As an environmental engineer, Michael Quinn is accustomed to making logical decisions. But two years ago, after getting divorced and selling the family house in White Plains, N.Y., he tried not to be so analytical.

“I decided to listen to my heart and let that guide me,” said Mr. Quinn, 56. Although he had never lived in the city, he took a chance on Manhattan and landed in a Murray Hill luxury building, paying $4,700 a month — which, after a year, rose to $4,850 — for a “flex” one-bedroom with 850 square feet.

The apartment was big enough to split the living room with a pressurized wall, creating a sleeping area for the younger of his two sons, Jonah, who moved in shortly after graduating from Syracuse University.

“I liked living in the city enough to look at my options to buy,” Mr. Quinn said. But he wanted a new location — more of a neighborhood and less of a business district. And after coming out as gay a few years ago, he wanted to be closer to hubs of gay life on the West Side.

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A year ago, he began visiting open houses, worried that “Manhattan real estate is a frenzy.” But the hunt wasn’t as tough as he had feared. “I could see that I could definitely afford something, but I didn’t know where or how big,” he said.

He quickly learned that the West Village was out of his budget of $900,000 or so, and began focusing on Midtown West. One priority was a second bedroom or a space that could serve, at least temporarily, as a bedroom for Jonah and a guest room for his many visiting relatives. A bike storage room was also a must.

It was difficult to find a true two-bedroom in the area for less than $1 million, said his real estate agent, Ronald Stabiner, a licensed salesman at Keller Williams NYC, but Mr. Quinn was flexible. “People always reset their expectations going forward,” Mr. Stabiner said.

For the right price, Mr. Quinn was fine with renovating. “I am not handy myself,” he said, “but being an engineer, I understand and have been involved in many construction projects.”

Among his options:

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