As a self-employed musician, Mr. Bodley was concerned about securing approval from a co-op board. “There is a prejudice against us crazy, longhaired types,” he said. Musicians, he said, are also often perceived as undesirable noisemakers, though he practices on an electric bass and Ms. McBride on an electronic keyboard, both virtually silent, thanks to headphones.
The couple began the hunt in Jackson Heights, Queens, where prices were reasonable. They saw similar co-op units in similar buildings, primarily brick buildings of medium size.
They liked a large one-bedroom with 900 square feet, on the ground floor of Hampshire House on 79th Street, a 1939 elevator building. The price was around $370,000, with monthly maintenance of just over $700. It felt charming and palatial.
But another buyer had gotten there first, and the seller went with that party’s cash offer, Mr. Fischel said.
They went to see another apartment at Plymouth Court, a 1917 building a few blocks away on 82nd Street. This one had a railroad layout covering 800 square feet and was on the third floor of a walk-up. “The third-floor walk-up thing is what we had in Williamsburg, although I do have to carry a bass and an amplifier up, so not having stairs would be nice,” Mr. Bodley said.
The price was $330,000, with maintenance in the high $400s. “They were calling it a two-bedroom, but you would have had to construct some walls and doors,” Mr. Bodley said. His offer of the asking price was accepted.
Unsure that they would clear the co-op board, the couple had been checking out Forest Hills, slightly farther into Queens.
“Forest Hills is not hip at all,” Mr. Bodley said. “Forest Hills is people who were born here. The hipsters in Williamsburg seemed to come from somewhere else.”
There, they found another ground-floor apartment, a charming 950-square-foot one-bedroom, in a 1940 building. “It had this sunken living room and this built-in bookcase in the wall, the kind of features that don’t seem to be prevalent in newer construction,” Mr. Bodley said.
The place was a sponsor unit, sold by an original investor and requiring no co-op board approval. The price was $368,500, with maintenance in the low $700s.
“I had to explain what a sponsor unit was,” Mr. Fischel said. “I said, as long as you can get the financing, you’re good to go. He had no debt, and he did it all playing the bass.”
So Mr. Bodley went with the Forest Hills sponsor unit, preferring to skip the risk of being rejected by a co-op board.
The couple arrived in the spring. “I realize that I’d been living in squalor before this,” Mr. Bodley said. His old place had not been painted since he moved in. The new place was immaculate. He decorated with his 18 guitars and his acoustic bass violin. His skull collection fills the built-in bookcase.
“We weren’t living in squalor before,” Ms. McBride said, “but if you live in an apartment that long, you have a lot of things. If you haven’t moved, you haven’t had a reason to throw things out.”