Mr. Hutchinson also noted a lack of electrical outlets. “I don’t like the idea of feeling like I have to put a lamp here because there is only one place there is an outlet,” he said. “It constrains where you can put furniture.” And the room that would be the second bedroom didn’t even have a light switch.
Discouraged, they decided to head to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a short L-train ride from school.
“I know things are really expensive in Manhattan, but I am still surprised how much you have to pay for how little you get,” Mr. Hutchinson said. The extra expense of a MetroCard to take the subway to Brooklyn seemed negligible by comparison.
In Williamsburg, they were encouraged. A ground-floor apartment on Ainslie Street, for $2,900, was better than anything else they had seen, though they were not happy that one bedroom had windows on the street.
A top-floor unit on Driggs Avenue, renting for $3,000, was above a pizza place, but the apartment had high ceilings, exposed brick, a skylight and two similar-size bedrooms. Mr. Hutchinson and Mr. Solomon were interested. “There was an immediate reaction that we knew we were going to live here,” Mr. Solomon said.
Still, Williamsburg seemed so promising that they thought they might see something they liked even more.
On Bedford Avenue, they looked at a large two-bedroom railroad apartment that occupied a whole floor and included a dining room, for $3,100. But the layout seemed odd — one bedroom had two doors, one to the hallway and the other to the second bedroom — and the interior was rundown, with creaky floors.
Another apartment, on Graham Avenue, was within their budget at $2,850, but one bedroom was especially small. “It was an unfair distribution of size,” Mr. Solomon said. Also, the apartment was above a deli and didn’t feel homey.
They knew they wanted the apartment on Driggs, and Mr. Henwood suggested they not hesitate any longer. Mr. Hutchinson and Mr. Solomon used their parents as guarantors, paying a broker’s fee of 15 percent of a year’s rent, or $5,400. They moved in just before the school year started, in August.
Their apartment is comfortable and spacious, furnished primarily with hand-me-downs from Mr. Hutchinson’s mother, as well as items from Ikea.
And life above a pizza parlor?
“The pizza odor is stronger at certain times than others,” Mr. Solomon said. “If I have my windows open, it smells like I am in the pizzeria, which makes me hungry.”
But “no one is bringing me a pizza,” he added, “so it’s a little tantalizing.”