DO THE MATH
Before you start to look around, recalculate how much house you can afford. “Interest rates are so low that many buyers can go up in purchase price,” says Insignia Douglas Elliman’s Helene Luchnick.
KNOW WHERE TO LOOK
In a down market, property values in better neighborhoods hold up more than those in fringe areas. “People don’t need to go to the fringes anymore,” says Michele Kleier of Gumley Haft Kleier. Lower Manhattan is still relatively affordable in the wake of 9/11. Murray Hill is “a sleeping giant,” says Corcoran’s Scott Durkin. Nearly every area has bargains if you’re willing to renovate.
The current market offers deals but not steals. “This fantasy buyers have that now’s the moment to offer 50 percent of the asking price—that’s not happening,” says Ashforth Warburg president Frederick Peters.
DON'T BUY ON PRICE ALONE
Remember: You have to live in your apartment, presumably for a long time—especially if the market goes into a serious swoon. “Make a decision based on what you need in your life, not on sharpshooting the market,” says Corcoran CEO Pamela Liebman.
LOOK OUT FOR SHARKS
With interest rates as low as they are, predatory lending is rampant. Comparison-shop for a mortgage and get references from someone you trust.