When the Best Move Is Staying Put

Corey Nolan, left, and Dennis Fare in their one-bedroom apartment in Hoboken, N.J.

Corey Nolan arrived in New York four years ago from his hometown, Atlanta, moving in with a friend who owned a large two-bedroom in a West Village co-op — “a dream situation,” he said.

When his friend sold the place after a year, Mr. Nolan and another friend, newly arrived from Atlanta, decamped to a two-bedroom rental in a Chelsea walk-up. What with the security deposit, broker fee and first and last month’s rent, he had to take out a loan to move.

He paid $1,900 a month for his half of the place, and of all the tiny rooms, his was the tiniest. “I had to turn sideways to get into my bed,” he said.

But in the meantime, he had met Dennis Fare, a New Jersey native who was renting a two-bedroom in Hackensack with a roommate, paying $1,200. “We were kind of doing the weekend thing,” Mr. Nolan said. Two years ago, the couple decided to get a place together.

It made sense to move across the Hudson. Mr. Fare, a school administrator in northern New Jersey, drives to work. What’s more, New Jersey has a residency requirement for public employees, who must live in the state unless they are granted an exemption. Mr. Nolan, who works in Midtown West at a technology firm that specializes in social branding, could easily commute by bus or PATH train.

The couple, both in their 30s, had brunch in Hoboken one day, loved the village-y vibe and took a tour of a new rental high-rise, the Park + Garden, in uptown Hoboken. Within days, they decided to move there.

“It was hard for me to give up my 10011 ZIP code,” Mr. Nolan said. But the move meant he could live in “an exponentially better apartment” with a doorman, washer-dryer, central air-conditioning and outdoor pool, “a lot of luxuries I had given up in Atlanta to move to New York.”

Their rent was $3,400 a month, which later rose to a little more than $3,500, and the view from the top-floor one-bedroom included the Lincoln Tunnel helix.

“I like not having people above me,” Mr. Nolan said. “You don’t have any risk of heavy feet. This is coming from years of experience in Atlanta.” Their neighbors in Hoboken were mostly former New Yorkers.

Over time, the couple dreamed of having more. They craved a second bedroom to use as a home office, and a guest room for friends and relatives visiting from out of town, which is “hard to do in a civilized way when they are sleeping on the couch and all of their bags are on the living room floor,” Mr. Nolan said. To get a second bedroom, they were willing to spend around $3,800 a month.

If they couldn’t find a suitable two-bedroom, then they wanted “an upgraded experience — the condo-grade appliances, fixtures and touches,” Mr. Nolan said. In that case, they hoped to pay less, around $3,200.

“We were convinced we could find it through our willingness to hunt for it,” Mr. Nolan said. “We threw a lot into it.”

Credit...Robert Wright for The New York Times

They had always liked the charm of the Upper West Side, so they began visiting open houses there, although it would have meant obtaining that exemption for Mr. Fare — not to mention a tough commute to work, involving a ferry ride and a drive. A return to Manhattan would also mean living in a walk-up with small closets, window air-conditioners and no washer-dryer. “I pictured myself schlepping laundry down the street,” Mr. Fare said.

“I loved the idea of the Upper West Side, but the reality was not feasible for our situation,” Mr. Nolan said. “Scratching that itch allowed us to go back to New Jersey with an open heart and an open mind. The grass isn’t always greener.”

Drawn to new construction, they visited the Ellipse, a rental tower on the Hudson River in Jersey City. Two-bedrooms there started in the mid-$4,000s, although rental incentives were on offer as the building prepared for occupancy. The men were impressed with the building, which was erected on steel piles extending into the river, and its sweeping views, but they found the planned community of Newport sterile and “business park-like,” Mr. Nolan said. They decided they were unwilling to leave their neighborhood.

Credit...Robert Wright for The New York Times

So it was back to Hoboken, where they checked out a one-bedroom for rent at 1400 Hudson Street, a new condominium building. They fell for the kitchen, with its high-end appliances, and the bathroom, with its glass shower door.

“The building was intoxicating,” Mr. Nolan said. But for a rent in the low $3,000s, they had hoped for a second bedroom. They would also have had to relinquish their view and risk upstairs neighbors.

And any move still required that daunting upfront outlay, which they estimated at $6,000 to $10,000. For the first time, they were planning to hire real movers instead of recruiting a volunteer crew of friends. “A lot of the furniture is heavy or old, or things I would not feel comfortable moving by giving our friends pizza,” Mr. Nolan said.

Credit...Robert Wright for The New York Times

Ultimately, “what we were getting for the cost of the move didn’t make sense.” he said. “Real estate was forcing us to have important conversations about the future. We needed to be more strategic. We would rather make smart decisions.”

So they decided it was best to stay put. Earlier this summer, the couple signed another one-year lease and plan to use the moving money as a nest egg for an eventual purchase. They also treated themselves to a few upgrades at home: new bedding, big potted plants and better frames for artwork.

As Mr. Nolan put it, “To move for things that were not problems to begin with was not worth it.”


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