When Google asked Mr. Mossel how he would feel about moving to New York, he was pleasantly surprised, but said he would have to run it by his husband. Mr. Rinaldi, a singer, actor and theater buff, was, if anything, even more thrilled by the prospect.
Warned off by their friends from trying to find a place in Manhattan — “they told us it would be too expensive, too small, too crazy,” Mr. Rinaldi said — the couple decided to look at Jersey City, Hoboken, Queens and Brooklyn. But even coming from the Bay Area, where housing is known to be pricey, they were surprised by how expensive and small apartments were outside of Manhattan.
In Mountain View, where the two had lived after leaving behind a decrepit, if well located, apartment in San Francisco, they had had a new mother-in-law apartment of about 1,000 square feet, with polished concrete floors and high ceilings, for $2,650 a month. (The mother-in-law for whom the unit had been designed had declined to take up residence.)
Their current place costs $3,605 a month, although by signing a 27-month lease they got three months free. “It’s a little painful,” admitted Mr. Rinaldi, who worked full-time as a voice and piano teacher and an actor/singer in the Bay Area but who now also works as an operations coordinator at the educational nonprofit Breakthrough NY. “But we looked at a lot of places that cost the same and were not as nice.”
Mr. Mossel agreed: “It was definitely the top end.” They had initially given themselves a budget of $2,500 to $3,000 a month, but reluctantly increased it to $3,500 after noticing that their options vastly improved once they went over $3,000.
Their apartment has the trifecta of features that, in addition to being an easy train ride from Manhattan, included things that local friends had cautioned about expecting: air-conditioning, a dishwasher and a washer/dryer unit.
Their other requirements were few. Mr. Rinaldi is a devotee of the decluttering guru Marie Kondo, and the only thing Mr. Mossel ever collected was piles of paperwork, so they didn’t feel that they needed a whole lot of square footage (they had done a huge book purge before leaving California). Still, they hadn’t wanted to live in a shoe box. One of the selling points of their current place, Mr. Rinaldi said, was that “it actually had a floor plan,” with a small entrance area by the front door and a hallway connecting the living room and the bedroom, unlike many of the one-bedrooms they saw.
Though it has been thoroughly Kondo-d, the apartment’s décor is far from bland. Keeping only what you love means having a space that better reflects you, Mr. Rinaldi said. To wit, he has a pastel-and-pencil sketch of an owl done by his mother and 50 smoking pipes, down from 300.
The men were ambivalent about living in new construction, but after looking at a handful of not-so-nice older walk-ups in Fort Greene that were just as expensive, they figured why not.
One landlord, Mr. Mossel recalled, took him down to a basement with low ceilings to show him the washer and dryer, which were behind a cage. “It’s like ‘Silence of the Lambs,’” the landlord remarked. “I was like, ‘That’s not really a selling point,’” Mr. Mossel said.
Unlike some circumstantial transplants, who find the quirks of living in New York more exasperating than exhilarating, the couple considers even the city’s pricklier aspects charming. “I love that New Yorkers speak up and don’t suffer fools,” Mr. Rinaldi said.
He described a recent visit to the hardware store. As he was leaving, the man coming in (“a pretty big-sized guy, like a construction worker”) told him not to hold the door. As Mr. Rinaldi paused, perplexed, the man said: “You’re too big.”
“He was right!” Mr. Rinaldi said. “We would have had to shimmy past each other. He was sincerely explaining why he didn’t want the door held.”