NYC Apartment Filter: Paying the deposit/first month's rent
November 11, 2016 6:53 PM   Subscribe

From my research, one is expected to pay the deposit and first month's rent for an apartment in New York City with some sort of certified funds. Some things I've read have said cashier's checks, some have said traveller's checks, some have said certified checks, some have said money orders. I don't have an account anywhere with a physical presence in New York City. How do I handle this situation? Do I need a cashier's check to pay the broker's fee as well? Can I just dodge this whole problem by wiring money?

I do have an account at a credit union that participates in shared branching. However, I've not succeeded in finding a credit union in NYC whose website says they'll issue cashier's checks to non-members. (I was hoping to find one and then call to confirm they could get the money out of my account. I'll just start phoning, I suppose.)

I could get a cashier's check for approximately the first month's rent + security deposit before I leave on my apartment hunting trip and then make up any difference with a money order, but part of me worries about ending up with a check for too much money.
posted by hoyland to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In my experience as an out-of-town person renting an apartment in NYC, you apply for the apartment with a big stack of paperwork (bank statements, pay stubs, etc), then once you are accepted you send a cashier's check for the amount due.

You don't have to walk around with an estimated amount in a check, they'll let you know how much you owe and the timeline to send (probably overnight once you're approved). As long as your credit union issues cashier's check you will be fine.
posted by elvissa at 7:12 PM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you'll generally bring some kind of secured instrument (money order, certified check, or cashiers check) for the amount specified by your realtor when you sign the lease. It'll be first months rent + security deposit (usually one months rent) + broker's fee if applicable (10-15% of first month's rent) + very rarely last month's rent. The realtor will give you a number.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:31 PM on November 11, 2016

10-15% of first month's rent

I'm sure this was just a mistake, but to prevent OP from getting the wrong idea and underestimating: that'll be 10-15% of a year's rent. Though for the amount of work actually done by the broker, the amount listed here would be much more appropriate!
posted by praemunire at 7:52 PM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sorry, yeah, typo; I meant first year's rent.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:57 PM on November 11, 2016

Post offices sell money orders.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:33 PM on November 11, 2016

If your credit union participates in shared branching and you go into another credit union as a shared branch, you are a member for that purpose. So you just need to find a shared branch CU and you'll be good to go.
posted by fireoyster at 10:43 PM on November 11, 2016

When I did this I opened a local account and deposited cash into it. The broker took credit/debit cards for the fee but the landlord wanted some kind of secured check for the first and security deposit.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 7:03 AM on November 12, 2016

My question is about the mechanics of obtaining said certified funds, not whether I need them.

Despite the Co-op website saying my credit union does shared branching, they say they don't. So I'm in an even bigger hole than I thought.
posted by hoyland at 10:12 AM on November 12, 2016

I've rented a lot of apartments in New York and I've never had a problem getting a landlord to accept a personal check, even one written on an out-of-state bank. New York is backwards in a lot of ways when it comes to payment technologies, but they're not that backwards.
posted by Automocar at 11:53 AM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bit the bullet and took myself down to a bank with a national presence.

I tested out shared branching at a credit union here and, while they could view my account, they couldn't deposit a check. While I expect fireoyster is correct, shared branching looks like a bust for me.
posted by hoyland at 3:24 PM on November 12, 2016

Have you tried calling your credit union? I've had almost this exact problem getting deposit checks for an NYC apartment and my wife's out-of-state CU saved us by being willing to overnight us the checks. We wired money from a different bank account to cover the amount. We made a smaller, few hundred dollar deposit to hold the apartment and then they were willing to wait a few days for the full deposit.

I tried opening a big national bank account with nearby branches to work around this, but I didn't do it soon enough and there were limitations on the account that made it hard to transfer enough money to cover the checks. (I think it was because the account was less than a month old, if I remember correctly.)
posted by firefleet at 6:44 AM on November 13, 2016

I got my apartment with money orders from the post office, paid for by debit card.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:21 AM on November 13, 2016

In my experience, money orders and cashier's checks are pretty much accepted interchangeably. Money orders from the post office are usually the cheapest (~$3, I think?). Not sure why you prefer a cashier's check, but the postal money orders work quite well.
posted by R a c h e l at 12:05 PM on November 14, 2016

In case anyone was waiting with bated breath (as if), I succeeded with the option of opening the account at a national bank. The key part was doing it early enough for the funds to clear. Cash clears immediately. I was closing a local account here, so had a cashier's check. That would have had a longer hold because the account was new, but because it's a cashier's check, they could phone the issuing bank, confirm it was real and remove the hold, so that cleared the next day. (I think they would have cashed it and let me deposit the cash immediately, but that seemed pointless since I had a few extra days.)

Like other people noted, it didn't need to be a cashier's check--they would have taken a certified check or money order. (But money orders pose the same predicament without a local bank account--you can buy them from the post office with your debit card, but you have to start worrying about the debit card's daily transaction limit.)
posted by hoyland at 12:52 PM on November 21, 2016

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