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I loved my apartment in Queens. My ex-husband and I purchased it in February of 1999 at the bargain cost of $85,000.00.
It was a two-bedroom, one-bath condo facing a gorgeous lush green park. It had huge windows throughout and 10 foot ceilings with a very “lofty” feel. The bathroom and kitchen were brand new and the kitchen even had a dishwasher.
The apartment faced East, so we always got to see amazing sunrises which would light up the place, since 75 percent of the apartment was surrounded by windows.
For Us This Was a Palace
Prio to marrying, I lived with my now dearly departed father and my younger brother in a one bedroom apartment. It was located in a great neighborhood, but since they were both men, it made sense for them to share the bedroom.
I was getting married and would soon be leaving, which meant I got to sleep on the couch in the living room. I won’t talk smack about the couch because it was quite comfortable. But, of one of them got up early or went to bed late, or decided to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, that meant no sleep for me because I am a light sleeper.
To give you some perspective, my father was about 70 years old at the time. You can imagine how many middle-of-the-night bathroom trips there were. The situation just didn’t work. Basically, I wanted out!
My ex-husband didn’t have it any better. He shared a small basement studio apartment with his cousin in an equally nice neighborhood. However, the space was too small and it was time to go for him as well.
Instead of spending a ton of money on a lavish wedding, we agreed to do the “responsible” thing and bought an apartment.
We had no money to speak of, so we saved as much as possible to pay for a less expensive wedding and also purchase the apartment.
My dear father was gracious enough to lend us the money we needed for the down payment, with the promise that it would be paid back to him quickly with our wedding money.
After all was said and done, we only had enough money left to pay for the honeymoon. But we had purchased an apartment and we were ecstatic.
Fast forward 17 years. I am now divorced with two growing kids. My son is 10 years old and my daughter 8. It is very important at this point that I share this with you because as parents we have to make sure we know our children. We have to know their strengths and weaknesses and what they can or cannot handle.
When my son was in 5th grade I started to freak out thinking of which Jr. high school he would attend as the choices were not great. His zoned school did not have good ratings or a good reputation and the other choices were, well, barely choices.
The school we really wanted him to attend was based on a lottery; you get selected you go, you don’t get selected you’re out. On top of that, there was no school bus service so he would have to take public transportation.
The other option was further away than the “lottery school,” and was outside of our district, so we would have to apply and hope he got selected.
Faced with these options and knowing my child, I knew that I would have to do something drastic, that meant move. Yes, move to a different area where he would get the opportunity to go to a good school with bus service. or one close enough that he could walk to and from home.
You see, my son is a bit aloof, distracted if you will, and I just could not bear the thought of him taking public transportation and getting lost on his way home. This thought plagued me with anxiety, more than the normal amount I usually experience. It kept me up many, many nights.
A Bridge Between Us
One of the biggest issues I considered, was how his father would take it. When we divorced, we agreed to live in the same neighborhood so that he would have easy access to the kids. Moving would change all that.
When I told my him about it, he was alright with the idea and even agreed at first. At the time, I was looking neighborhoods in Queens. The idea was not as terrifying to him because they would be easily accessible. What was to come, was a surprise to both him and me.
Not being able to find a large enough or affordable enough space in Queens, I extended my search area to Long Island. I hate Long Island (no offense to those who live there). I don’t know what it is about it, but I just don’t like it.
The thought of having to move there made my stomach turn, and the property taxes on the homes I liked made me want to throw up. The better the school district, the higher the taxes; that’s just how it works.
I owned my apartment, so I knew I would have enough money to purchase a home after I sold it but I also didn’t want to invest all of it and then not be able to pay the new mortgage. That, would be a poor investment, and I wasn’t going to throw away all my equity that way. So it was back to square one, but not for long.
Rescued by a Friend
I had a friend who lived in New Jersey and who had been trying to recruit her Queens friends to move there for the past 12 or so years, but none of us did. We reconnected and I explained my situation.
Having kids the same age as mine, she completely understood and spoke very highly of the town where she lived. She painted a very beautiful picture of the small town; beautiful homes, wide streets, great schools, all couples and families, soccer moms, tree lightings at Christmas etc. All of the trimmings of small-town-living right across the Hudson.
I went to visit her with another friend and we spent a few hours with her driving around the small town. I fell in love. The town was exactly as she had described it. There was nothing more for me to know except which houses were for sale.
Moving: The Search Begins
I started looking for houses on the Realtor and Zillow apps and could not find anything I liked at my price range. Everything was $375,000.00 and over.
That may seem like a decent price to many of you, but for a single mom, not so much. I kept looking, but couldn’t find anything in that town so I decided to spread my search. I also started to think that perhaps a house was not the best idea for me.
A house comes with a lot of responsibility and many hidden costs. Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to take of all that on. I thought of landscaping, snow shoveling and frozen pipes in the Winter. All of a sudden the idea of a house wasn’t as enticing or as exciting.
A Condo Instead?
I then contemplated buying a condo but the prices in the area were astronomical. Some were priced much higher than the houses I had looked at. That is, until I bumped into what I could only think was a mistake at the time.
I was on the Zillow app and a three-bedroom, two-bath approximately 1400 sq. foot duplex came up for $100,000.00. This could not have been right. “This has to be a mistake,” I told myself. But it wasn’t. It was very real and I was about to find out how real it was.
Opportunity at My Door
I called the agent, a very sassy older lady with very little patience. I scheduled an appointment to go see the apartment and I was there Saturday of that same week. I went with my sister and my niece and both my kids. No one could believe their eyes.
This place was huge. It had two floors; a vestibule with a set of stairs leading to the main floor, where you found the living room, dining room and kitchen. Then, stairs leading up to the second level where you found the 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.
The most impressive part of the whole place was the terrace and the view. It had a 24 foot terrace with a sweeping, captivating view of the River with landmarks both to the left and right.
It was impressive; so much so that I told the woman I was interested right away.
The apartment needed a lot of work but that did not deter me. It was five minutes away from everything. Five minutes away from the kids’ zoned school which had amazing ratings, five minutes away from the supermarket, banks, kids activities, hair and nail salon and 10 minutes away from shopping.
For me, it was a no-brainer. For my ex-husband it was heart-breaking. Changes would have to be made to the schedule we had followed for years. He was less than enthusiastic because the new distance meant he would see the kids less.
Moving: A Fresh Start
I remember I started actively looking for a new home in November, 2015. On March 11, 2016 we moved into our new apartment. The kids go to a great school with an after school program and each have their own bedrooms. There are tons of sports related activities for them to participate in, both at school and outside of school.
The town has many activities for its residents throughout the year, in which we love to participate. I have a piece of the outside which I always wanted and plenty of storage, with not one, but two walk-in closets. I even have a doorman to help me bring in my heavy groceries when I go food shopping. It’s the little things that count.
It may seem to some like I moved too fast. But opportunities like this only come but once in a lifetime. I was 43, almost 44 at the time and thought to myself, “if I don’t do this now, when will I?”
I don’t know what the future holds for us here in our new place, but there is one thing I do know for sure, and that is, I never have to wonder “what if?”
Below are pictures of my current view, my dream view.
Thank you for taking the time to read this; I hope you enjoyed it. If you like what you read, please hit the “like” button. If you would like to read more posts like this, please “join me.”
All images are of the view from my terrace, taken by me.