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For A NJ Couple, An Apartment Search Goes Full Circle

If reading The Hunt stokes your deepest hopes that someday everything in life could work out, then you, too, are obsessed with the New York Times Sunday Real Estate section. Join us as we venture into the depths of this weekend's installment.

Puneet and Shelly Tandon were living in Central New Jersey until they realized it was possible for them to be closer to New York which led to a move to Edgwater. Soon after they learned that someone could buy their much loved apartment and they would be forced to move out within 60 days. This prompted a search for an archetypal suburban home they always dreamed of, but it turned out that their hunt would not lead them very far at all.

-“We are city people,” Mr. Tandon said. “We were willing to pay a premium for living close to a city or in a city. We understood it comes with a price tag.” -The couple found a place that pleased them at the Peninsula at City Place, a condominium on the waterfront in Edgewater, N.J., about four miles from the George Washington Bridge. For a two-bedroom there with 1,300 square feet, including ample closets, the rent was $2,900.

-But the building offered two free months on a 14-month lease, making the rent effectively $2,486. And the parking situation, with unlimited space at no extra cost, was ideal.

-The couple knew their rent would rise after the lease expired, but they had many months before they would need to think about rerenting at a higher rate, moving or buying. Then, last summer, they received a wake-up call. They were notified that two potential buyers were interested in seeing their apartment. According to their lease, if the unit sold, they had 60 days to vacate.

-He was willing to pay up to $650,000. Mrs. Tandon’s goal was to keep the monthly outlay the same as the rent without sacrificing space, which would translate into a price closer to $400,000.

-“Our concept of buying was a house in the suburbs with stairs and a huge backyard,” Mrs. Tandon said. So that’s what they went looking for.

-The closest they came to their suburban-house concept were town-house-style duplexes and triplexes at Bulls Ferry at Port Imperial in Guttenberg, N.J. The setup struck them as a happy medium between apartment-style living and “a house house feeling,” Mr. Tandon said.

-Condominiums there, built in the late 1990s, were available in their price range. But the couple were deterred by the high property taxes.
They liked the interiors at Independence Harbor in Edgewater, a 14-building condo complex completed in 2002, that included some duplex layouts. But the architectural style — especially the textured facade — was not to their taste.

-Something else didn’t sit right. The sellers were often couples with young children, moving because they needed more space. The Tandons felt that they were looking at themselves in the future.

-“Four years from now, we will be in the same boat,” Mr. Tandon said. They were reluctant to spend in the $600,000s for a place they would need to leave relatively soon.

-Only then did it dawn on them: they needn’t keep looking. They could buy the place they were already renting, which was listed at $465,000, well within their budget.

-Their place “was working fine for us,” Mr. Tandon said. There was no reason to “invest $150,000 more in a property just for a little bigger space when all we need is this. Would we love a bigger place? Yes. Would we love being on the water and having a full-blown view of Manhattan? Yes. But are we happy with what we have? Yes.”

-The Tandons bought the apartment late last summer for $435,000. The common charge is less than $700 a month, with taxes of $5,500 a year. Their monthly outlay is just $10 more than when they rented.

Nothing like a good learning experience to season you in the ways of real estate is what we always say. Anything similar to this ever happen to any readers?

· A New Home, Minus the Moving [NYT]