Even so, Ms. Flores, 25, tried to delay the move. “I knew it would save us money if we stayed at home,” she said.
Their priority was a dog-friendly building for Emma, their Shih Tzu, that was not far from their families, with whom they are close. (Mr. Pena grew up in Elizabeth and Ms. Flores is originally from Ecuador.) Mr. Pena drives throughout New Jersey for his job at a labor union, but he wanted Ms. Flores to have a quick commute to her job as a scientist at a pharmaceutical company.
They were also eager to have their own washer-dryer in the unit. In the past, using a laundromat, “we would waste three or four hours because we would have to babysit our clothes,” Ms. Flores said. “I never want to go back to having to go outside to do laundry.”
For their rental budget they did not want to exceed $1,900 a month. “We didn’t want to stretch it because we had a lot to save for,” Mr. Pena said.
It was easy to check online if a building allowed dogs, and most big apartment buildings had a laundry room — but not all had washer-dryers in the units.
And while they had expected to pay for utilities, they were not prepared for so many fees. Pet costs usually included a one-time pet fee, monthly pet rent and an additional security deposit. They also found application, amenity, parking and administration fees, as well as fees for water and sewer use.
“It was things you would think they would cover and they don’t,” Mr. Pena said.
At the Point at Watchung (in Watchung, N.J.), one-bedrooms started at around $1,800. They thought the interiors seemed outdated and the fees were abundant.
Later, they saw Meridia Lafayette Village, which opened last year in Rahway, where one-bedrooms started at around $1,700. A unit had a through-the-wall air conditioner, which was a welcome change for Mr. Pena, who had lugged window units up and down attic stairs for both families. But the air conditioner was positioned low and limited the ability to arrange furniture. And while there was laundry available, it was not in the unit.
This building allowed for only one parking spot, and they had two cars. The Rahway Transportation Center Garage is nearby, but the garage is full and monthly cards are not available right now.
“No place had what we wanted,” Mr. Pena said. “We learned we would have to sacrifice something for something else. We were torn because we didn’t know what to do.”
They worried they would be stuck at their parents’ homes indefinitely.
But Mr. Pena often drove past a place under construction, the Park, on the site of the former Roselle Golf Club in Roselle. He was intrigued enough to take pictures documenting its progress and send them to Ms. Flores.
One day, as they were driving by, the couple saw landscapers outside, and stopped to inquire at the leasing office. During a return visit, Mr. Pena and Ms. Flores liked what they found: The apartments had in-unit washer-dryers, and also gas stoves. The gas stove was something they had hoped for but didn’t expect.
They signed a lease for a one-bedroom. Parking for two cars is included, but there are assorted other fees, including for trash. With a rental incentive, they pay around $1,570 a month total. The comparatively low cost “allowed us to save more for the wedding,” Mr. Pena said. (One-bedrooms currently start in the low $1,700s.)
They were among the first to arrive when the building opened in May. They chose a top floor, to limit the frequency of passing footsteps — and Emma’s subsequent barking.
Emma gets a walk every night, often on the three-mile trail that is lined with stations to allow for easy disposal of pet waste.
The complex, which is scheduled to be completed in the next six years, will eventually include 932 units. The couple was disappointed that the pool wasn’t ready this summer, but it should be open next year.
To their surprise, they found a home that, Mr. Pena said, “had everything and more than we wanted.”