They wanted a house in Los Angeles, without the bidding war. Would their budget be sufficient?

Kenleigh Weber and Andrew Martin were living in a one-bedroom rental in Seattle when their jobs were moved away during the pandemic. Suddenly detached from their offices, the natives of the Pacific Northwest were free to think about where they really wanted to live, and they agreed it was time for more sun and less rain. So they chose Los Angeles, where they had friends.

Last March, the couple rented a townhouse in Highland Park, a working-class neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles, to get a feel for the land. After a few months, Mr. Martin, who had recently cashed in stock options in the company for a down payment, was ready to hunt. As first-time home buyers, however, the couple found themselves facing one of the most formidable markets in the country.

“The price of what you get is crazy,” said Ms. Weber, 28, who met Mr. Martin in 2013 when they worked at a Nordstrom retail store. “I also recognize that I’m from out of state and contributing to higher costs.”

Ms. Weber, who works in marketing, and Mr. Martin, 32, a product manager at an online retail company, loved Highland Park, where the bohemian vibe reminded them of Portland, Oregon. So they began their search there and in the nearby areas of Mount Washington and Eagle Rock.

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The goal was to find a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house ready to move into or close to. Mrs. Weber dreamed of a 1920s Spanish-style house, which looked quintessentially Californian. And they wanted a garden, which they never had.

Ms Weber found an agent, Justin Freeling, of Compass, on Instagram, where her @takesunset team has more than 80,000 followers. Mr Freeling warned that the market was frenetic and competition fierce. “We were bidding and competing with 25 to 35 buyers on some homes,” he said.

In a short time, their initial budget of around $800,000 expanded to $925,000.

Single-family homes priced under $1.2 million in the Eastside of Los Angeles were the most in demand. “For a very long time people were driven out of the Westside,” Mr Freeling said. “Compared to Eastside homes, you get a little more for your money.”

Ms. Weber and Mr. Martin went to open houses most Sundays, but had the luxury of taking their time, as they were comfortable in their rental. They learned that most listing prices were low to encourage bidding wars, so they had to buy in a price range just below their true budget.

Among their options:

Find out what happened next by answering these two questions:

Laura J. Boyer