Should You Get an Apartment Before You Have a Job?

As May is fast approaching, many new grads have a burning question in mind, “Do I get the job first or the apartment first?” Of course, often there is no choice – you usually need to have a job before a landlord will rent to you. On the other hand, job hunting long distance can get expensive with travel to interviews. Also, being far from the local jobs grapewine could keep you from hearing about openings before they are filled. Sometimes risking getting the apartment before a job could be the best option long term.

Here’s what you should consider when weighing whether to get an apartment first.

What Type of Job Are You Looking For?

This matters a lot. For example, consider these three job searchers:

  • A creative-type who wants to work at a coffee shop, while spending her free time honing her collage art, with an eye towards putting up a show in a gallery.
  • A fresh-out-of-college go-getter who’s looking for the perfect role to launch a career as a biology researcher.
  • A gear-head who’s ready to prove he has the chops to work as a mechanic at an auto repair shop.

The creative-type probably cares a lot where she lives, and the job she wants is likely available almost anywhere. So why not move before she gets a job?

Whereas the go-getter has specific career needs that she’d probably move across the country to find. She should probably bide her time, and only move once she has an offer in hand.

And then there’s the gear-head, who’s a little bit of both. Sure, every city has an auto repair shop, but some have more than others and not all of them are hiring. He wouldn’t necessarily move across the country for the perfect job, but a few hours away? Maybe.

Generally speaking, the more specific your job needs (and the more willing you are to move anywhere) the less sense it makes to get an apartment first.

How Much Savings Do You Have?

The generally recommended guideline for fully employed people is that they have an emergency fund of 6-12 month’s worth of expenses, in case they lose their job.

So, if you decide to move into an apartment without a job, you’ll need savings. How much savings is up to you. Keep in mind that your landlord will likely ask for proof of funds, or ask you to pay several month’s rent up front, since you don’t have an income stream.

Also, before you make the plunge, decide whether you’d be willing to take an easier-to-get job, like waiting tables or working as a sales clerk to make sure you can cover your expenses until you find your dream job. If you’re willing to do that, moving before having your “permanent” job can make more sense.

How Well Do You Get Along With Your Parents?

Living at home as an adult can be challenging. You’re eligible to vote, you have your own car, and yet you also have a curfew??

Will your parents’ house be an environment where you can focus on your job search? Or will you feel way too much pressure (or a total lack of pressure) to succeed? Will you continue doing chores, or pay nominal rent, or will you have to get your own groceries? All these questions should be resolved before you commit. Otherwise, resentment and misunderstandings can build.

Where Do You Parents Live?

Is it anywhere remotely close to where you want to live? If you grew up in Kent, Ohio, and you’re planning to live in Los Angeles, living at your parents’ will make your job search more challenging.

Conversely, if you grew up in a Dallas suburb and you want to settle in Dallas, job hunting will be no problem. Where you conduct your job search will have an influence on where you ultimately settle.

What Are Your Friends Doing?

Searching for a job can be lonely. You’ll be much better off if you have a support network. So if you plan on moving to, say, New York, and none of your friends live there, that could be tough.

Conversely, if you’re staying in your hometown while a cadre of your friends are moving to New York to look for work, you may have missed out on a chance to put down roots in a supportive environment.

If you move to a city with friends, you may also have an opportunity for roommates which can save you money while providing camaraderie. Certainly, what your friends do shouldn’t be your only consideration, but it’s more important than you think.

Summing Up

It’s cheaper to live at home, and if you’re just starting out, that can be attractive. But, if the goal is to live in a place where you can thrive and find a job that you like, being in an environment that’s exciting-yet-comfortable is important. You can’t always get that at your parents’ place.

Ultimately, your best self will come out when you’re where you want to be, provided you can afford it. Whether you’ll get there faster by starting your search from your parents’ place, or by taking the plunge and getting an apartment is something that only you can answer.  Whatever you decide, do it after a careful review of your career goals, finances and available housing options.

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Author My First Apartment

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Alex has rented in Minneapolis, Queens, Brooklyn, and now Chicago. He can kill rodents and roaches when required, and loves picture-hanging projects. If you're ever in town, give him a shout.

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Comments (1)

  1. Avatar John

    I agree that sometimes risking getting the apartment before a job could be the best option long term but at the same time (and I’m not talking a bout those situations when landlord won’t rent an apartment because you don’t have a job) it’s bigger risk for yourself. That’s why I think that you should get a job first. Yes, I know, you’ll have travel expenses then but maybe you can live with your friends or relatives who already has a house or apartment in that city? Just you never know IF you’ll get a job. Maybe after a month you’ll realize that you could also move to another place (I mean city). Just think twice before your doing anything..