After working for Yelp in Phoenix for nearly six years, Lindsey Olson knew she could transfer to any other city where Yelp had an office, but she only had eyes for New York.
In Phoenix, “I felt like a big fish in a small pond both career-wise and dating-wise,” said Ms. Olson, now 28. And “there was no other place but New York for me.”
So she picked up and moved last year into a spacious one-bedroom in Williamsburg that she found on StreetEasy. The rent, of course, alarmed her.
Her 1,000-square-foot one-bedroom in Phoenix had come with a pool and cost her only $1,000 a month. But in Brooklyn, “every single month I would see that $2,400 come out of my bank account,” she said. “It was insane.” So she decided to invest in a place of her own.
Last fall, Ms. Olson sent a Facebook message to Bailey Gladysz, a former Yelp colleague, who is now a licensed sales agent at Triplemint.
They met for dinner to talk real estate. Ms. Olson’s budget cap was $600,000 for a one-bedroom in a co-op building. Space and storage were her priorities. “Moving to a tiny New York apartment was too much of a change for me,” she said.
She had already downsized a lot when she moved to New York, donating 12 garbage bags of clothing and returning her childhood piano to her parents. Even so, “I had way more furniture than your average New Yorker,” she said.
What’s more, “a bigger place is easier to keep clean. If you have the room to put things away, you are not going to be as cluttered.”
She also wanted central heating and air conditioning, which she was used to. “Being a Phoenix transplant, I don’t want to use one of those window things for air conditioning, or rely on the building to either roast me or freeze me,” she said.
She hunted in Brooklyn, north and west of Prospect Park, “at the most competitive price point in those ideal neighborhoods,” Ms. Gladysz said.
Ms. Olson had no interest in browsing. She screened aggressively and visited only places that met her main criteria.
“I am not the pickiest person,” she said. “I can easily see myself living in a lot of different places.” Gauging size, however, was difficult without actually setting foot inside.
One Sunday, Ms. Gladysz arranged for a day of open houses. One, in Park Slope, was on a charming tree-lined block. The apartment, however, was relatively small, with two small closets. The washer-dryer was “a good draw,” Ms. Gladysz said.
Because these types of apartments often sell quickly, she urged Ms. Olson to bid on places that interested her. “We see clients lose to a cash offer,” she said. “It sometimes takes multiple offers to get what you want.”
Ms. Olson, worried she would find nothing better, bid the asking price of $489,000, which was accepted. Monthly maintenance was in the low $500s.
But then she reconsidered. The charming block wasn’t enough to overcome the small space. “My dad said, you are not living outside on the street — you are living inside, in the apartment,” Ms. Olson said.
She also didn’t relish downsizing even more. “The prospect of having to sort through all my stuff just to move wasn’t particularly appealing,” she said. She withdrew her offer.
She soon bid on a place in Brooklyn Heights. She loved the living room, with its enormous entertainment center — a television surrounded by a wall of bookshelves.
At $595,000, it was at the top of her price range. Maintenance was in the low $700s. Her offer of the asking price was declined, she suspects because she didn’t have the post-closing liquidity the building required.
A one-bedroom in Prospect Heights was being sublet to a couple for $2,600 a month. “I knew it was this one the moment I walked in,” Ms. Olson said. “It was the first one where I wasn’t putting in an offer in case I didn’t find something better.”
The listing price, $499,000, was low. Maintenance was around $800 a month.
“We thought they were trying to encourage a bidding war,” Ms. Olson said. She offered $525,000, and learned there were two other offers. Ms. Gladysz learned that the seller would accept the first bid at $550,000. Ms. Olson boosted her offer immediately, and the apartment was hers.
She closed in the winter. “Things couldn’t have gone better,” she said. “I had no horror stories.” She was even able to break her rental lease two months early and get her security deposit back.
“It was the smoothest transaction I’ve ever witnessed,” Ms. Gladysz said.
Ms. Olson had some minor renovations done — she installed an entertainment center modeled on the one she had liked in the Brooklyn Heights apartment, added customized closets, refinished the floors, regrouted the bathroom and replaced some light fixtures. The contractor was her super’s brother-in-law.
Her subway commute to her Flatiron office is lengthier now: 45 minutes rather than 25. Her monthly outlay is now $400 more, but because she is an owner, it no longer feels insane.
“I find myself making excuses now not to go into the city,” she said. “The commute is the only thing that is not ideal, but it is worth it for owning my place.”
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