Seeking a One-Bedroom in ‘a Quintessential New York Brownstone.’ How Far Would Their Budget Take Them?

Mat and Taylor Batts got their first taste of city life as newlyweds in 2015, when they moved into an apartment in downtown Winston-Salem, N.C. The couple, who met at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, were excited to be on their own in a walkable area that buzzed with life.

Mr. Batts had grown up in the exurbs of Winston-Salem. After college he briefly played minor league baseball. Ms. Batts, an elementary school teacher, spent much of her childhood in Raleigh, N.C. After college, the couple would take the occasional trip to New York City, and they realized they shared a desire to live there.

Mr. Batts recalled their first visit, when they arrived by train during the Christmas season. “I remember coming out of Penn Station, and just looking around and being like, ‘Oh, my God, what is this?’” he said.

“Moving to New York was always that dream,” Ms. Batts said.

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In 2018, they decided they would apply for jobs in New York, and if they got them, they would pack up their two dogs — Winnie, a golden retriever, and Winston, a doodle mix — and live the dream.

Ms. Batts scored first, landing a position at a charter school in Brooklyn for the 2019-20 school year. Mr. Batts found a job as a copywriter for a Brooklyn company soon after. With the dogs in mind, they opted not just to work in Brooklyn, but to live there as well, because of the many dog parks and the dog-friendly feeling.

The couple, now both 32, landed in a studio in Downtown Brooklyn, and then upgraded to a two-bedroom in Brooklyn Heights that was affordable thanks to a pandemic rent reduction. The rent started at $3,180 a month and then rose to $3,250 the second year. By the summer of 2022, the prospect of a sharper rent hike loomed.

“We knew the rent would go up the third year, so we felt if we could find something with a similar monthly payment, it might be worth it,” Mr. Batts said.

He had recently received a gift from his parents that could be applied to a down payment. The couple calculated that with 20 percent down, they could afford to buy an apartment for around $650,000 without blowing their monthly budget.

As they started searching, they had plenty to learn about the New York housing market. “We knew nothing about the process,” Mr. Batts said. “Nothing about the difference between co-ops and condos.”

But they did know what they wanted: a small, older Brooklyn building with character and history.

“I am so gung-ho about this area,” Ms. Batts said. “I wanted something that felt like a quintessential New York brownstone.”

They don’t plan to have children, so they searched for one-bedroom apartments within walking distance of a park for their dogs. They enlisted the help of Sarah Minton, a licensed real estate agent with Compass, who understood the challenges they would face.

Having “two dogs is always an extra hurdle in New York, because so many buildings have breed restrictions, weight restrictions and number-of-pet restrictions,” Ms. Minton said. “Mat and Taylor really liked the brownstone vibe, and those buildings tend to have way more restrictions around pets.”

The couple began hunting last summer. Among their options:

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