But where to go? Last year, they gave themselves six months to find a place to buy. If they failed, they would rent again. In the meantime, they decided, the best option was to live with their mothers, both of whom owned houses. So the newlyweds temporarily split up.
With a budget of up to $450,000, they were looking for a house with at least three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a yard — plus a basement they could rent out if they ever needed the income. They disagreed about where to look. Each had an allegiance to her own childhood neighborhood, but homes in both places were too expensive or would cost too much to fix up.
“Some things we could not agree on,” Leshawn said. “KaRon wanted the possibility of air rights, to build up. I was like, What? This doesn’t make sense.”
By process of elimination, they settled on the Bronx, though it was unfamiliar territory. “We had no experience with the Bronx other than the Bronx Zoo,” Leshawn said. But they bought a membership to the New York Botanical Garden and started attending classes and exhibitions there.
They found they loved the borough’s houses, with their high ceilings and large rooms. They saw many spec houses that were fully renovated, as well as some that had basic renovations with new paint and appliances.
KaRon kept an eye on transit options. “I needed to be by the train and a rail, in case one group goes on strike,” she said.
They were interested in a two-story brick house on Weiher Court in Morrisania, listed at $379,000. A renovation was in progress when they visited.
The problem was the backyard, a cement rectangle adjacent to a parking lot. Worse, the yard was accessible only from the basement, so renting it out would have eliminated their access to the yard altogether.
A two-family house on Adams Street in Van Nest was listed for $475,000. Built on hilly terrain, it had a metal bridge leading to the entrance. “I didn’t know how to react to that house,” KaRon said. “The place was beautiful, but the setup was just weird.”
Most of the houses they saw were short on curb appeal, she said. But in many cases, “when you walked in, you were pleasantly surprised.”
In Bedford Park, not far from the botanical garden, they found a listing for a newly renovated house with three bedrooms, four bathrooms and a finished basement for $475,000. The yard was overgrown, with piles of trash. But both loved the interior, with a vestibule by the entrance and a bay window in the master bedroom.
Negotiations began but proceeded slowly because of the many Jewish holidays in the fall. Their offer of $450,000 was accepted. When they received the bank’s appraisal of $405,000, however, they renegotiated, seeking advice from a cousin of KaRon’s who owned several residential properties. “My cousin said, ‘Relax, no one else is going to pay more than this,’” she said.
After a few weeks, the seller agreed to the lower price. The Joyners arrived last winter, relieved to finally have their own place. Leshawn transferred to a library in the Bronx; now she either walks to work or takes the Metro-North train. KaRon sometimes bicycles around the neighborhood, although some hills are so steep she must dismount and walk up them.
Their first order of business was to clear the dead trees in the backyard. “I was paranoid every time it rained,” fearing falling branches, Leshawn said.
Though relatives must be persuaded to come so far, the Joyners are happy they found “the courage to leave our childhood boroughs,” KaRon said. And their new neighborhood has the homey feel they both grew up with.
“People know each other — people are walking, people are biking, everyone has a dog or a kid,” she said. “I know some of my neighbors’ names. It feels like a community.”