Last summer, when the pandemic was still raging, Molly Barth was contemplating moving from her one-bedroom apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey to Brooklyn, New York.
Many of Barth's friends live in Brooklyn, and Barth, 27, and her boyfriend, Nicholas Corrado, 26, "wanted to try a new neighborhood out," she tells CNBC Make It. The couple also desperately needed additional space for their work-from-home setups. Barth is a strategist at a consulting agency in Manhattan and Corrado works in real estate.
There was just one problem: The amenities offered in the Brooklyn buildings paled in comparison to the ones they had grown accustomed to in Jersey.
"None of the stuff that we found was like really piquing our interest," says Barth. "So, we came back to Jersey City." In fact, they stayed in their same luxury apartment building, but upgraded to a bigger apartment one floor up.
Barth and Corrado went from paying $3,012 a month for a one-bedroom in Jersey City to paying $4,320 a month for a two-bedroom apartment.
Two-bedroom turned office space
The main priority when moving last summer was finding a place with a home office space that they could use to "have more space and flexibility with our work schedules," Barth says. (She will have a hybrid schedule even after her office reopens in September.)
"Before, when we both had phone calls, we would have to one person would go into the bedroom and one person would have to stay in the living room," she says.
The couple searched for apartments with either a second bedroom or a smaller den, with their monthly budget capped at $4,500. "We happened to find a two-bed that was within our budget, which was really great," Barth says.
Now with two bedrooms, Barth usually works in the room they made into an office during the day, while Corrado works in the living room and kitchen. Then, at night, he gets the office to play video games with his friends.
The office also helps create division between work and home, Barth says. "Having my office, I'm able to focus a lot more in there," she says. "Then when I want to break, I can come out here and talk to him, hang out on the couch a little bit."
Paying more for amenities
The apartment amenities are what sold Barth on staying in Jersey City. "We get a lot more for our money here [than in Brooklyn], even though we are paying a significant amount in rent," she says.
For Barth, the building's gym, which has several Peloton bikes and a fitness studio, is a huge perk. "I'm a really big fan of Peloton; I do the rides several times a week," she says. "That was another thing that we were considering when we were moving: I would probably want to buy my own Peloton bike if we moved into another apartment."
There's also a pool for residents on the roof, with a grill area and a dog run. "We've started to have friends over and it's really fun to hang out by the pool, especially when it gets so hot during the summer here," she says.
The building also has a 24-hour concierge service, a package room and an Amazon Hub for pickups and returns. There's even a coffee shop in the lobby, with ample seating area to work, have meetings or relax.
'The best views of New York City'
Jersey City is located in northeastern New Jersey and is adjacent to Lower Manhattan. From Barth's dining room table, she can see the southern tip of Manhattan out the window. Elsewhere in the apartment, they have views of the Empire State Building and Midtown.
"I always say to people, you get the best views of New York City from Jersey City," Barth says.
Barth, who is originally from Montclair, New Jersey, says she often gets grief from her friends and coworkers for living in New Jersey.
"There's a lot of misconceptions about Jersey City, that it's not really a fun or interesting place to be," she says. But Barth says she likes the laid-back vibe and sense of community that she gets there.
When Barth lived in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, "I never really got an escape," she says. "I also worked in Manhattan and I felt like when I went home, there was still so much going on and it was so busy that I never really was able to relax."
"What I love about Jersey City is that there's a lot less of that intensity and that high energy," Barth says. She and Corrado often go on walks along the Hudson River and go out to eat at local restaurants.
And if she needs to go into Manhattan for work or to see friends, it's only a five-minute train ride from her Jersey City stop at Exchange Place to the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
Sign up now: Get smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter