clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Learning To Furnish After A Life of Sublets

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.

Allison Castillo spent all of her post-grad years in sublets, but when the time came and she was forced to find a place of her own, she had no choice but to begin looking for a place to buy. She had hoped to stay in Chelsea, but any options there were too expensive and too small. Williamsburg looked promising but apparently having to talk to neighbors was too daunting for her, and expanding the search to Harlem just left her feeling bored of the environment. Luckily for her, the perfect apartment was waiting in Downtown Brooklyn.

-Every year she thought her landlords, a Long Island family, would reclaim their apartment. Finally, after seven years, Ms. Castillo was told that the family’s youngest daughter, who was finishing college, would be taking it over. -At the time she was paying around $1,000, which covered the monthly maintenance. Ms. Castillo knew her rent would double, if not triple, when she moved. “It made sense to be putting that money toward something I was going to own rather than rent,” she said.
Ms. Castillo’s budget allowed for a purchase price of up to $400,000 and a monthly maintenance of less than $700.

-The most affordable place she saw in Chelsea was a studio in a small walk-up co-op building on West 21st Street. The asking price was $359,000; maintenance was $427. The place, about 300 square feet, was gorgeous and neat.
She knew she could never live compactly enough for such a small space. Nor could she fathom spending several hundred thousand dollars on what was to her a glorified dorm room.

-So, despite her affection for Chelsea, it was off to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Ms. Castillo looked at condominiums, but the only one she liked was 80 Metropolitan Avenue. A 530-square-foot alcove studio listed at $385,000, with monthly charges of around $470, fell within her budget. The building had a garden, a gym, a media lounge, a roof terrace, a bike room — even a pool. Not that she was a big swimmer, Ms. Castillo said, but “if I had it, I would use it.”

-Still, she worried that the many amenities would translate into forced interaction with her neighbors. “I know I am going to sound like some kind of curmudgeon,” she said, “but people live in New York because there is a little bit of anonymity.”
Ms. Meyer suggested that her money would go further in Harlem. Ms. Castillo loved a 675-square-foot one-bedroom in the Alameda, a 10-unit elevator condo building on West 148th Street that had a rolling island in the kitchen and a cute Juliet balcony. The listing price was $339,000, with monthly charges of almost $350.

-Ms. Castillo returned several times, but concluded that the neighborhood, lacking in restaurants and services, was not for her. “Sadly, I had to let that go,” she said.

-Ms. Meyer suggested a return to Brooklyn — to Boerum Hill, “a very neighborhood-feeling type of place.” On the way, they were diverted by a large co-op on Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn. There, they saw a 650-square-foot one-bedroom with a huge living room. “We both knew that was going to be the one I bought,” Ms. Castillo said.

-Though the maintenance of $814 was higher than she might have liked, utilities were included, and the listing price was just $299,000. Ms. Castillo’s bid of $285,000 was accepted, but she was later told there was a higher offer. “Who even knows, but they forced my hand,” she said. Last summer, she bought the place for $292,000.

-Now, after about $20,000 of renovations, the bed fits, but “it is gigantic,” Ms. Castillo said. Newly house-proud, she does try to make the bed every morning, or at least to pull up the covers.

-She is still buying furniture. Though light wasn’t a priority, the winter light is weak, so she plans to buy lamps.

Call us crazy, but the Williamsburg rejection just sounded a little unreasonable. But, alas, such is the hunt. Happy endings are the best endings, and we hope that Allison truly begins to relish the experience of furnishing her own apartments. We know we would.

· An End to Her Furnished Sublet Chapter