THE BUYER Yvette Maiello, right, with her daughter Paige and her dog, Elsa Marie.Credit…Robert Wright for The New York Times
Yvette Maiello, a hospice nurse originally from the Bronx, spent much of her adult life living in a two-family house on Leonard Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She and her ex-husband raised their twin daughters there.
“We bought the house when no one wanted to live in Williamsburg,” said Ms. Maiello, now 47. That was nearly 20 years ago.
As part of her divorce agreement, the house was to be sold when the girls, Paige and Victoria, graduated from college. Last year they finished at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
The tight-knit neighborhood that Ms. Maiello had known and loved had changed irrevocably, she said, with rowhouses replaced by large developments.
“You knew all your neighbors,” she said. “You said hello and got into, ‘Hey, did you hear about so-and-so?’ Now everybody is pretty isolated. Nobody invites you in anymore.”
She faced practical issues, too. Ms. Maiello works nights at the hospice inpatient residence at Menorah Center in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, and drives to work so she needs a spot to park near home.
She once had her pick of street parking spots in Williamsburg, but they have become ever more scarce. Development — down her block and across the street — was not just noisy and dirty, but construction equipment consumed precious space.
Last spring, Ms. Maiello set out to find a new home, preferably a two- or three-family house, with room for the twins and possibly a rental unit. Williamsburg prices had skyrocketed, and she couldn’t afford to remain in her neighborhood.
But she wasn’t nostalgic. “Let’s sell this house and start afresh,” she said. “I didn’t want to be near development. I wanted community.” Most important to her was something intangible — the feel of a traditional home, filled with food and friends.
She also wanted a place to park her car and a finished basement for her daughters. “Their friends, when they come in droves, can go downstairs,” she said. Her budget was $1 million to $1.6 million.
Through a friend, Ms. Maiello was referred to Gabriella Santoro, a licensed saleswoman at Bond New York, who lined up six places that seemed suitable.
In Ridgewood, Queens, a renovated four-family dwelling on Fresh Pond Road was listed at $1.65 million, but Ms. Maiello found it modern and cold. “I want to maintain the sense of family and comfort that original house gave us,” she said. “I wasn’t looking for a beautiful new kitchen.”
This one felt more like an apartment building or an investment property, Ms. Santoro said. And it lacked parking.
But an attached brick three-family house in Glendale, Queens, listed for $1.1 million, seemed like the opposite. “I felt I was walking into a relative’s house,” Ms. Maiello said. It had the finished basement she wanted and a two-car garage.
“I envisioned the girls upstairs and me cooking,” she said. “Let’s say they leave and come back. I can give them an apartment. I can raise grandchildren and have them here with me. It felt like this was it.”
Ms. Santoro and Ms. Maiello had other places lined up that day. A two-family house on Harman Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn, for almost $1.4 million, had been renovated and flipped. “You end up paying for renovations you never would have asked for,” Ms. Santoro said. It, too, lacked parking.
Besides, Ms. Maiello was stuck on the Glendale house. She made an offer the day after she saw it, for $950,000. After negotiations, she paid just below $1 million. “Yvette wanted to avoid the mansion tax and the sellers were sympathetic,” Ms. Santoro said, referring to the additional 1 percent tax on residential sales of $1 million or more in New York City.
Ms. Maiello’s Williamsburg home was sold to a developer around the same time, for just under $2 million.
Ms. Maiello arrived in late summer, along with Elsa Marie, her white German shepherd. She kept the two-bedroom unit on the ground floor for herself. The twins will be moving into the two-bedroom on the second floor but are staying with her until it is finished. She has a tenant in other second-floor apartment, which is a one-bedroom.
Ms. Maiello has no interest in any improvements besides structural ones. Her first task was to repair a collapsing part of an outside wall. The electricity also needs upgrading and some plumbing needs repair. Her budget for fixes is $60,000.
“Nothing is modern,” she said. “It is so freeing. The kitchen feels warm and inviting. There is no pretense.”
She tells visitors to make themselves at home. “I would rather you leave and say ‘I had a really nice time’ than ‘What a beautiful piece of furniture,’” she said.
The house is near a bus stop, so the noise is a bit difficult. Schools are also nearby, as are many young pedestrians. “Everyone talks to the crossing guard,” Ms. Maiello said. “I know this because I hear every conversation.”
As in the old days in her former neighborhood, everyone seems to know one another. “The openness of the neighbors is incredible,” she said. When Ms. Maiello was walking her dog, she and a fellow German shepherd owner who is a plumber struck up a conversation. He will be doing some of her repairs. “I found a plumber just by walking my dog,” she said.