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Open House Report: Sunday in the Life of a First-Time Buyer

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Sarah Firshein is the editor of our sister site Curbed National. Her fiance, Eric, also works in media. Combining their individual rental histories over the past decade, they've lived in Midtown East, Midtown West, NoHo, Carroll Gardens, the Lower East Side, and now, downtown Brooklyn, where they reside on the 30th floor of the newish rental skyscraper The Brooklyner. Having not yet thrown in the towel for the $363-per-square-foot freestanding houses in Ditmas Park, they're looking for a two-plus bedroom in brownstone-heavy neighborhoods with acceptable public schools; specifically, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, and Brooklyn Heights. Here's how they spent a Sunday in February.

?Address: 284 Warren St. #4, Brooklyn [Listing]
Price: $1.25M plus $257 in monthly common charges and $263 in taxes
Stats: A two-bedroom, two-bathroom duplex penthouse condo with a private roof deck
The Pros: Eric's theory about starting the day at the high end of the price spectrum—that it's smart way of seeing precisely what happens when you jump from our general price range ($750K to $1M) to the next tier—proves utterly intoxicating. Located on a prime block of Cobble Hill (Warren between Court and Smith streets) near the subway, stores, and restaurants, you couldn't dream up a better location. The apartment itself is quite spectacular: modern with oak floors, near-floor-to-ceiling windows, an open kitchen that extends to a double-height dining area, two bedrooms that are actually bedrooms, and a floating staircase that ascends to a little reading area overlooking the dining table, a laundry room, and a 320-square-foot private roof deck.
The Cons: Not many, other than the fact that this is a fourth-floor walkup. I should be pondering whether we can actually afford this place, but instead I'm pondering what it would be like to be friends with the owners, who appear to like things like Wegner chairs, cool typographical posters (no doubt hand-printed by one of their equally cool friends who owns an even cooler printing shop), surfing (the laundry room is filled with wetsuits), and, judging by the built-in bookshelves upstairs, art, wine, and sex. Which begs the next question: regardless of whether we can afford it, are we even good enough for this place? Or would our tame, J.Crew-heavy wardrobes and Ikea-heavy furniture collection do the apartment an injustice?

?Address: 89 State St. #4, Brooklyn [Listing]
Price: $795K plus $740 maintenance
Stats: A two-bedroom, one-bathroom duplex with a private roof deck
The Pros: This is quintessential Brooklyn Heights: it's a sun-drenched top floor of a Federal-style townhouse on State Street between Henry and Garden Place. There's a fireplace, moldings, wainscoting, and hardwood floors.
The Cons: The second bedroom is so minuscule that a twin bed would be pushing it—the broker's voice lowers as the word "versatile" leaves her quivering lips. Deftly, she distracts us by ushering us upstairs to the private roof deck, whose professional-grade Weber grill and outdoor furniture come with the apartment. (Would it be child abuse to make Unborn Child No. 2 sleep on the roof if there's no room downstairs?) The place was priced to sell, we're told, and in fact it recently has.

?Address: 360 Furman Street, #1002 [Listing]
Price: $1.025M plus $1,401 in common charges
Stats: A two-bedroom, two-bathroom 1,355-square-foot condo in One Brooklyn Bridge Park, a sparkly, amenities-packed building that has hosted reality TV adventures like Top Chef and Design Star
Pros: Five minutes spent in the lobby reveals a sprightly population of young families with kids and dogs, and the unit itself is breathtaking. Eric's smitten by the Bosch double oven and hood; I've fallen hard for the Dada cabinetry and those high ceilings. Both bedrooms are huge, both bathrooms (gorgeously outfitted with Hansgrohe faucets) are huge, and the walk-in closet is the stuff of dreams.
The Cons: I'm catapulted from my Italian-kitchen fantasies back to reality when I ask the building rep what the common charges are in a place like this. "About a dollar per square foot," she responds with a straight face before taking us to see one of many gyms (wallpapered in something fancy-looking), the video lounge, the indoor virtual golf and driving range, and the yoga studio. Then there's the location: the very south end of Brooklyn Bridge Park near Pier 6. While technically zoned for Brooklyn Heights public schools, the building is essentially positioned next to a highway on the edge of what has become a construction pit: Pier 5 is undergoing massive construction this spring and beyond. Still, a wine store has bravely signed on as the first commercial tenant in the retail space occupying the ground floor.

?Address: 24 Monroe Pl., #4 [Listing]
Price: $1.125M plus $1,980 in maintenance
Stats: A two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo
The Pros: Here now, an elusive specimen in this bracket of NYC real estate: a dining room. Live in the flesh, a full-size one with a full-size table. As if that's not enough, the old-timey floorplan makes a modest five-room co-op seem like an endless maze of rooms unfolding into each other—the kind of layout that little kids could easily play hide-and-seek in, much in the way they would if we lived in a large Victorian in the suburbs. We found the distinctly prewar character (parquet floors, fireplace, and moldings) homey and comforting. Eric notices that all the art is numbered and signed: there's a Lichtenstein print on one wall and a bunch of other notables here and there (animated cels from Hanna-Barbera, well-shot photography, the kind of the Warhol-style artwork that features in an episode of Saturday Night Live), indicating that the unit belongs to someone who works in TV or film.
The Cons: Recovering from the mild sense of being starstruck, the harsh truth comes to life: no dogs. It's too bad, because our yet-unborn puppy would have liked it a lot. It's in contract anyway.

?Address: 35 Clark Street, #F [Listing]
Price: $679K plus $1,302 in maintenance
Stats: A two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op
The Pros: Both bedrooms are large, and a functional breakfast bar partitions the decently sized living/dining area from the fully reno'd kitchen that has practical, in my opinion, built-in wine racks.
The Cons: Of all the starter homes we've seen today, this Brooklyn Heights co-op is by far the most "starter"—it's dark with only one narrow bathroom and there's not much in the way of architectural detail. We'd probably outgrow the place in five years, anyway. As Eric mutters aloud about trips to Ikea, above-counter bins, and double-hangs, one thing becomes apparent: there's no storage.
· Rookie Roosts Week 2012 [Curbed]