“I always saw the West Village as a storybook part of New York City, so I wanted at least a year there,” he said. “It was like living on a movie set.”
From his tiny studio on the fourth floor of a walk-up, which he rented for $2,475 a month, it was a short walk to work at the Marie Robinson Salon in the Flatiron district.
But “living in a single room started to make me crazy,” said Mr. DeBolt, 31, who also works as a hair-color expert for Wella Professionals. “It was too easy to mess up one little room.”
Buying an apartment in the city, he figured, would be a good investment. He was willing to live in another no-frills walk-up if he could be in a prime neighborhood close to his workplace, but he wanted a one-bedroom. He also hoped to have an eat-in kitchen where friends could join him around the table.
His budget, which started at around $600,000, quickly increased to $800,000.
Mr. DeBolt began his search last spring and met Stacey Curry, a saleswoman at Brown Harris Stevens, at an open house for a $640,000 alcove studio.
The apartment, in a large, full-service doorman co-op building in the West Village, “wasn’t at all what he was looking for,” said Ms. Curry, who suggested he look at a few one-bedrooms in smaller co-op buildings nearby.
The fourth-floor walk-up he saw in a prime West Village location was typical of those apartments: lovely but tiny. And at $750,000, with monthly maintenance of $1,365, it was near the top of Mr. DeBolt’s price range.
Such a small place with so many stairs wasn’t worth pursuing, he decided, both for his sake and that of his visiting relatives. The idea of “watching my mom hoof up four flights,” he said, “wasn’t great.”
Nor did he think an apartment would appreciate much “in an area that had already seen a big run-up in prices,” Ms. Curry said.
At her suggestion, he accompanied her on a Citi Bike ride and discovered that “I could explore an area of the city that I didn’t know really well — Citi Bike really did change my experience of New York,” he said. It also allowed him to expand his hunt to the East Village.
On Avenue C near 12th Street, at a 2010 condominium called the Calyx, he saw a sunny studio of around 750 square feet with a washer-dryer.
The apartment was listed at $825,000, with monthly charges of less than $1,100, but it had the high closing costs common to new condominium developments, where the buyer pays the transfer tax and the sponsor’s attorney fees, Ms. Curry said.
Mr. DeBolt had budgeted up to $30,000 for closing costs, but would have needed substantially more than that. The studio eventually sold for $805,000.
In the East Village, Ms. Curry said, most of the places he saw were in old walk-up tenement buildings that were cramped and dark: “There were a lot of tragic flaws; one was renovated but was almost too taste-specific, done in all white with dark floral wallpaper in the bathroom.”
Then, one summer morning, while biking to more showings in the East Village, Mr. DeBolt saw a one-bedroom near East Houston Street.
It was a resale in a 2003 condominium building, so the closing costs were in line with his budget, and the apartment was nearly 800 square feet.
“The kitchen is larger than the suburban kitchen that I grew up with in Minnesota,” Mr. DeBolt said.
The building also had an elevator and a laundry room in the basement, as well as a view of a quiet, green courtyard out back.
“I had seen so many apartments that had yucky views,” he said. “Or no views: $900,000 studios where you looked at a wall? It’s crazy.”
The asking price was $850,000, with monthly charges of nearly $1,500. Mr. DeBolt paid $805,000, moving in last month.
Thanks to the extra counter in the kitchen, he doesn’t even need a kitchen table. And the less-frenzied neighborhood suits him better than his old one.
“I am really falling in love with Alphabet City. There is so much life over here,” he said.
“I feel O.K. being a little bit removed,” he added. “If that means walking 10 minutes to the subway or exercising my intense, newfound passion for Citi Bike, that’s what I do: I Citi Bike to work every day.”