The apartment, though spacious and bright, was falling apart. The dingy bathroom, with its peeling tub, “scared my nieces when they visited,” Mr. Hall said. Water dripped from the bathroom light fixture, and one day the ceiling caved in.
When his roommate moved back home, Mr. Hall considered keeping the apartment for himself. But turnover upstairs meant that he again had a stomping neighbor. The building was sold, and his rent was scheduled to rise to $4,000 a month from around $2,400.
Change was afoot in other ways, too. Mr. Hall, now 44, an advertising copywriter, landed a job as a creative director at the Grey Group. And his boyfriend, Rafael Candotti, 28, moved from his native Brazil to join him in New York. The two met in Rio almost three years ago when both were on vacation.
Last summer the men decided to move. For their price, up to $2,500 a month, Mr. Hall expected an upgrade, since the rent would now be going toward a one-bedroom rather than a two-bedroom.
For help with the hunt, Mr. Hall contacted Dominic Coluccio of Nest Seekers International, whom he knew through friends.
Mr. Hall, who is from the Cincinnati suburbs, wanted to be sure that the neighborhood would be lively and fun for Mr. Candotti. He was ready for a change, too.
“Since I met him, Andrew was always looking to move from the East Village,” said Mr. Candotti, who is from Londrina in southern Brazil. He learned English as a teenager in Iceland, having gone there with his father, a farmer who had an opportunity to work there.
“For me, somebody from Brazil, New York is New York, doesn’t matter where,” Mr. Candotti said. “For me, everything was new, everything was exciting.”
A one-bedroom basement apartment was available on West 10th Street for $2,100 a month, a low price for the area.
Busy at work, Mr. Hall had Mr. Candotti check it out.
Mr. Candotti did not like the bars on the windows. And the place was so tiny, he said, that you could never leave clothes on the floor or groceries on the table. “You have to organize everything.”
They liked a one-bedroom in a new building on Hester Street. The men were amazed that the rent for such a handsome place was only $2,400. But the place reeked of cigarette smoke. They doubted the odor could be painted away. And they preferred a less bustling neighborhood.
The couple answered an ad that emphasized, in capital letters, “THIS IS ON THE 7TH FLOOR OF A WALK-UP BUILDING.” On Macdougal Street in the heart of Greenwich Village, it rented for $2,195 a month. To Mr. Hall, the prospect of having no upstairs neighbors was thrilling.
The apartment was small but cute, with brick walls. “I thought, wow, I want to live here,” Mr. Candotti said. “It is near to the Washington Square Park and for me it’s like living in the middle of everything, very handy. We almost said yes.”
But then, Mr. Candotti said, “I started to think: imagine seven floors every day, and 10 bags to carry.”
After insisting they did not mind so many flights, they were too embarrassed to tell the listing agent about their change of heart. So they said the place was too small.
They decided to check out new construction in Brooklyn. And they raised their target price to $3,000 a month, hoping to land modern amenities, a top-floor location and outdoor space. “I thought, let’s go for the full monty,” Mr. Hall said.
At a building on Conselyea Street in Williamsburg, near the Lorimer stop on the L train, several units were available. Their favorite, for $3,000, was bright with windows and generous with closet space.
“I never had a big closet my whole life,” Mr. Candotti said, “and I started to imagine my clothes inside.”
The agent went to the apartment upstairs and stomped around to make sure they wouldn’t hear anything. But they did not find the place special enough to justify paying so much rent.
A top-floor listing arose nearby, on Skillman Avenue. This apartment, at $2,900 a month, had two terraces — one off the bedroom and a larger one off the living room. Instead of neighbors, there were views.
Excited, they signed on, paying a broker fee of 14 percent of a year’s rent, or almost $4,900. “It was a lot of money,” Mr. Hall said, “but for us to find what we wanted, it was money well spent. I so wanted my next place to be nice.”
The couple arrived in the fall. They love the larger terrace, which has a utility closet they call the shed, good for storage.
“I feel I have rejoined civilization,” Mr. Hall said. No longer must he hang a bag of trash on a doorknob until the next trip down “to the garbage cans out front that hobos pick through,” he said. “Now we have this civilized garbage chute that goes to a trash compactor.”
The views change with weather and season. “We sit and look at Manhattan like it’s a lava lamp,” Mr. Hall said.
The men — who were married in Brazil in the fall — have a new joke. When faced with a flight of stairs, Mr. Candotti says, “Just imagine — seven floors.” They crack up every time.