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Finding the Harlem Apartment She Always Wanted: Which One Was It?

Growing up in a military family, Tiffany Rothwell moved around a lot. She went to high school in Maryland, and then left for New Jersey to attend Centenary University, in Hackettstown. When it was finally time to put down some roots, she chose Upper Manhattan.

“There was an influx of young, Black corporate people who were making Harlem home, and I wanted to be a part of that renaissance,” said Ms. Rothwell, 40.

She settled in a Central Harlem rental with roommates — “perfect for my 20s,” she said — and later rented a studio in an East Harlem walk-up, living below her means and keeping her sights on a purchase. “Short-term sacrifice was part of my long-term goal,” she said, starting with the first dollar from her first after-school job, as a greeter at a store.

Ms. Rothwell has worked in product development for a popular retail chain for more than a decade, socking away savings while moving up the corporate ranks. By late 2021, she saw her opportunity as surging home prices began to taper off and apartments sat on the market for months.

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She figured she could afford up to $875,000 for a one-bedroom in a condominium building. A friend referred her to John McGuinness, an associate broker at Compass. “He encouraged me to be open-minded,” Ms. Rothwell said. “I tried not to exclude anything.”

She considered charming prewar buildings, gleaming new ones and many others in between. She walked around Harlem to check out the immediate surroundings of the apartments she liked, and to find the nearest markets and stores. Other variables to consider: the distance to the subway, building size, amenities, monthly outlay and, most important, “a sense of home.”

“I am a family of one,” Ms. Rothwell said. “My expectations were very practical. It was all about the pros and cons.”

Among her options, in Central Harlem:

Find out what happened next by answering these two questions:

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