Brownstone Charm on a Budget

“For us, nesting is important,” she added. “We didn’t want just a launchpad. We wanted a place we could settle into.”

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The master bedroom.

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Katherine Marks for The New York Times

The apartments they could afford were overly quirky, “in the sense of the sink being in the bedroom,” Ms. Chock-Goldman said, adding that when they contacted Debra Bondy, an associate broker at Compass who had helped her sister buy a place, “she brought in the reality factor.”

In the kind of small building they favored, Ms. Bondy said, “it’s hard to get the kind of light they wanted, unless you’re on the top floor.”

And then it appeared: a two-bedroom unit in Fort Greene, on the fifth (and top) floor of a 20-unit co-op building, priced at $745,000, with maintenance in the mid $800s. The couple dropped their Sunday plans and rushed to the open house, thinking an early arrival would give them an advantage.

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FORT GREENE A two-bedroom on a sunny top floor sold for far more than the asking price.

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Katherine Marks for The New York Times

They offered the asking price, but the apartment sold quickly to someone else for $782,000.

“When you get really excited, the fall is that much harder,” Mr. Trabucco-Campos said.

Ms. Bondy urged them to expand their search to the sort of buildings they hadn’t initially considered.

In Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, they checked out the Clinton Hill Cooperative Apartments, dating to the 1940s, and found a unit they liked on a high floor, with a second bedroom fashioned from a dining area. The asking price was $599,000, with maintenance in the mid $900s.

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CLINTON HILL The couple wanted overhead lighting and learned they couldn’t add it unless they dropped the already low ceilings.

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