Since college graduation, Denise Francis had been saving up to move out of the two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn where she lived her whole life.
"Now, at the age of 27, I was finally able to move into that dream apartment," Francis tells CNBC Make It.
In July, Francis signed the lease for a one-bedroom loft for $1,850 a month located in Yonkers, a city in Westchester County, about 30 minutes from Manhattan.
"Once I got the keys and I opened up the doors, I started doing two things: screaming and crying," Francis says.
Francis is the arts and culture director at a nonprofit in Brooklyn; a YouTube content creator; the CEO and founder of the Self Love Organization, an online wellness community and club for women of color; and a graduate student at New York University.
As an only child used to living with her mom and puppy, Francis was ready for the next step.
"I was just so excited, because finally I feel like I reached that milestone in adulthood where I finally have my own space to curate for me, by me to live my best life," she says.
Saving a year's worth of rent
Living at home for so long wasn't always the plan — in fact, Francis hoped to move out when she turned 21. "For some reason, every year, something just kept happening," she says. "Either I didn't make enough money, or I lost my job or I had to stop because of family emergencies. It just never seemed to work."
"Instead, I used all those years to continue saving," Francis says.
Before landing her current salaried job, she was working a mix of part-time gigs, which made long-term saving a challenge. She was also helping her mom cover rent and bills while living at home.
By 2020, thanks to a salaried job and a recent promotion, Francis had saved $20,000, enough money to cover about a year's worth of rent.
"Once I reached that goal number of $20,000, I knew that I was more than ready to be financially stable to move into my first ever dream apartment," she says. (Today, she still saves a few hundred dollars a month.)
A 'Brooklyn girl' in Yonkers
"When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I dreamed about living by the [Brooklyn Heights] Promenade, or in Cobble Hill or getting a brownstone in Park Slope," Francis says. But as she entered adulthood, it became clear that these neighborhoods were out of her budget.
The median asking rents for Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and Park Slope are $2,850, $2,800 and $2,795 a month respectively, according to StreetEasy data. Typical monthly rent in Yonkers is $2,191 a month, according to data from Zillow shared with CNBC Make It.
Compromising on location was easy once Francis saw what she could get in Yonkers. "This Brooklyn girl ended up in Yonkers because this had all the things that I needed: the complete loft upstairs, the different rooms and more than enough space," she says.
"It really hurt my soul that I had to leave my hometown to be able to find and afford an apartment of my dreams," Francis says.
Luckily, she has to commute to Brooklyn daily for work, and still goes home to visit her mom.
"Me and Brooklyn are not broken up yet, but I do miss my hometown," she says.