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.
Benjamin Bilbao could easily afford Queens, but it was the draw of Manhattan that led him to seek a small space, about 300 square feet, but located on the island. With a budget of just around $300,000, he knew he wasn't going to find anything bigger than a studio, but the only amenity he really needed was a dishwasher. He saw some passable places, but none that he felt comfortable showing to his boss. Finally, a unit on the the Upper West Side had everything he needed and looked nice enough to show to the boss.
With a monthly budget of up to $1,300, a nice rental in Manhattan was unlikely, if perfectly doable in Queens. But he figured he could afford to buy a small place in Manhattan. Mr. Bilbao, who works as a recruitment manager for the Population Council, a nonprofit organization that focuses on developing nations, had a budget of around $300,000. He didn’t mind a small place — 300 square feet would do.
Last summer, he saw a large studio in an elevator building on West 23rd Street, listed at $265,000. The 500-square-foot apartment had a lovely kitchen, great closets and lots of light. Monthly maintenance was almost $900.
Mr. Bilbao’s colleague and friend Laurie Constantino accompanied him there.
She pointed out some water damage to the floor as well as an overhead light fixture powered by an extension cord running along the wall.
Online, he found unsettling references to the building, which has a land lease, meaning the co-op does not own the land on which it sits. The lease expires in 2044.
He went to see a studio with less than 300 square feet, in a 28-unit co-op near Stuyvesant Square. It was advertised as a fixer-upper, with a price of only $200,000. Maintenance was $660. Despite the need for updating, the place was livable.
“But the entire building needed fixing up,” Mr. Bilbao said. He pictured having his boss over for dinner.
A listing for a $299,000 studio on the Upper West Side caught Mr. Bilbao’s eye. Maintenance was just over $700. “It looked beautiful on the Internet,” he said. But he knew not to trust photos.
The studio looked just like its photos, and was cleverly divided into three parts: a raised dining area, a rectangular living room and a lofted sleeping space. Two windows overlooked a back garden. Closets and cabinets were built in.
He bought the place for just under $290,000 and arrived this past winter. Though the studio is small, it is efficient.