A year ago, Marilyn Alterman found herself trapped in her Seattle home by a snowstorm, fearing she would slip on the ice. That’s when she decided it was time to leave town.
“They had to reroute the buses because they couldn’t get up the hill,” said Ms. Alterman, a born-and-raised New Yorker from the Bronx. “In New York, even if we have a blizzard, I can always get outside.”
Before heading west in the early 1990s, she spent years on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She was robbed at gunpoint near her West 74th Street apartment and later bought a two-bedroom co-op on West 84th. But by then she was thinking of leaving New York, and in 1992 she bought a house in the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle, where she had friends.
Her co-op limited sublets to two years, so she had to sell the apartment “when New York was on the down,” she said. “Had I been able to keep that apartment, I would be a millionaire by now.”
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Over the years, her 1920s house in Seattle became a burden to maintain, so she moved to a two-bedroom duplex in the Queen Anne neighborhood, paying $3,850 a month. All the while, she yearned to return home.
“I had been coming to New York once or twice a year, and always longing in my heart,” she said. “The snow was the clincher.”
For slightly less than she was paying in Seattle, she thought, she could get a much smaller apartment in New York: “I knew I would have to trade down and give something up.”
Ms. Alterman — who spent her career in sales and marketing, but most recently worked in the facilities department of a child-welfare agency — retired and went on the hunt for a one-bedroom in a prewar elevator building in her beloved former neighborhood, the Upper West Side.
Her requirements included ample sunlight and, because she is an avid cook and baker, a big kitchen with a dishwasher and gas for cooking. Her budget was up to $3,500 a month.
Last summer she visited a handful of places and came away disheartened — they were small, dark or dirty. “I was devastated,” Ms. Alterman said. “Kitchens were in the living room up against the wall.”
She was referred to Ronen Agadi, an associate broker at the Corcoran Group. For Ms. Alterman’s budget, he said, “you are not getting a large, fancy one-bedroom, though it depends on what kind of building you are in. People say they want to spend no more than X amount, and they end up spending a little more.”
Among her options:
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