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In Which Commuting Costs More Than The Mortgage

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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.

Brad Hock graduated college back in 2009, but it looks like he's got more experience dealing with the real estate market than even some seasoned veterans. Realizing that commuting from home to work was costing him $1,000 a month, he challenged himself to pay less than that by moving to the city. Deciding that renting would just be "too easy", he was in the market for a fixer upper studio with an intangible, yet low, budget. After seeing a series of failures all over the place he found the low-priced studio of his dreams all the way East in Tudor City. The asking was $199,000 but he snagged it for $175,000. Not a bad start for a 24 year old, we would say. Oh, and he's paying less than the $1,000 a month.

Mr. Hock was averse to renting. Rent would rise over time, whereas traditional mortgage payments would not. And mortgage rates were low — in some cases lower than the interest rates on his student loans. Besides, renting was “not creative enough,” he said. “It was too easy.” “pretty quickly I realized two-bedrooms were out of the picture,” Mr. Hock said, “and even pretty much one-bedrooms were, too.”

In his price range, below $300,000, condominiums were scarce, so he zeroed in on co-ops.

A fifth-floor walk-up on East 54th Street had a French door that partitioned off a sleeping area from a windowless kitchen and living area. The listing price, originally $329,000, was down to $295,000. Maintenance was around $670.

On 77th Street near First Avenue, a small studio, also on a high floor, was priced at $240,000, down from $305,000. Maintenance was around $550. This one was nicely renovated, but Mr. Hock preferred something cheaper, even if it needed work.

In his rock-bottom price range, the choices were dismal.

But a ground-floor unit on a pretty West 20th Street block in Chelsea looked promising. It had big windows and high ceilings. The price, originally $350,000, was now $340,000, with maintenance around $570.

He considered borrowing money from his grandparents, but was uncomfortable doing so.

Increasingly concerned about his ability to meet a co-op board’s financial criteria, he dropped his budget to $225,000 or less.

Tudor City’s tiny studios were priced in the low $200,000s, but one, all of 203 square feet and advertised as a “small studio” that “needed work,” was just $199,000. Maintenance was a little more than $400.

Mr. Hock offered $170,000. The seller dropped to $181,000. Mr. Hock’s final offer was $175,000. Negotiations stalled. Ms. Goldberg was certain the deal was off. But the seller finally agreed, probably because “there wasn’t much advantage to holding on to it for another $20,000,” she said.

And, sure enough, his monthly outlay is under $1,000, $957.50, to be exact, not including the tax benefits provided by his mortgage.

· Get Me Something in Economy Size [NYT]