Shortly after their wedding, Sonia and John Germinario moved into a sunny, 1,500-square-foot two-bedroom apartment in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The good news was that the co-op, in a 1937 building across from Ewen Park, was filled with young families like theirs.
“It was easy to make fast friends with families with kids in the same age range,” Mrs. Germinario said. The couple’s son is now 6; their daughter, 4.
The bad news was that the poorly insulated floors created a distressing echo chamber. A series of renters occupied the sponsor unit above them. “We were starting to lose our minds with having upstairs neighbors,” Mrs. Germinario said. “It was always uncomfortable when there would be a new tenant above us. You would have to go upstairs and say, ‘The floors are really thin.’”
They were just as stressed about the downstairs neighbors, who had children of similar ages. “We were in the middle of the sandwich,” she said. “I didn’t see us living in a co-op till the kids were 18. It seemed like a lot of bodies in a small space.”
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They dreamed of a home with no neighbors upstairs or down. And they longed for a washer and dryer, as there was sometimes an hours-long wait in the building’s small laundry room. That left one option: a house of their own.
Last summer, they listed the co-op for sale and went looking for a three-bedroom house in the Bronx, with a budget of up to $750,000. Their new home needed to be near one of the main subway lines, preferably the 5 train, which was convenient to the East Side of Manhattan, where the children would be attending school. And the couple expected to return to their offices in Manhattan, where Mrs. Germinario, 39, works for a video-games company, and Mr. Germinario, 52, is an entertainment executive at a start-up.
She was open to a fixer-upper, but he wasn’t keen on the idea of doing the work that many houses in the area required. “Some houses needed major updates to bring them from the ’70s into the 21st century,” he said. They both liked wood-burning fireplaces, which proved easy to find.
In one case, they rejected a house because of visible mold in a bathroom. As Mrs. Germinario said, “There are things you can’t argue with, and one of them is mold.”
Among their options:
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