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This Just In: Manhattan Still Expensive!

The Plaza
Some of the city's biggest brokerage firms released their fourth-quarter reports on the Manhattan real-estate market this week. And the news? Holdouts hoping for a slump won't get their reward quite yet. The breakdown: • While other cities sink into subprime hell, the borough remains stubbornly bullish, buoyed in part by tight inventory, especially in co-ops. If you're still looking to buy, an apartment in the borough will set you back an average of nearly $1.44 million, 18 percent more than what you would've paid the year before. (That's according to valuations guru Jonathan Miller's Prudential Douglas Elliman survey; Halstead and Brown Harris Stevens' numbers come in slightly under at $1.43 million.) • Prices were up pretty much across the board, with large spaces being the most in demand. (No surprise, they saw the most gains; according to Miller, three-bedrooms spiked an impressive 39.8 percent in value over the same period the previous year.)

Manhattan Rents Rolling Downhill

Rental
Could Manhattan rents have finally peaked? Anyone who owns property in the city will argue that prices here defy all laws of nature, but a new report by the Real Estate Group New York shows that rents may be starting to finally slip. "We're trending down since the peak, which is what I would call maybe July," says REGNY COO Daniel Baum. Since the beginning of the year, prices are still up slightly. Non-doorman studios went from $1,969 in January to $2,095 this month, a rise of 6.3 percent. But prices in many areas are down from the middle of the year. Doorman two-bedrooms climbed from $5,346 in January to a peak of $5,753 in July, then fell back to $5,520 in December. Some variation is to be expected as seasons change, but Baum insists we're seeing a trend. "This is the first time we're starting to see a slowdown on the rent side in the last three years or so," Baum says. The hardest hit area may be the financial district, which has seen some layoffs (and perhaps, therefore, a small exodus). Since last month the average asking price for a doorman studio in the financial district has come down $503, to $2,559. The peak was in September at $3,103. It should be noted that Manhattan sales continue to be strong and unperturbed by the subprime and general housing meltdown. There are two schools of thought on whether the eventual decline of sale prices will mean lower rents. Some think foreclosure refuges and hesitant buyers will push up the number of renters — and thus the rents everyone pays. Others think the general economic downturn will lead to a further lowering of rents. —Carol Vinzant