How to Get an Apartment in New York Right Out of High School

Learn all about the New York rental market and how to use your credit, resources, and other tactics to help you land an apartment no matter how young you are. Discover how you can get a headstart.
Brooklyn Williamsburg

Renting an apartment in New York City can be daunting, whether you're fresh out of high school or a seasoned graduate. Regardless of your starting point, the process remains consistent. However, if you begin your search at a tender age, you may need to build everything from scratch. Fear not, by following some simple steps, you'll be on your way to becoming a resident - and a rent-paying one at that.

Find a Job

First thing’s first. Finding a job will not only give you a steady source of income but also show credentials to a potential landlord that you have regular employment under your belt.

It shows that you have the money to pay the rent and a level of responsibility a mature adult will need to live on his or her own.

The longer you have been employed, the better as it will portray you as an individual with financial and mental stability.

Finding a full-time, high-paying gig for someone with limited experience may be difficult.

The work history should allow you more opportunities if you've worked throughout high school.

You’ll most likely be looking for entry-level jobs, and even though they may not be close to a six-figure salary, you can still find ways to live in the city if you budget and plan accordingly.

Open Up a Bank Account

You’ll need to open up a bank account, not just because landlords and management companies usually ask to see them, but because it’s a great way to manage your finances.

You can clearly budget, see how you are earning, and also analyze your spending habits and bill payments.

Balancing your budget might prove challenging, but a bank account will allow you to do so with more ease.

Furthermore, many employers these days offer direct deposits for payments.

Having a bank account will allow you to get paid faster.

This is another significant step in adulthood.

You might also open up an account with one of your parents as an account holder.

That means your parent(s) can easily deposit money into your account in cases of emergency and also monitor your spending and give you feedback on budgeting if necessary.

It may also be easier to open up the account with the assistance of a guardian.

Here are the banks you should consider:

Ally BankOnline Bank, No maintenance fees, has a great interest checking account and high yield savings account. Reimburses up to 6 times ATM transactions. No minimum to open an account.
Capital One 360Take an advantage of Online and brick and mortar bank locations, no maintenances fees and you can open an account just with $1. No fee ATM charges using Allpoint ATM network. No fees for foreign transactions.
RadiusA lesser known online bank with unlimited ATM reimbursements, no maintenance fees and no minimum to open an account.
Bank of InternetOne of the oldest online banks. High yield checking account has an unlimited ATM reimbursements, no monthly fees.
Simple BankThere are no minimum balance requirements, no maintenance fees. Great mobile experience.

Open Up a Credit Card Account

If you haven’t had experience with a credit card, it will be essential to start your credit history.

So much will be based on your credit score and history in the future, such as future rentals, getting a car, getting a loan, and buying a home, just to name a few.

Establishing credit right out of high school will put you way ahead of the game.

Secured Credit Cards

If you can’t get help from your parents in opening a credit card, you will need to look into a secured credit card.

These credit cards will require a more substantial payment or deposit to open up the account than conventional cards, with a minimal credit limit (usually just $200-$300).

After you pay your bill on time every month for several months, you should be able to increase your limit and graduate to a regular credit account.

Credit CardNotes
Capital One® Secured Mastercard®No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card useUnlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
Discover it® Secured CardNo Annual Fee, cash back on every purchase, and helps you build your credit with responsible use.Your Secured Credit Card requires a refundable security deposit up to the amount we can approve of at least $200 which will establish your credit line.
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit CardNo credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.

Start Healthy Habits

Remember to pay your bill on time every cycle, paying at least the minimum due (paying most or all of the amount is highly recommended) to start out your credit right.

Leaving a small balance is fine as long as you are conscientious with your payments.

Do this, and you’re way ahead of the curve.

We suggest you monitor your credit with a third-party site like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame once a month or every couple of months to stay on top of it and learn what it takes to build and maintain amazing credit.

Understand the Rental Market and Process

Before you get actively looking for an apartment, knowing what to expect will give you an edge and prevent you from wasting countless hours on areas and properties that may ultimately be ill-suited to your situation. First, know how much you can afford.

Take your annual earnings and divide them by 40.

That should equal the monthly rent you can afford.

Be sure to include any commissions or bonuses you might receive at work or any monetary assistance you’re receiving from family.

New York landlords generally use the rule of 40 times the monthly rent. There might be some leeway, but this is the general formula that is followed.

Factor in Your Credit Score

Most landlords will also be looking for a “Fair” credit rating as a bare minimum. The lowest fair score is 650.

Be wary that some landlords will not accept a 650.

The average New York credit score is 680, so having this score at the least will probably mean you’d qualify for most apartments.

Credit Score RangesCredit Quality
300-559Very Bad

Have Your Paperwork Ready

The rental process will usually require some kind of income documentation, which should include a letter of employment, your last few pay stubs or pay statements, your recent few bank statements, an official form of photo ID, and the last year or two of your tax return or tax documents like 1099’s or W-2’s.

Having these ready to disseminate or hand to the rental agent will make the process go a lot faster and show your conscientious and responsible.

Get Help from Family

If you need an apartment right away and you haven’t been able to secure a job or open up a credit account, you can get your parents or another close family member(s) with established credit and income to act as a guarantor on your lease.

This is also helpful if you don’t have much of an employment or credit history.

Your guarantor will need to show that they make at least 80 times the monthly rent on a yearly basis and also have good credit.

Should you miss rent payments and are not able to pay, this person will be responsible for paying or their credit takes a hit as well.

Don’t put family members in that awkward position.

Ruining someone’s credit is a big deal, so make sure you pay your rent and your bills on time.

If you’ve spent beyond your means on your credit account, make arrangements with your credit card company or bank on temporarily putting a hold on your credit.

This will buy you some time to put funds together for your rent and get back on track to paying your credit card.

Another way you might utilize the help of your family if you have any extended family in the five boroughs is to ask if they have a room available in their house or apartment.

You can also ask if they have friends or neighbors with a spare room to rent.

Renting through your social network might help you bypass the whole rental process entirely.

Alternatives to Traditional Apartments

If you don’t qualify for a conventional New York City apartment, you can always try to find roommates to go in together.

This may be very helpful especially in the case that you don’t earn enough to afford an apartment by yourself. You can find roommates through social media sites like Facebook.

If you’re having problems finding roommates, you may just try to rent a room through an agent or landlord in an apartment share.

On most search listing sites like PropertyNest, you can search specifically for rooms that are available.

Frequently, they are a far more affordable option.

Searching for apartments and/or rooms being let by single property owners may also be a smart choice as they tend to have a more personable approach and may be willing to hear you out.

Sublets are another way to go. Those subletting their apartments may not have such rigid guidelines they use for tenants.

In all situations, be sure to pay your rent faithfully and on time.

Use Community Resources

Young people can find themselves homeless for a variety or reasons, which are not limited to more stigmatized reasons like drug abuse, domestic abuse, poverty, or criminal activity.

Some of these other reasons may be related to a death in the family, loss of employment, eviction, pregnancy, or issues affecting LGTBQ teens.

If you find yourself in dire circumstances, where you may be homeless, soon-to-be homeless, or in between addresses, there are plenty of nonprofit organizations designed to assist at-risk youths.

Some of these organizations even may help you locate a job, continuing education, counseling, or a place to live.

There are also group homes for such at-risk teens or teens in transition.

Check out the website to research a list of resources and organizations that may be able to help you.

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Ruth Shin
About the author

Ruth Shin is the Founder and CEO of PropertyNest. She shares in-depth insights on real estate, personal finance, and home improvement drawing from her experience as a licensed real estate agent, editing personal finance publications, and managing many home renovation projects. Ruth graduated with a BA from Hunter College in Writing, History, and Special Honors.