's more likely is you'll get some short-term housing for a few weeks while you find a permanent apartment in NYC. 

New York City's high broker commissions can come as a surprise to newcomers. 

"We had someone who thought she was getting a really good lump sum but found out the broker commission alone was above what she was being offered," says Ehrlich. Some companies will cover the real estate commission fee in a typical move and others might not provide short-term housing, so each company and each level within the company is going to have a different program and package. 

That's another reason to start working with an agent or dedicated relocation specialist early on in the process so you have something substantive to take back to the company HR and explain what issues you are facing and why you might need more support. "Before you accept anything you should do your homework or speak to a professional who can explain what you might encounter," says Ehrlich.

A broker can advocate for you so that you don’t end up with a huge security deposit especially if you are arriving from overseas. Ehrlich says, "Some landlords will insist on a full year's rent up front, which we never permit. It’s much too risky to do that, but they try to get away with it especially with someone who doesn’t have a credit history."

Advice on schools

If you're relocating with school-age children, you'll need to understand how the NYC school system operates. In the suburbs, your child is guaranteed a place in the school district where you live. It's more complicated in the city.

"You might try to live in a particular catchment only to find out that that school is full and the child is going to another one," she says. It's also a steep learning curve to understand the middle school and high school matching process. Consider whether you need the support of specialists to set your kids up for the best possible start in the city. 

Other services and negotiation tips

Some companies will provide flights to and from NYC to do some reconnaissance. Others will offer support for a spouse's career in order to facilitate a move. 

The best approach, says Avi Bogart, managing director at Three Pillars Recruiting, is a "good-faith negotiation." Be honest about what you need in order to make the relocation work for you and your family.

"What companies want to hear is an employee saying, 'I am in at this rate,'" he says.