For that budget, an apartment in a postwar building on the East Side made sense. “Gian couldn’t care less about trendy neighborhoods,” Mr. Lahav said. “He wasn’t the type of client who would pay a premium. He is a numbers guy. He makes a decision like a computer would.”
Last winter, Mr. Pangilinan was tempted by a large one-bedroom on East 54th Street. The price was $725,000, which soon dropped to $699,000, and the monthly maintenance was $1,300.
But the apartment faced the monolithic Franklin D. Roosevelt Station post office. “You see nothing; you see tiles,” Mr. Pangilinan said. “It’s like a fortress, which might be good because no one can see in.”
His offer of $675,000 was declined. If he had seen the apartment later in his search he might have bid more, Mr. Lahav said, “but because it was early on, he was looking for ways to find fault with it.” The unit eventually sold for just over the asking price.
Then mortgage-interest rates began rising and “my numbers all changed,” Mr. Pangilinan said. Some apartments now cost more than his $3,500 limit, so they were dropped from the list.
Except for places in poor condition, every apartment he saw seemed acceptable. “For the most part, if it was a fair price, I could live there,” he said.
There was one notable exception: a large one-bedroom on East 56th Street, listed at $640,000, with maintenance of just over $1,400. The layout seemed peculiar, with the front door adjacent to the stove. “He couldn’t get the kitchen out of his head,” Mr. Lahav said. It later sold for $630,000.
Around the same time, he saw a one-bedroom on Third Avenue in the 60s. “I had to hide my excitement over the kitchen,” Mr. Pangilinan said. “I was measuring it and really imagining what it would be like. I could see people while I cooked.” The apartment was listed for $629,000, with maintenance of just over $1,400.
Others were interested, too. Mr. Pangilinan offered $620,000 and then increased his offer to the asking price; the higher offer was accepted.
His board interview was brief, with a reminder that the building did not allow dogs. “You can have cats and, I guess, a turtle,” he said. “I don’t have any pets; I have a plant.”
Mr. Pangilinan closed in the summer and painted with the help of friends. The doorman received some noise complaints. “When you close a can of paint, you have to hammer it, and I would do it at night,” Mr. Pangilinan said. “I shouldn’t have been doing that.” He has since added rugs with padding underneath.
In his new kitchen, he said, guests can “see me prepare and plate dinner — it’s a better experience for them.” Now he sometimes even prints menus for those five-course meals, which are eaten at a proper table.
And as for that $3,500 monthly outlay? He ended up exceeding it by $44.
He intended to make a large down payment, but changed his mind at the last minute and put down only 25 percent, the minimum required by the building. With interest rates still relatively low, he said, “I figured I could invest and earn more than 3.5 percent a year.”