When Katie Ullmann met Matt Durham nearly three years ago, she was living with a roommate in the West Village and he was in a place with a plant-filled terrace on the Lower East Side. They rode Citi Bikes across town to see each other.
Two summers ago, the couple left Manhattan for a modern high-rise rental in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, then began planning their wedding and a real house hunt. They dreamed of a small multifamily house, but knew they would have to stay in the outer boroughs to afford one.
“I would rather be back in Manhattan where I could walk and bike everywhere,” said Mrs. Durham, 29, who works in the clean-energy field and was weary of her crowded subway commute to Midtown.
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So they looked for a Manhattan place they could renovate. Mr. Durham, 36, who works in real estate finance and once worked on a Habitat for Humanity project, yearned for a fixer-upper.
“I have a pretty serious tool collection,” he said. “I could build a small house. I am not up on current building codes, but it would stand up and function.”
The Durhams expected to pay around $1 million: a purchase of around $800,000, and another $200,000 for renovations. They were hoping to find something in Midtown East, not far from their offices. And outdoor space for a garden was a must. “Matt will spend his entire weekend pruning,” Mrs. Durham said.
If they couldn’t find a two-bedroom, a one-bedroom they could convert into a two-bedroom would do. “We like the idea of flipping our way up,” Mrs. Durham said. “We love the vision of staying in New York and raising a family here. For me, the financial element justifies the headache of a renovation. I would never do this on my own. I would be fine with a ready-to-move-in place.”
With such specific requirements, “there wasn’t much to look at,” said their agent, Charlie Lewis, then at the Corcoran Group and now at Compass.
Among their options:
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