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In Which It's Downtown Prewar or Bust

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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.

Savania Davies-Keiller and Michael Capotosto wanted to buy a home in New England, looking to get some air and respite from their lives in the city. In the meantime, they were in need to find a place to live in the city for the short term, preferably SoHo. Armed with a maximum budget of $6,000 per month, they sought out a prewar apartment that could hold their large dining table. They saw some unpleasant, dirty, and just plain unrenovated places throughout downtown. Their search was looking like a dud, until they found the ideal space down in Varick Street that even let them renovate to their tastes.

If they sold the condo and rented a place, they would be better positioned to buy in New England. So, last fall, the couple began the hunt for a rental. Their top price was around $6,000 a month. They preferred a two-bedroom, ideally with outdoor space, within walking distance of the Little House on Sullivan Street in SoHo

“We had been walking four blocks, and didn’t care if that grew to 20 blocks,”
One of their objections to glass buildings was their limited wall space. “There was no way to hang any pictures,” she said

Listings were often inaccurate. What was advertised as private outdoor space was actually shared. Once, it was a Juliet balcony overlooking somebody else’s garden.

In the East Village, a 1,000-square-foot apartment on the ground floor had two bedrooms and two baths, along with a large private garden, choked with weeds. The rent was $4,800 a month.

In Chelsea, a duplex on the top two floors of a three-family town house also had two bedrooms and two baths, along with two wood-burning fireplaces and a terrace. The rent was $5,000.

In NoHo, a loft with 1,250 square feet, listed at $4,500 a month, had a cavernous common area and bright southern sun. With mousetraps in sight, it was among several places that were “less than sanitary,” Mr. Capotosto said.

In many ways the couple enjoyed the search, “because we both are always curious about different buildings,” Mr. Capotosto said. And they expected imperfection. “We were looking at older buildings, so some of them were quirky,” he said. As time passed, however, they grew disheartened. Their condo sold quickly. In the worst-case scenario, they planned to rent at London Terrace, Mr. Capotosto’s former address.

But Ms. Ng had a place to show them on Varick Street in SoHo. “I walk by this building every day and always thought it was some sort of commercial building,” Ms. Davies-Keiller said. Built in 1920, it had been, once.

They instantly loved the huge space, which came with a storage room across the hall. Workers were starting renovations on the kitchen.

The workers called the owner, who came right over, and the couple requested they be allowed input on the renovations.

· Must be Prewar, Quirky is Okay [NYT]