When they married nearly two years ago, Melissa and Jesse Peretz were living in a $2,500-a-month rental in a new building in Gowanus, Brooklyn. A one-bedroom, it had 700 efficient square feet — none of “those weird quirks where a long hallway counts for 100 square feet and isn’t usable,” Mrs. Peretz said. They outgrew it quickly.
The couple had a dog and adopted a cat. Mrs. Peretz’s company relocated, so she began working from home. She writes for a convenience-store trade publication using her maiden name, Melissa Vonder Haar. Mr. Peretz works in market research in Manhattan.
The Peretzes, both 33, also brew beer. They have acquired assorted equipment — brew pots, a chest freezer — and hundreds of bottles of rare beer, some purchased during their busman’s honeymoon, brewery-hopping in Northern Europe. They are chefs, too, well stocked with cooking equipment. The couple have won firsts in both the Brooklyn Chili Takedown and the Brooklyn Homebrew Takedown.
The obvious next step was a bigger home. Though friends told them they could wait to have a baby before upsizing, “I can’t imagine having a newborn and trying to go to open houses,” Mrs. Peretz said.
KENSINGTON Brooklyn was the prospective buyers’ preference. One house they liked was next to a lot that might one day be developed.
A year ago, the couple began seriously hunting for a place to buy in Brooklyn. They needed an elevator or a place on the ground floor, should their dog, Colby, eventually have trouble with stairs. They avoided Williamsburg and other L-train neighborhoods. “With the L, you have to transfer no matter where you’re going,” Mr. Peretz said.
With a budget of $750,000 to $900,000, they found a predictable pattern for two-bedroom co-ops and condominiums: Sellers had either a growing toddler or a second baby. “You could see the toy explosion,” Mrs. Peretz said. They could see into their future, too. “We would be those people moving out in five years,” Mr. Peretz said.
They were alarmed to find that, in many cases, the property in question already had offers above the asking price.
Friends put them in touch with Kirsten Syrett, an associate broker at Halstead Property, and her business partner, Sarah Chamberlin. In Kensington, where single-family houses fell within their price range, they saw a newly renovated detached house with a basement and an attic on East Eighth Street. The price was $849,000.
CLINTON HILL A place in a former mansion with a yard was tempting. But in the long run, the one-bedroom would be too small.
Compost for Brooklyn, a community composting project, was next door. They worried the plot might be developed, with any new structure encroaching upon their windows. The house sold for $820,000.
In Clinton Hill, they liked an enormous one-bedroom in a mansion on Clinton Avenue that had been converted to a 10-unit co-op. The basement unit included a shared yard. The price was $550,000, with a monthly maintenance fee of a little more than $600. Mrs. Peretz was interested, even knowing they would be moving in a few years. “I thought that’s what people have to do, but Jesse vetoed it immediately,” she said. “His dream was to never have to move again.”
A small condominium building on Lefferts Avenue in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens was an option. The two-bedroom ground-floor apartment, with yard space, was around $839,000; monthly charges were just under $400. But the couple share a car with Mr. Peretz’s mother, who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Because there is no direct transportation between the two neighborhoods, car-sharing would be inconvenient.
Ms. Syrett suggested a two-family. The couple would be able to count a percentage of the rental income toward their qualifying income, allowing them to secure a mortgage for a higher amount. They raised their budget to $1.2 million.
PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS A two-bedroom wasn’t handy to the neighborhood where the buyers’ shared car is kept.
They had been eyeing a handsome two-family barrel-front limestone rowhouse in Kensington. It was listed for $1.28 million. Over four months, they watched the price drop. Last fall, when it hit $1.198 million, they went to visit.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was close, with spacious rooms, a big backyard and a large unfinished basement.
The sellers had already moved and “were ready to sell, but they didn’t want to give it away,” Ms. Syrett said.
The Peretzes offered $1.15 million, but the sellers accepted another offer. The situation “was heartbreaking because it felt like our house,” Mrs. Peretz said.
KENSINGTON Maybe a two-family house was the answer. With two bedrooms for the buyers, a large yard and lots of storage, it was.
Then, the deal fell through. If the Peretzes raised their offer by $15,000, the sellers said, the house was theirs. So they did.
At that point, “we were also totally naïve about the mansion tax,” which applies to purchases of $1 million or more, “and all of the extra costs that go into a free-standing house,” Mrs. Peretz said. “You are responsible for the roof and the boiler. People say it’s a money pit, and I don’t think you can fully get it until you buy.”
The inspection, she said, “was terrifying as a first-time home buyer,” ending with “a list of things you are going to be paying for the rest of your life. There were so many sleepless nights.”
The Peretzes arrived earlier this spring, agreeing to let the upstairs tenants stay, but raising the rent to $2,200 a month from $2,000. “Besides going from renters to owners, going from renters to landlords is an intense thing,” Mrs. Peretz said.
The basement offers plenty of room for their brewing equipment. And they can now order grain in bulk.
The backyard, with assorted plants sprouting in the warmer weather, has been a “glorious surprise,” Mrs. Peretz said. Some of the old-house details they have met with have been less so, including termites. But they were prepared: A one-year service contract with an exterminator was part of the deal.
In the yard, the couple have a propane setup for brewing beer, and four barbecue grills. “I don’t think we would have been as happy moving anywhere else,” Mr. Peretz said.
Thursday, June 16, 2016