The Hunt: A Comedian Walks Into a Bar … and Ends Up Buying a Co-op

The Hunt: A Comedian Walks Into a Bar … and Ends Up Buying a Co-op

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Mark Normand moved to New York a decade ago, rooming primarily with “Craigslist people and weirdos,” he said.

For the last two and half years, he lived in a dusty two-bedroom with two others, paying $800 a month for his tiny room. The West Village location was prime, but Mr. Normand grew weary of his substandard living conditions. “I knew I deserved better and needed better,” he said.

He could afford better, too.

Mr. Normand, 33, originally from New Orleans, found his career as a stand-up comic blossoming. He opens for Amy Schumer. His one-hour special, “Mark Normand: Don’t Be Yourself,” is scheduled for May 12 on Comedy Central.

“I saved up all my money, and have such low self-esteem and insecurity that I never spent my money on myself,” he said.

He knew what a cheap apartment in the West Village was like — he’d been in them — and figured one had to be available.

A studio for rent for $2,100 in the West Village was disappointing, Mr. Normand said.

Credit
David Dee Delgado for The New York Times

Via Naked Apartments he found Rachel Bickerton, a saleswoman at Keller Williams TriBeCa. He told her that he wanted a West Village rental for a price in the low $2,000s, preferably far less.

Ms. Bickerton lined up eight low-end rentals to visit. The first was a $2,100 studio in a walk-up building on Grove Street.

“We swung that door open and it was just a room with a mattress and that was it,” Mr. Normand said. “A studio is kind of a bummer.”

Others were just as disappointing. “Each one had a sadness to it,” he said.

Though blocks and buildings were often quaint and lovely, no place was homey inside. They tended to be boxy rooms painted white.

Mr. Normand insisted that a cheaper, better place had to exist, a point Ms. Bickerton disputed.

“I was showing him the lowest prices I could find,” she said. “He is a comedian and had me in stitches all afternoon.”

A one-bedroom rental had been renovated, but was on a busy crosstown thoroughfare.

Credit
David Dee Delgado for The New York Times

On West 14th Street, a nicely renovated one-bedroom was the biggest they saw. But it was near Eighth Avenue — too far west for him — and on a busy crosstown street.

“Fourteenth Street is like a big highway,” Mr. Normand said. “I wanted to be on a boulevard. I was feeling defeated and Rachel said, ‘You are not going to get anything you want in this price range.’ We were at a crossroads.”

So they broke for refreshments. “He was doing well in his career and it sounded like he had enough money to buy,” Ms. Bickerton said. Pulling up StreetEasy on her phone, she searched for West Village co-ops for less than $600,000. Three listings appeared.

One looked right. It was asking $585,000, with monthly maintenance of around $660. The agent answered the phone, so in they went.

The 400-square-foot one-bedroom on a tree-lined block was redone inside, but with almost no kitchen.

“I don’t care if the kitchen has literally a hot plate and a fridge,” said Mr. Normand, who never cooks. This one had a double hot plate: a two-burner stovetop.

After deciding to buy instead of rent, Mr. Normand found a one-bedroom for $585,000 in the West Village. His co-op board interview was held in a bar.

Credit
David Dee Delgado for The New York Times

“I took a million photos and showed them to my parents,” Mr. Normand said. They agreed that he should buy it.

So he did. The co-op board interview was held in a bar, with two board members. The board’s concern, Mr. Normand said, was the unreliability of show business.

“I said, ‘Hey, look, I am opening for Amy Schumer at the Garden tomorrow.’ I showed on my phone I’ve done Conan four times. I felt like I was talking to a new girlfriend’s dad: ‘Please, I’m worthy.’”

He arrived in the winter, paying the asking price.

His apartment gets no sunlight, even on a cloudless day. He can live without it. A giant wall mirror is “kind of creepy and orgy-esque,” he said. He can live with it. Ditto for the tiny bathroom — at least it has a window — and the tiny closets.

In the spartan kitchen, which occupies a corner of the living room, he ripped out a counter. He plans to trade down to a smaller refrigerator, preferring less bulk. The front-door peephole is painted shut, so he’s in the market for paint thinner.

“It’s amazing how people treat you differently when you are an owner, like when it slips out that you just moved to your new place,” Mr. Normand said. “They ask your rent and you say, ‘Actually, I am paying a mortgage.’ It is a milestone and people let you know it. They ask, ‘Where did you get that kind of money?’ and I say, ‘I saved up.’”

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