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(NYT) — Nicole Paris’s daughter Julia is a well-spoken high school freshman who likes math and history, plays three sports and rehearses German and Italian arias. Her 9-year-old sister, Natalie, enjoys hip-hop dance classes, making crafts with markers and paints, and planning events like her birthday party.

This summer they picked up another skill: advising their mother on what apartment she should rent.

They did not like a sprawling fifth-floor walk-up near East End Avenue in Manhattan. The issue was not so much the stairs as the separated kitchen and dining spaces, which would have made it hard for them to chat with their mother while she cooked. And the stove was so small that it could not accommodate standard-size cookie sheets, let alone a Thanksgiving turkey.

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