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The Boomerang Tenant: Returning to the Apartment You Once Loved

 For some New Yorkers, finding a new place to live means heading back to your old apartment building.
For some New Yorkers, finding a new place to live means heading back to your old apartment building.
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NEW YORK CITY — Several years after James Abraham sold his apartment in a six-story building on East 9th Street, he pined to return.

He sold his studio "reluctantly," based on advice he had gotten that "it was a good time to sell" and moved to the West Village, recounted Abraham, who owns several bars in the East Village.

"I regretted it,” he said. “I loved the building. I loved the neighborhood."

When Abraham found out that there was an opening in his old building, he moved back.

It's not uncommon for New Yorkers to speak about past apartments like long lost loves, but in some extreme cases, house hunters are so infatuated with their old digs that they are willing to pay a premium  to return, brokers said.

“I’ve worked with many people who talk wistfully about some great apartment they should never have left,” said Janine Young, a broker with BOND real estate, who worked with Abraham.  “It’s the one that got away.”

But she knew that Abraham's form of tenant remorse was stronger than most.

“He talked about how the building had the best water pressure for showers," she recounted.

The original apartment wasn’t available, but an alcove studio on the top floor was up for sale.

“He paid more to get back into the building, but he’d always wanted to be on the top floor," Young said.

Once Karla Saladino lived in The Caroline, a high-rise apartment building in Flatiron, it was hard to live anywhere else.

“You just feel totally taken care of — the attention to detail, and the warmth of the place is hard to beat,” Saladino said. “You realize that even more when you leave.”

The 34-year-old had been renting an apartment with two roommates at the doorman building for several years, but then moved with a boyfriend to a pre-war building on the Upper West Side. Within a year, she convinced him to move back to the Caroline with her.

It wasn't just the speedy responses of the building staff replacing light bulbs or the dry cleaning services and gym, it was also the sense of community the building fostered, she said.

“They throw these events for residents, even things like a taco night, or a bagel breakfast — it’s always something to make the building feel very homey.”

Saladino, a broker herself with Mirador Real Estate, liked the building so much that she began working for the developer.

“You see so many people live here for years, or it’s a place that people keep coming back to, or bring new friends and family members into," she said.

Pat Carrajat and his wife, who live in City Lights, a condo in Long Island City, moved out twice but won't be leaving again.

They first bought a one-bedroom in the building in 1999 for $172,500. Six years later, they decided to move to the Upper East Side, where many of their friends lived.

They missed their Long Island City home, with their fantastic views of Manhattan and ample space and returned to City Lights a year later, first to a one-bedroom and then to a two-bedroom penthouse on the 42nd floor.

The couple then sold that unit in May 2014 for $640,000, deciding they wanted to rent as they got older since they wanted to travel more.

But the nearby rental building they moved into never felt quite right.

"The rental building had more of a transient, 20-something crowd," Carrajat, 70, said. "It wasn't the right place for us. At City Lights you have diversity of ages, and we have a level of comfort here that I think you realize when you're gone."

Less than a year later, they paid $850,000 to get back into City Lights.

Their new penthouse is now on the 43rd floor. It has some upgraded features, but Carrajat attributes the price jump to the market's rising prices, not a much better apartment.

Still, the price increase didn't dampen their desire to get back in.

"Lots of buildings have amenities, but it's also about the feel of a place," said Carrajat. "You want to come home everyday and really feel like you're home."

Now, Carrajat said, this will be his last home. "I'll tell you this, the next time I move out of this place, it'll be in a box."