The Hunt: Something Quiet on the Upper West Side

The Hunt: Something Quiet on the Upper West Side

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For two years, Irene Kim shared a two-bedroom with a friend in a postwar apartment house on the Upper West Side. She paid nearly $2,400 a month, and was plagued with noise from sirens racing along Columbus Avenue.

Last summer, she began hunting online for a place of her own. She wanted a quiet one-bedroom co-op in the low- to mid-$600,000 range, and hoped to remain on the Upper West Side.

On the website StreetEasy, she was alarmed to see how many users had saved each listing. “It was scary at first when you see the numbers,” she said. Sometimes 100-odd people saved a listing, and she feared ending up in a bidding war with all of them.

Over time, though, she learned that places hardly ever lived up to the gushing descriptions or photographs. And she did not unsave listings that no longer interested her, so she figured others didn’t, either.

Ms. Kim, a tax lawyer, contacted Jai Lee, a saleswoman at Mdrn. Residential, who encouraged her to learn more by attending open houses so that she wouldn’t feel “inconvenienced by having to schedule every viewing with me,” Ms. Lee said.

UPPER WEST SIDE A one-bedroom apartment had little daylight and would need a lot of renovation.

Credit
Emon Hassan for The New York Times

Ms. Kim, 32, quickly learned that apartments in her price range tended to be small, so she boosted her budget to the low $700,000s.

She liked a one-bedroom on West End Avenue in the low 80s, listed for $699,000, with monthly maintenance of around $1,200. But, on a later visit, Ms. Lee turned off the lights, revealing a lack of daylight. The limited wall space would also make arranging furniture difficult. And the kitchen and bathroom were outdated.

“I realized that I wasn’t someone who wants to deal with upgrading things or renovating,” Ms. Kim said. “I just want a move-in-ready place.”

The apartment sold for $685,000.

Ms. Kim decided against a walk-up. And after her mother emphasized the importance of layout, she also decided against an en-suite bathroom, which would mean guests would have to walk through the bedroom to use it.

She was grateful for the input.“The crown molding was all I could see,” she said.

A 1930 co-op in the West 90s with two available one-bedrooms was appealing. Both were listed for $725,000. In both, Ms. Kim opened and closed the windows, and sat quietly to listen.

MIDTOWN EAST Newly renovated and lavishly appointed, a unit in a postwar building didn’t seem right.

Credit
Emon Hassan for The New York Times

One, on a lower floor, with monthly maintenance of around $1,300, had a walk-in closet and plenty of light, but it included a garish mirrored wall and faced a noisy street.

The other, on a higher floor, with maintenance of around $1,200 a month, was in great condition, with a surprisingly nice although narrow kitchen. It faced a back courtyard. Ms. Kim knew she would be able to sleep there undisturbed.

Uncertain that she had enough information to make a good decision, she decided to visit a different kind of place. In a 1960 co-op on East 57th Street, she saw a one-bedroom for $749,000, with monthly maintenance in the high $1,300s.

“That was an outlier among the places I’d seen,” Ms. Kim said. “It was uber-modern. The toilet was very high end. I thought, ‘This is beautiful, but this is not me.’”

There was a lot of street noise, which seemed to be entering through the air-conditioning vents. She gave the place a pass, and it later sold for $775,000.

THE UPPER WEST SIDE A one-bedroom facing a quiet courtyard had a nice kitchen. It felt like home.

Credit
Emon Hassan for The New York Times

“The Upper West Side felt like home,” Ms. Kim concluded.

So she returned to the apartment in the West 90s that she had liked the most, deciding she could make do with less closet space. “There was that je ne sais quoi,” she said.

She insisted on an inspection, uncommon among buyers in co-op or condo buildings, with their shared infrastructure. Ms. Lee explained to the seller that Ms. Kim “was not trying to use the report to play games and renegotiate the offer price.” She just wanted to be sure.

The inspector found nothing of “red flag level,” Ms. Kim said.

She paid $690,000 for the apartment and arrived last winter. The one with the walk-in closet on the lower floor sold for $675,000.

“In terms of noise, this is kind of a gem,” Ms. Kim said. “I feel good about my decision — especially in the morning after a good night’s sleep.”

StreetEasy continued emailing her daily alerts, and she kept looking at them. A week after closing, she saw a place nearby with everything her apartment had and more — a walk-in closet plus an eat-in kitchen.

“But I remembered that every time I went to a place, it was different from what I saw in the picture,” she said. “I turned off the email alerts. Every once in a while I look, just to see what’s out there.”

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