They traded a one-bedroom condo for a two-family home in Brooklyn. Which option would you choose?


Rachel Oliner and Justin Worsdale’s one-bedroom condominium in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was perfectly adequate when they worked in offices. But when they found themselves switching between the bedroom and the windowless home office during the pandemic, something must have snapped.

“We could hear all of each other’s conversations, and Justin is a musician next door,” said Ms. Oliner, 32, who works in operations for a startup. Mr. Worsdale, 40, is a software engineer.

They hung their bikes from the ceiling and searched for space in the small kitchen. Their dream was to live in a Brooklyn brownstone, but it seemed unattainable. “Who can buy a house in New York?” Mrs. Oliner asked. She followed the Instagram account of Danielle Nazinitsky, a Compass agent specializing in townhouses, contacted her last summer and was surprised to find they could.

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The couple pegged their price at around $1.6 million, “which when you’re looking for a townhouse in nearby Brooklyn is pretty tough,” Ms. Oliner said.

Mr Worsdale would have liked to stay in Williamsburg, where he had lived for nearly 20 years, but homes there were scarce and out of their price range.

“Williamsburg is a very condo-centric neighborhood,” Ms. Nazinitsky said. Ms. Oliner preferred to head to Bedford-Stuyvesant, where she previously lived with roommates.

The couple loved the tree-lined residential streets of Stuyvesant Heights, close to subways, shops and services, Ms. Oliner said. They were open to a two-family home, for rental income. And they hoped to find housing in good condition, even though most houses in their price range were messy inside, with water damage, sagging stairs, cracked ceilings or rotting window sills.

“Justin is from Miami, where air central is king, and he wanted air central and all central,” Ms. Oliner said.

Window units “never really cool the place down,” Mr Worsdale said. “It’s a level of pain that I no longer want to bear.”

Buyers often find air conditioning to be “a big hurdle to being understood”, Ms Nazinitsky said, because it is very expensive to install.

Mr. Worsdale had his own hunting philosophy: “It’s like playing a slot machine,” he says. “You almost have to go numb to be turned down. I think your hopes and dreams have to be dashed a number of times.

Among their options in Stuyvesant Heights:

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