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Advice for New Buyers From the Times' Hunt Columnist

The Times "Hunt" column, a weekly chronicle of New Yorkers' housing quests, is sacred to us. In honors of Rookie Roosts Week, we asked Hunt columnist Joyce Cohen to share her wisdom with first-time buyers. Want to be featured in The Hunt (renters and seasoned buyers welcomed, too)? Contact thehunt@nytimes.com.

My single biggest piece of advice for first-time buyers: Ask yourself what drives you crazy. Avoid that at all costs.

A good example is noise, the number-one complaint. There's neighbor noise, street noise, building noise. Some people want to live on a top floor to avoid overhead noise; others don't realize a location near an elevator is risking whiny vibration. Sometimes there's a weird seasonal issue, like an apartment is located near a basement heater that runs, noisily, only in winter. People rarely think about interior sources of building noise, like a garbage chute. One building, with complaints about glass bottles clanking down the chute, restricted the hours of chute use. Last weekend's hunters have a Mister Softee truck within earshot; next weekend's hunter is in a studio apartment, not realizing she would be sleeping in the same room as her humming refrigerator. Quality-of-life issues matter way more than square footage.

Also, plan realistically. I have featured elderly people buying in walkups with steep stairs, and young people buying two bedrooms when they expect to have several children. If they need to move again, they will have to hunt again and, worse, to pay transaction fees again. People are always confounded by how high transaction fees are, especially in new condominium construction.
Timing is important. The transaction always takes longer?usually significantly longer?than people anticipate. Then they are in the position of having to put their stuff in storage and live like nomads, ferret out sublets, stay with relatives, and be generally unsettled. Until the paperwork is delivered and people have access to their new home, they can't assume they will be able to move in on the designated date. One man in my column spent two years waiting for access to his place. During the wait, his wife left him.

There are some things people really care about having, or really don't. An attended lobby falls into this category, as does a second bathroom. So does a fireplace (which consumes valuable wall space) and a roof deck (which people end up using a lot less than they think they will).

The Holy Grail of apartment living is, of course, your own washer-dryer. With such great fortune comes great responsibility. People rarely realize they must have their dryer vent cleaned periodically.
?Joyce Cohen
· Rookie Roosts Week 2012 [Curbed]
· Times-o-Matic Real Estate Radar [Curbed]