They didn’t need fancy amenities or a garden, but cabins would be nice. Which Brooklyn apartment did they choose?

For more than a decade, JV Mercanti and Joe Ferrari have rented a sunny railroad apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Unlike many ground floor units in the neighborhood, which used to have paved yards, this one comes with a wraparound garden, which the couple renovated with the owner’s permission.

They removed the overgrowth, transforming the space into an oasis of native herbs and perennials, and left trailing iris bulbs in a front bin for the neighbors to take in. “Now our irises are all over the neighborhood,” said Mr. Mercante, professor of theater and director at Pace University.

“It was such a fun place to live,” said Mr. Ferrari, who was so inspired by the garden he quit his job as a retail executive and opened a garden shop called Tend Greenpoint.

The couple, now in their mid-forties, knew many of their neighbors and had many dinners and parties at the house. But the building was noisy, and the apartment didn’t have cupboards. Also, the only interior door was to the bathroom.

That was a problem, because the couple didn’t spend the same hours. “Sometimes I watch horror movies, and it drives Joe crazy if he’s in the bedroom listening to folk rock,” Mr. Mercante said.

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One day, they calculated how much they had paid over the years of rent, which rose to $2,800 per month from $2,100. Alarmed by the number—more than $400,000—they decided it would be wise to buy. So they started looking for a one-bedroom, with the help of a friend, Christophe Tidjaskmana, a broker involved with the Corcoran Group.

With a budget of up to $800,000, they couldn’t afford Greenpoint — or rather, “there were things at its price point, but it just wasn’t big enough,” Mr. Tedjasukmana said.

The couple hoped to find a place close to the G train, so that Mr. Ferrari could walk from the Greenpoint Avenue station to his shop and Mr. Mercanti could go to the A/C to get to his office in the Financial District. They also wanted greater privacy. Otherwise, they were flexible.

“The bedroom door was a necessity, but everything else was kind of negotiable,” Mr. Mercante said. They were not interested in luxury amenities and were willing to give up garden space – Mr. Ferrari had plenty of plants to tend to at his workplace.

They thought of some ground floor duplexes, which often have garden space, but in one case they saw water on the floor of the utility room downstairs, which was enough to scare them.

Among their options:

Find out what happened next by answering these two questions:

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