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Four Bedrooms for $275,000? An Upstate Couple Hoped to Find a Family Home to Grow In.


When Pete Wayner met Felicity McDonald on a singles app in 2020, he expected to suffer through another bad date on his post-divorce reentry into social life.

He was living in Rochester, N.Y., and thinking of moving to Mexico amid the pandemic. But after that first meeting, he scrapped the idea.

“The date turned out great, and I ended up moving out of my studio apartment to live with Felicity and her daughter, Ruby, a year later,” said Mr. Wayner, 34, a creative director at the Dixon Schwabl advertising agency, in Victor, N.Y.

Ms. McDonald — now Mrs. Wayner, as the couple married last August — was also divorced and attending nursing school in Rochester. She owned a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house in Geneva, a city of about 12,000 in the Finger Lakes region of central New York, 45 miles southeast of Rochester.

“I bought the perfect post-divorce house for myself and my daughter: a 900-square-foot small ranch house,” said Mrs. Wayner, 35, a nurse at Geneva General Dermatology, who grew up in the area. “We’d made it into our family home when Pete moved in, but we knew we wanted to grow our family together and needed more space.”

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The house they needed wouldn’t be easy to find. Geneva has a limited supply of new and single-level homes, so longtime owners of larger places tend to stay put rather than downsize, said Daniel Toner, an agent with Century 21 Steve Davoli Real Estate, in Geneva.

“There’s still almost no inventory in our area, which saw growing demand pre-Covid because of the emergence of the local wine, craft-beer and food scenes in the Finger Lakes,” Mr. Toner said. “Geneva is one of the main hubs of the Finger Lakes, so when Covid hit and people were traveling locally and working remotely, we saw a big spike in demand for second and permanent homes.”

This April, the median sales price in the city of Geneva (there is also a town with the same name surrounding it) was about $167,000, up from around $145,000 in 2021, Mr. Toner said, noting that some well-located homes are used as short-term rentals.

With up to $275,000 to spend, the Wayners hoped to find a single-family home with at least three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Mr. Wayner wanted it to be in a walkable neighborhood like the one he had enjoyed in Rochester.

“Most of the homes in the city of Geneva are older, but we weren’t really looking for a house that needed a lot of renovation,” Mrs. Wayner said. “We didn’t have to have a historic home, but we didn’t want anything cookie-cutter either.”

Among their options:

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