Last year, Kasey Woods was finally having her moment. She was thriving in her professional life as a publicist with a growing list of clients, so she was ready to settle into a longer term relationship — with a bigger apartment that could hold her family of four.
Like so many others, she and her three children had been rocked by the pandemic a few years earlier. She had been grateful to live in a three-bedroom, two-bath house in the Bronx where on good days, she could find a parking space and was able to take both girls to their schools in White Plains in under half an hour. But the house quickly became too small, especially as she worked from home and her son Treylin, 21, and daughters London, 14, and Gia, 11, attended school remotely.
“I had my own company by that point. Working from a little corner in the living room was not conducive when you have children. I needed a more grown-up space,” said Ms. Woods, 41, who shares custody with her ex-partner who lives in White Plains. “My daughters were battling it out and needed their own room, which they have at their dad’s. I wanted to equal it out.”
Ms. Woods’s lease was up at the end of 2022, so the first week of that November, she began combing Craigslist, which is how she found the Bronx house. The goal was to be fully situated in a new location by Christmas.
“I wanted a four or five-bedroom home because even though my son is at Howard University, and hardly ever home, I didn’t want him to feel we were moving on without him,” Ms. Woods said. “I thought $5,000 per month would get me that, plus an office.”
Ideal locations were Harlem and Washington Heights, with Yonkers coming third in her preferences, “because those were doorman buildings on the water,” she said. Upon seeing them in person, however, “everything felt scam-ish and unsafe. The postings didn’t have photos or feel authentic.”
She then turned to StreetEasy. Over the next month she saw a number of places and begrudgingly worked with three different brokers, “all who took a fee, which is hard when you’re looking at an expensive rental,” she said. “In the past, I’d found my own places.”
Everything Ms. Woods previewed was too small and too expensive.
“Many bedrooms could only fit the bed. Some weren’t even bedrooms; they were rooms chopped in half to create another because they shared the same window,” she said.
Her hope to be in a house by Christmas faded.
$3,500 | New Rochelle, N.Y.
Kasey Woods, 41
Occupation lifestyle publicist, owner of Mecca Made Media
D.I.Y. Upgrading: “I plan to do ‘rental friendly renovations’ which include growing a garden, doing a peel and stick floor in the kitchen and painting the bedrooms. My daughter Gia has become my reno sidekick. She wants to do her room in pink, orange and yellow stripes. For London, we’re ordering huge theater posters like “Hamilton,” and she loves Elvis. We’re trying to personalize everything since this is the first time each have their own room and no bunk beds,” she said.
Extra Explaining: “I go through extremes to explain to people where I live and how to get here. It’s only a four-minute drive from the train station. I usually pick them up or they take an Uber. Once they see the house, they understand why I moved.”
“I had seen all five boroughs, nothing offered me what I needed,” she said, recalling how defeated she felt. “I had to change my trajectory. The city I loved wasn’t for me anymore.”
In late December,Joseph Silberstrom of Bruma Realty based in the Bronx suggested looking for a rental house in New Rochelle, and showed her an area with townhouses. A newly renovated three-floor, four-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a huge living room, yard, basement and two parking spots for $3,500 per month was a real estate mirage.
She immediately filled out the application, stopped looking at other houses, and awaited approval. Two weeks passed, and Ms. Woods and her children brought in the new year in their house in the Bronx. Ms. Woods extended her lease by a month.
“The man who approves the units went on vacation because it was the end of the year,” she explained. “When he returned, the apartment I was shown was gone.”
But another unit became available, and because Ms. Woods had loved the first one so deeply, took it, sight unseen. Her move-in date was Jan. 15. She was now responsible for two rents, the 12 percent broker’s fee and a deposit.
“Everything became super expensive. And I got overwhelmed,” she said.
Then came the moving issues. A hopeful weekend relocation took a draining and debilitating three weeks. Because of the unexpected costs, Ms. Woods went with cheaper movers only transported some of her belongings because they said she did not correctly describe the inventory. Another mover took her deposit, she said, then ghosted her. Ms. Woods rented a small truck and filled it with boxes to make the 13-minute trip to and from one home to another when she could. Finally, a third mover transported the last of her items.
“I wish I had a bigger support system. Being a single parent in situations like this is hard. The kids did their rooms, but they could only do so much,” added Ms. Woods.
By Feb. 1, the family was moved in.
“London and my room are on the second floor. Gia and my office are on the third,” said Ms. Woods, who explained that it was important for her psyche to leave one room, get coffee downstairs and then move to another room, which is why her office and bedroom aren’t on the same floor. The basement has a pullout couch for when her son comes home from college.
There have been learning curves: Ms. Woods’s new home uses gas. During the first month, she unknowingly drained the tank and was without heat for days. “A hundred gallons costs a lot,” she said.
Ms. Woods thought she would appreciate having stairs, but not so much — especially since there’s no bathroom on the first floor. She misses the city andher bodega. And then there’s the commute to and from Manhattan.
“The commuting can be a lot, but when I walk through the door, and see this great house, that doesn’t have any mice, which we had in our old apartment, it’s worth is,” she said.
There are other positives, too. She takes morning walks around neighborhood for exercise and to explore, something she was unable to do before. “Where I lived wasn’t safe,” she said.
“Plus, I’m giving my family stability,” she said.“Having this house, which feels like a home, has brought us closer together.”
For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.