Looking for a Westchester House, but No Gardening Please. Which Did They Choose?


Shortly after their marriage six years ago, Liz and Justin Martorano bought a two-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op in Scarsdale, N.Y. They chose it, in large part, because of parking.

“The hardest thing to find was two convenient parking spaces,” Mr. Martorano said of their Scarsdale co-op, which came with one outdoor parking spot and the right to buy another for $45 a month.

Both drove to work, Mrs. Martorano, now 35, to her job as an elementary-school psychologist in the Bronx, and Mr. Martorano, 36, to his job in brand marketing in Stamford, Conn.

The setup was fine until last year, when their second son was born. “Lo and behold, the second one came and everything became so much harder,” Mrs. Martorano said. “There were so many more toys. I thought they could share a room, but based on their sleep schedule and ages, that didn’t work out.” (Matthew is now 4, and Thomas is 1.)

Coming and going became a chore. The parking lot was up a hill. It was tough to juggle groceries, a stroller and a toddler. Their decisions about whether to stay home or go out were determined by how hard it was raining. More space and a convenient, child-friendly setup became the priorities.

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The Martoranos contacted Jonathan Mernit of Coldwell Banker, in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., the agent who helped them when they bought the Scarsdale co-op. They told him they wanted a three-bedroom home in a good school district in Westchester, with reasonable taxes.

The couple considered single-family houses, but gravitated toward homeowners’ associations, which came with lower taxes and no need to tend a yard.

“When I was growing up, my dad loved gardening and mowing the lawn,” said Mrs. Martorano, who is from nearby Irvington. “That was his therapy. He liked to have the greenest, lushest grass on the block, so every morning he was moving the sprinkler. We don’t enjoy it like he did.”

As a child growing up in a rowhouse in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx, Mr. Martorano barely even had a yard. So he was fine with not having one now. “Usually you want to get out of your house anyway,” he said. And homeowners’ association complexes often have common outdoor amenities like basketball courts, playgrounds and swimming pools.

With such young children, the Martoranos avoided houses with bedrooms on different floors, as they feared having to run up and down stairs after being awakened in the night by a crying baby.

As they hunted, they became disillusioned with what they called “fake three-bedrooms,” where the third bedroom turned out to be a windowless basement or an attic room.

They were ready to spend up to $650,000, depending on the condition of the home. And they kept an eye on taxes, which typically ranged from $5,000 to $15,000 a year, as well as homeowners’ association fees and the occasional assessment for things like landscaping, repaving and roof repairs.

Among their options, each an attached townhouse with parking:

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