But she was ambivalent about the neighborhood, crowded with hipsters and transients.
“Everyone was there because it was a place to be seen, not a place they were from,” she said. “As a renter, you don’t think of it as your long-term neighborhood because you can just move.” Buying, however, made for a different mind-set. “I wanted to come home and say ‘hi’ to people I knew.”
She liked the music scene of Lower Manhattan. She found a Chinatown duplex for $1.08 million. Monthly charges were under $1,100.
“The photos look terrible and it’s been on the market for a long time, but the layout is great,” Mr. Cohen said.
The building’s passenger elevators were out of service — temporarily, according to the listing agent. They took the stairs to the 10th floor.
“Wow, this is worth the climb,” Mr. Cohen said.
The view was mesmerizing. Ms. Akman-Duffy returned with her mother, who hoofed it up the stairs and noted “a few creaks and dents,” she said. “I was too excited to even be worried about the elevator.” Her offer of the asking price was accepted.
She insisted on an inspection, which uncovered many issues, including a leaky dishwasher, a non-flushing toilet and broken doors.
“We couldn’t get a firm grasp on what was wrong with the elevator,” she said. Alarmed, she rescinded her offer. “To live on the 10th floor with a nonfunctioning elevator is not really an option.”
(According to the Department of Buildings, the most recent elevator complaint was investigated and no violations were found.)
A friend had moved to Harlem and urged Ms. Akman-Duffy to consider the neighborhood.
On West 126th Street, she liked a fully renovated unit that covered the entire ground floor of a brownstone. It was listed for $819,000, making a bidding war inevitable. Monthly charges were less than $1,100.
“It was so underpriced,” Mr. Cohen said. “It was difficult for my client to stomach the idea of offering so much above the price.”
Ms. Akman-Duffy was indeed put off. “If it was worth so much, why wasn’t it listed for more?” she said. “There is always a catch. I was unprepared for the real estate blood bath that is New York.” In the end, the place sold for $977,000.
On StreetEasy, she saw ads for the newly constructed Aurum in Central Harlem. Battle-weary, she had resigned herself to raising her budget and paying the mansion tax on units over $1 million, and what she called the “new construction tax,” or the high taxes and closing costs common to new condos.
She liked Aurum, choosing a two-bedroom, two-bath with an L-shaped terrace for $1.16 million and monthly charges of $1,125. She closed in the winter and is now looking for a roommate. “I’ve done the whole friends-of-friends thing, and it hasn’t worked,” she said.
She was surprised that even new buildings have maintenance issues — hers included a leak in the living room and creaky floors. It was easy to add floor coverings. “Because I’m Turkish, my mother had a lot of Turkish carpets to give me,” she said.
She has been learning about the neighborhood and meeting her neighbors. “I have my bar, my bodega, my McDonald’s,” she said. “As a lover of blues and jazz, I was excited to move to Harlem and find it a humbling experience as a musician, because everybody is so good.”