How to Get an Apartment in New York Without a Job

Get insights and tips on how you can find an apartment while unemployed. Know what you need to get approved.

If you're one of the many with nothing but a dream in hand, looking to move to New York, you may find it a lot more overwhelming than what the movies suggest.

For starters, getting an apartment requires a lot more than mere desire; landlords don't mess around and need to be convinced of your financial viability. Not having a job offer in hand might make the process of apartment hunting seem insurmountable, but it's not impossible.

Fear not—if you're looking to make the move, here are a few ways you can swing it in your favor.

How Much Can You Afford for Rent?

Knowing exactly how much you can afford is paramount when apartment hunting.

If you find a place you love for $2,500, can you afford it on your $5,000 a month salary?

More importantly, would the landlord even approve your application with that credential?

The answer is no.

Most major landlords and property management companies in NYC go by a tried and true formula.

That is:

Monthly rent x 40 = Your annual income or less

If you're not sure how to figure it out you can use PropertyNest's Income Affordability Calculator.

If you have a few ideas of neighborhoods you would like to live in PropertyNest's Salary Calculator helps you figure out on average what you need to earn in order to rent an apartment in a particular neighborhood.

It also gives you a soft prediction of your likelihood to qualify for an apartment in that neighborhood as well.

What Credit Score Do Landlords Accept?

FICO Credit Score

Great credit is always a huge plus in your profile for a property owner’s consideration.

Having a good credit score shows that you are conscientious in managing your finances and that you not only pay your bills on time, but you do not spend beyond your means.

Even if you show a small deficiency in earnings, most landlords will be more willing to let that slide if you have great established credit.

Those with exceptional credit scores usually exemplify that they will get their bills paid no matter what.

However, be aware that the longer your credit is established, the better.

Some property owners may make a distinction between those with new credit or with just one credit card and those with long-established credit and multiple accounts, even if the score is the same.

Good news for those with no credit history!

FICO 9, the latest scoring model from FICO will now be calculating your banking transactions and accounts in your score.

That should offer something for those who've never had a credit card. This looks better than having no score.

Furthermore, if you've been a good renter in the past, it will positively affect your score.

If you're having issues with your credit, find out some tips on bumping it up.

How Much Lead Time Do You Need to Find an Apartment in NY?

Most real estate professionals would suggest that 4-6 weeks before you need to move, is the ideal lead time.

It gives you a few weeks to search and go look at the actual apartments you might be interested in, as well as, submit an application, go over any negotiations, and sign the lease.

Plus, you'll have extra time to coordinate your move.

If you're already renting an apartment but your lease is coming to an end, you should ask your landlord if you can stay on a month-to-month basis.

Many landlords are okay with this arrangement, especially if you are proposing this during the low season months (October-March) because they'd like to bring the lease cycle closer to the peak season.

This should buy you extra time to look for a job and eventually save money for your move.

Why Isn't Looking 2 or 3 Months Ahead the Move Date a Good Idea?

You are encouraged to research online and get a feel of what's out there, including rent prices, before you actually begin your search in earnest.

However, unless a listing indicates that the listing won't be available for another 2-3 months, actually taking the time to see a unit that needs to be filled now will mean the landlord will overlook you.

Most listings are put out just as they are becoming available or at most a month before they become available.

If you cannot move in right away, you will not be considered a candidate.

How Much Money Should You Have Saved Up?

One of the things a management company or landlord will be looking at is your past income and your current earnings.

You’ve already set a positive foundation if you can show good earning from last year as it will also show that you are capable of holding down employment.

If you aren’t earning anything presently, an immediate boost would be to show your balance in your checking and/or savings account.

Hopefully, you’ve been making fiscally smart decisions, and you have plenty of liquid assets in the bank.

Having around six months worth of rent in the bank may seem like a lot, but to a landlord, it only appears that you’ll be able to sustain yourself for two months at the maximum, so make sure you can show substantial savings or a signed employment contract or letter indicating that you will start working in the next month or so.

Paying a Few Months Upfront

Another way to skirt around the job issue is if you can pay extra securities or extra months of rent upfront.

Most property owners will not fret if you wish to pay the entire year upfront.

Your income will have minimal bearing on your application if the landlord is already receiving the entirety of the year’s rent (remember that the security deposit is still required in case there is any damages or issues with the apartment during your occupancy).

Likewise, agreeing to pay five to six months of rent upfront could also be a big help.

Just be cautious with this approach because some landlords may want this rent money to apply for the last five to six months of the lease, so you’ll need funds to make it through the beginning of your contract.

Getting a Guarantor

If you’re not able to pay any money upfront, it may be time to turn to your social network for help.

Either a parent, a close relative or a friend may be able to help you out by becoming your guarantor and guaranteeing your lease.

Make sure your chosen guarantor makes at least 80 times the monthly rent on an annual basis and has excellent credit.

Your guarantor will also need to fill out an application and hand in the financial documentation.

Some management companies or brokerages may charge a higher fee for this application.

If you don't have guarantors in town or based in the states, you can always try your hand with third-party guarantors.

Find a Roommate

Sharing the cost of an apartment will seriously ease the financial burden, especially if you don’t have a job yet.

If you already have some money saved up but it’s not enough for the entire apartment, then have one roommate or more can definitely up your financial standing.

Instead of looking for a one-bedroom apartment for about $2,800 a month or more, you can be looking for a room in a three-bedroom apartment for about $900-$1,500 per month per person.

Hopefully, your roommate or roommates have jobs. This doesn’t mean you should fall back on the rent because they’ll sustain you

After all, they could always look for a new roommate--one that will pay their rent.

Just remember, that if your profile is looking a little weak, the landlord can still ask all three of you for an extra month at least signing, so make sure you’re looking in the correct price range or looking for an apartment with a room price you can live with.

Put some power in your corner!

Read up on our ultimate guide on room shares before you jump on that train.

Find a Job

This seems to be a given, but many people hold out for that dream job or the job they think they deserve.

If the bills need to be paid, you need to make rent, and you haven’t found a job in months, take a job that you don’t love.

Even if it isn’t the ideal industry, ideal wages, or ideal hours, you do need to take care of your finances.

You can always look for the job you actually want while you are working.

Showing a prospective landlord that you have secured employment is the best way to land the apartment.

For extra tips and ideas, read our article on finding an apartment with low income.

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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.