She aimed for as little street noise as possible. “It is hard to find an apartment that is absolutely quiet if you want light,” Ms. Sun said. “If you want light, you probably have to face the street.”
Still, she knew there were no guarantees of quiet, regardless of an apartment’s exposure. When she lived in her studio, facing the backs of other buildings, she endured karaoke night every Friday from a neighbor just across the way. “It was a pretty consistent schedule,” she said.
Ms. Sun, 28, who works in the accounting field, scoured StreetEasy daily and visited open houses every weekend. A little more than a year ago, a friend referred her to Christopher Daish and Devin Kogel, agents then at Triplemint and now at the Corcoran Group.
Ms. Sun focused on postwar co-op buildings. “In the sub-million-dollar price range, there are more options for a co-op than a condominium,” Mr. Kogel said. A condo unit for that price would probably mean a studio.
She did not want an open kitchen, and in early 1960s-era buildings, it was easy enough to avoid them, though Ms. Sun was more than willing to do renovations. “In China, we don’t have open kitchens,” she said. When her parents visited, they would be stir-frying over high heat, and she preferred to have the smell and mess contained.
Last summer, a good option arose near Gramercy Park, where Ms. Sun bid on a shopworn one-bedroom with a dining area, plenty of closet space and a mostly eastern view. It was listed at $759,000, with monthly maintenance of $1,045. Her bid was around $800,000, but it sold for $825,000.
She experienced another near miss in Chelsea, where a one-bedroom with a sunny southern exposure was listed at $850,000, with maintenance of around $1,000. This, too, was worn, with a closet door unhinged. Her bid of around $800,000 was declined. She was willing to raise it, but another party swooped in and bought the apartment for $840,000.
In other cases, the selling price was less than Ms. Sun’s offer, but sellers were concerned that a foreign buyer would be declined by the co-op board. In one case, the difference was $30,000. “That is very frustrating to me,” she said.
She boosted her price range, which had been inching up, to $900,000. A listing appeared for a one-bedroom near Columbus Circle for $895,000, with maintenance of around $1,200. The neighborhood wasn’t as hip as downtown, but the southern view was far better, and quieter, than a street view — it faced two acres of a grassy courtyard, though punctuated by wailing sirens heading to nearby Mount Sinai West, the former Roosevelt Hospital. The kitchen even had a door.
This time, Ms. Sun’s bid of $875,000 was accepted. Still, she continued hunting, uncertain that the sale would actually go through. In the winter, it did.
Shortly before closing, she learned that one of her wing’s two elevators would be closed for several months of repairs. With just one working elevator, the building was strict about elevator use. Ms. Sun rushed to finish painting and move in — otherwise, she would have had to use the stairs to move her belongings.
“I basically went through all the apartments on the market,” she said, relieved that she was able to find the kind of home she wanted, with Columbus Circle’s assorted subway lines at her feet. “I now feel like it’s good to have a distance from those hip places, but a very short distance.”