Heading North to Upper Manhattan, or the Lower Bronx, With $400,000. Guess Which Apartment They Chose.
Jakob W. Plummer and Vichet Chum spent six years in a small, rent-stabilized two-bedroom in Washington Heights. It wasn’t especially nice: They got direct sunlight for around 15 minutes mid-morning. Fireworks exploded all summer, sending Lucy the dog cowering under the piano. And something was always wrong — a sink was broken, the gas was out, holes formed in the bathroom ceiling.
The couple, who met through their work in the theater — Mr. Plummer, 30, is a stage manager and Mr. Chum, 36, is a playwright — usually had a roommate in the second bedroom, helping to defray the $1,925 rent. They dreamed of buying a place of their own, but feared it was out of reach.
“As freelancers, it is impossible to convince a bank you are being paid enough to get a mortgage,” Mr. Plummer said. “It’s hard to explain that I have 15 different employers in a year.”
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But their finances recently improved. After being unemployed during the pandemic, Mr. Plummer landed a job doing Covid compliance work on Broadway, and is now back to stage managing. Mr. Chum received an advance for a young-adult novel, “Kween,” and his parents offered to help with a down payment.
“The unspoken ask was that if they visited us they would have a place to stay,” said Mr. Chum, who grew up in Dallas, the son of Cambodian immigrants. Mr. Plummer is from Ohio.
So last fall, with a budget of around $400,000, the couple went on the hunt for a co-op, preferably not too far from their rental. With mortgage pre-approval from Actors Federal Credit Union, they found they could afford a one- or two-bedroom near their Upper Manhattan neighborhood, or in the Bronx.
Their hunt turned out to be brief, limited in part by budget and location. “I didn’t know that we needed to look any further,” Mr. Chum said. “I am sort of debilitated by too much choice.”
Their home needed to be near a subway station, and they preferred a lived-in, prewar place to something new.
“We would also judge apartments on the basis of the selling agent,” Mr. Plummer said. “This is the person they decided to trust the selling to?” Some, they found, were rude or dismissive.
Among their options:
Find out what happened next by answering these two questions: