For 40 years, Robert Wu and his wife, Sally, owned a three-bedroom house in Ridgewood, N.J. They reared their son and daughter there, and rented out the house for 20 years when Mr. Wu worked in Hong Kong and China. Their renters were “mostly Japanese executives, and except for one they were good tenants,” he said.
But after his wife died two years ago, “the house became too cavernous, too lonely,” he said. “There were parts of the house I never set foot in. It brought back a lot of memories, so I decided to sell the house and move back to New York.”
Mr. Wu, 77, grew up in Flushing, Queens, after immigrating from Hong Kong with his family as a young teenager. He studied engineering at New York University and later went into management.
“I realize that, at my age, the apartment will be the last home that I will have,” he said. “So I want to make sure it will be a home I don’t mind living in for the rest of my life. I wanted to have everything I need, which is privacy, view, convenience, nice construction, good layout, things like that.”
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With a budget of up to $650,000, he began looking for a one-bedroom in Flushing, dense with Asian restaurants and food vendors. “I don’t like to cook,” he said. “I was spoiled because my wife was a good cook and she taught Chinese cooking for a while, so having access to ready food was important to me.”
But while Flushing’s food was appealing, its teeming sidewalks weren’t. “The frenetic energy does not fit my sentiment right now,” he said. “I value serenity.”
As for the housing stock, there were plenty of six-story apartment buildings with elevators, but he found them uninspiring.
So he headed south to Forest Hills, a neighborhood he was familiar with from his school days. “I had a very good feeling about Forest Hills,” he said.
With the help of his agent, Christine Wei of Exit Realty One, who was referred by a friend, he saw nearly 40 places. “I was feeling guilty that I was overusing the real estate agent,” he said. “She was almost ready to give up on me.”
He discovered that Forest Hills’s high-rises — many built in the mid-1960s and loaded with amenities like parking garages and private outdoor space — were more to his liking.
Among his options:
A one-bedroom on a high floor in this 25-story building near Forest Hills Stadium was around 1,000 square feet, with a dining room and a balcony, but it needed renovation. The price was $525,000, with monthly maintenance in the high $1,200s.
This one-bedroom, near the top of an 18-story building on Queens Boulevard, was around 1,000 square feet, with a dining room and two sunny terraces. The E/F express stop was just downstairs, and the building had a loose rental policy. The price was $575,000, with maintenance of a little over $1,800.
An 800-square-foot one-bedroom with a balcony on a high floor in this 33-story Queens Boulevard building, four blocks from the E/F express stop, had been extensively renovated in white. The asking price was $495,000, with maintenance of around $1,200.
Find out what happened next by answering these two questions:
Which Would You Choose?
Which Did He Choose?