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In Which the First Apartment Needs a Nice Kitchen

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.

Vani Mehra, 31, had realized that having roommates was behind her at this point in her life. She had enjoyed sharing space with the roomies around Park Avenue South, but she wanted to own a place. She began looking around the Lower East Side for something nice in the $400,000 range. Once she realized that she'd seen all the inventory in her budget (and one failed deal), she broadened her horizons to pricier Chelsea. She quickly came to terms with the fact that she'd have to forego a bedroom to live in this part of town on her budget. And not a moment too soon, because she quickly fell in love with an alcove studio for which she paid $355,000. A fairly cut and dry tale of a real estate newbie finding true love. We like!

Her price range was around $400,000, for a co-op with a monthly maintenance fee of $700 or less. She wanted some light, adequate closet space and a nice kitchen, and assumed the Lower East Side would be affordable. She instantly liked the first place she saw, on the fourth floor of a six-story walk-up on Attorney Street near Stanton Street. The apartment included two small bedrooms and a relatively large kitchen with new appliances and a dishwasher. The price was $425,000, with monthly maintenance in the $300s.

Because she sometimes travels for work, “walking up the stairs a number of flights is something to think about when you have luggage,” said Ms. Mehra, who works in financial operations. There was a stacked washer-dryer, so at least she wouldn’t have to haul laundry. She decided two things: the fourth floor was her limit, and she would keep hunting.

On Norfolk Street near East Houston, she visited a one-bedroom fourth-floor walk-up, for $419,000 with maintenance in the low $800s. It was rented to a tenant.

According to the listing, the apartment’s home-office space could “easily be configured back” to create a larger living area. That’s “broker-speak for bring your contractor and your architect,” Mr. Beitler said. “Vani was not afraid to get a real fix-me-upper, but the challenge was more time and money than she wanted to spend.”

The building’s other available unit, a one-bedroom listed at $400,000 with maintenance of almost $700, was on a low floor overlooking the paved interior courtyard, where bikes were stored.

The building entrance was through a side gate. “Maybe it was silly to have that bother me,” Ms. Mehra said, “but I felt I was walking down a dark alley.” She moved on.
She wasn’t interested in the Upper East Side or Midtown, even though “she could get a lot of room for her price range.”

So Ms. Mehra decided to make an offer on the Attorney Street place. Last summer, her offer of $417,000 was accepted — and then it wasn’t.
Something similar had happened to a friend, who had made three accepted offers on three apartments. Each time, a cash buyer swooped in. Undaunted, Ms. Mehra expanded her range to Chelsea.

A small one-bedroom on West 21st Street, for $399,000 with maintenance in the $600s, was short on kitchen counters. But she liked the neighborhood.

A small elevator building on West 20th Street had an alcove studio for sale. It was listed for $369,000 with maintenance in the $500s.

Ms. Mehra paid $355,000 and moved in last fall.

· A Good Kitchen, On a First-Home Budget [NYT]