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Neighborhood Values

Gramercy Park to Midtown East
Gramercy Park, Murray Hill, and Midtown East are all surprisingly stable. Gramercy Park actually just got a little pricier, thanks to the halo effect of Ian Schrager’s very hip hotel. Property owners around Madison Square Park are hoping for a similar uptick in prices when and if the chic restaurants reach critical mass.
Best Buy: The relatively speculation-free corridor on the East Side between 24th and 33rd. Brokers have dubbed it Gramercy Hill (or, God help us, SoFi, for “South Fifth”). Whatever it is, it’s undervalued by at least 3 percent.

Harlem
The highest recorded sale in Harlem a year ago was $2.6 million; now it’s $3.8 million. There’s a Home Depot and a Target in the works: Harlem is no longer the uptown also-ran. The danger here is an oversupply of new construction—much of it, like the Nina on East 117th and the Ivy on Second Avenue, in still-sketchy East Harlem.
Best Buy: A shell in a classic neighborhood; for Mt. Morris Park or Strivers Row, you’ll pay about $1 million (and even less in Hamilton Heights). After a $500,000 gut reno, you’ll have it all: no-hassle new construction, a prime location, and a piece of history—for a 15 percent discount.

Brooklyn Brownstone
There are more brownstones in Brooklyn than anywhere else, but because people stay in them for a generation, the chance that a downturn would result in a flood of properties is close to nil. Park Slope expert Peggy Aguayo has sold about a thousand townhouses in the past 22 years, and she marvels at the market’s current strength: “Anything priced within the realm of reality is going immediately.” Expect to pay $3 million in Brooklyn Heights, $1.5 million for Park Slope, and $600,000 for Bed-Stuy.
Best Buy: A brownstone in Cobble Hill, a neighborhood that the speculators abandoned in 2005.

Loft Brooklyn
With thousands of new lofts and “loft inspired” properties hitting the market from Dumbo to East Williamsburg, Brooklyn looks increasingly like a boomtown. Deluxe waterfront developments like Schaefer Landing are still commanding top dollar ($800 to $1,000 a square foot), but prices are actually down about 20 percent for what David Maundrell of aptsandlofts.com terms “subpar product,” i.e., units with rental-quality finishes like parquet floors and Ikea kitchens.
Best Buy: A two- or three-year-old condo. The newest condos are raising the bar on finishes and amenities—bypass these luxuries for $50-a-square-foot savings.

Queens
There are two sides to Queens: waterfront neighborhoods like Long Island City and Astoria that are getting condos and bistros because of spillover from nearby Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and the more established communities along the 7 train—Sunnyside, Woodside, and Jackson Heights. The dockland has the cachet, but it’s the inland market—characterized by prewar co-ops and garden views—that should appreciate the fastest.
Best Buy: A $350,000 two-bedroom co-op in the 36-square-block Jackson Heights historic district, which is fast becoming a Park Slope in exile for families with young children.

Hoboken, Jersey City
The views are grand, the prices are modest ($400 a square foot, anyone?), and Wall Street is just a path train away. But no matter how many times Yo La Tengo plays Maxwell’s, Hoboken isn’t Williamsburg, and it probably never will be. (Just try getting a cabbie to drive you there without a $20 bribe.) With 50 percent more listings on the market now compared with the same time last year, sales in path-train Jersey have slowed radically. “There’s really a glut right now,” says Jay Rubenstein of Century 21 Hoboken.
Best Buy: A fixer-upper in Jersey City Heights. For $400,000 you can find a big two-family unit in need of only a face-lift. The rental income will cut your mortgage by more than half.

Staten Island
First-time home buyers have helped keep the low end active, while the recent end of tax abatements has made buying new high-end construction a less attractive option than it was a year ago. As a result, the borough’s more suburban South Shore—where the bulk of the pricey new houses have gone up—is due for a slump. The island’s North Shore, with its more diverse, urban stock, is better suited to weather the storm.
Best Buy: The St. George neighborhood around the ferry terminal is just starting to be discovered. You can even find artist lofts, and we’ll take the S.I. Yankees’ waterfront stadium over the Cyclones’ any day.


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