David H Rosen, a lifelong New Yorker, left the city for only four years, to attend Cornell University in Ithaca. After returning for a Ph.D. in psychology at New York University, he scored a rent-stabilized two-bedroom in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. He brought in the occasional roommate, but mostly kept the place for himself and a cat or two.
Always interested in buying, Mr. Rosen checked out plenty of apartments over the years, often in small walk-up buildings. One place in Park Slope was a two-bedroom with a roof terrace and an attic.
“It was a standard beautiful brownstone — old on the outside, new on the inside,” Mr. Rosen said. A spiral staircase led to the tiny attic, with skylights.
“I thought that was the coolest thing, this attic,” he said. “I couldn’t afford it at the time, but every place I went into, I compared it to that in my brain.”
Mr. Rosen, 42, started seriously hunting after discussions with a childhood friend, Gabriella Santoro, a licensed agent at Bond New York. His aim was a two-bedroom for up to $900,000.
The place had to be within walking distance — 25 minutes or less — of Tom’s Restaurant in Prospect Heights, where every Saturday he eats breakfast with friends. It also needed outdoor space, preferably elevated and private.
“I really like being outside and I like being on a perch,” he said. “I like hiking up mountains and leaning over railings.”
Mr. Rosen thought he would be interested in one of the borough’s many new buildings. But the apartments all seemed the same, with construction of questionable quality and unnecessarily high-tech features.
In a 2004 condominium in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where prices were in the $800,000s, the apartments had private keyed elevators. “When you get off the elevator, you are in the apartment,” Ms. Santoro said. “There isn’t even a front door.”
Mr. Rosen found such elevators off-putting. “For some reason, I trust a multilock more than a key that opens the elevator,” he said. “There’s no upside to a keyed elevator for me.”
Last spring, he saw a beautifully restored Park Slope one-bedroom where it was possible to carve a second bedroom from the L-shaped living area, which included a “windowed alcove.” There was a terrace off the bedroom.
The listing price was $849,000, with maintenance in the mid-$500s.
When his offer of $851,000 was declined, he felt relieved. The apartment was not quite right. The location, just one door in from Prospect Park, made for an uninteresting walk to the subway, which he rides to the Flatiron district for his job as a data scientist at a company that funds small businesses.
“There are no commercial places between the train and that apartment,” he said. “I like to pick up cat food or dry cleaning or whatever on the way home.”
The place ultimately sold for $945,000, more than 10 percent above the listing price. “Properties are often priced low in order to attract attention and encourage bidding wars,” Ms. Santoro said.