Upper West Side
Trump’s Riverside South is most impressive when you consider how its rollout of 5,700 residential units is affecting demand: It’s attracting people to the neighborhood instead of creating an oversupply. What’s more, most brokers see overpricing in two-bedrooms—perhaps because cynical sellers know that an extra room comes in handy if you have to wait out a down market with a growing family. The Upper West Side is still a seller’s market.
Best Buy: With all the new construction around, townhouses are being overlooked. Unrenovated models off the park are $5.5 million; at $800 a square foot after repairs, they’ll still be a deal.
Upper East Side
With new buildings like the Cielo at 83rd and York and Peter Marino’s 170 East End Avenue luring young marrieds and their children into the neighborhood, the area’s profile is rising. It’s not just for the hard-partying post-fraternity set anymore. Yet there’s also a glut in the postwar buildings east of Lex: Sellers are pricing ambitiously, and buyers are waiting for sellers to blink. They will: Inventory’s up 50 percent in the studio and one-bedroom market.
Best Buy: Lowball, lowball, lowball—keep bidding 10 percent under and eventually you’ll land yourself a little pied-à-terre.
West Village and Meatpacking District
Single women, gay men, young families, and even retirees seeking café society—the diversity of demand accounts for the neighborhood’s recession-proof reputation. “Historically, when markets have fluctuated, the Village has been the last to react going down and the first to go up,” says JC DeNiro’s Armanda Squadrilli, who’s lived in the area for fifteen years.
Best Buy: Walk-ups in the neighborhood have always sold at a discount—but it’s even truer now. The new arrivals, retirees and families, can’t handle six flights. Others might be tempted by a top-floor three-bedroom for $799,000.
Another record Wall Street bonus season combined with a dearth of townhouses, classic sevens and nines on Park Avenue, and prewar co-ops in Carnegie Hill mean that this market plays by different rules than the rest. Even if the city’s real-estate market as a whole takes a big dive, prices at the tip-top of the scale are expected to hold firm.
Best Buy: The bargains (here, a relative term) are at Sutton Place South, Beekman Place, and 10 Gracie Square. Pay $1,500 a square foot and be done with it. That’s 25 percent less than a comparable place on Fifth Avenue in the Sixties and Seventies.
Soho, Tribeca, Flatiron
I-bankers bid up these properties in the mid-nineties, so they accrued most of their value before the recent bubble, making them one of the few markets relatively protected in the case of a real-estate meltdown. The same cannot be said of the new luxury high-rises that marketers have priced in the clouds. Name architects like the late Philip Johnson can’t obscure the fact that projects like 415 Greenwich and 330 Spring are on their neighborhoods’ geographic and psychological fringes.
Best Buy: The still-gentrifying Flatiron. The same cast iron that’s $1,500 a square foot in Soho can be had for under $900.
Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen
The 27 new buildings that will flank the High Line have yet to be built, but new construction just off the line at 519 West 23rd (a.k.a. HighLine519) is already listing at $1,300 a square foot. Prices are highest in the high Teens and low Twenties west of Ninth Avenue, but the area, already dense with hotels and meatpacking-district overflow, is probably overpriced.
Best Buy: The West Thirties and Forties are half the price ($625 a square foot in some cases)—and the High Line will eventually reach 30th Street, giving Hell’s Kitchen a boost that hasn’t yet been factored into prices there.
Lower East Side, East Village
The luxury condos—296 East 2nd, the Smurf-colored Bernard Tschumi tower on Norfolk—are as unwelcome as crashers at a party. “Most East Village buyers are coming from the East Village,” explains Halstead broker Barry Silverman. Plus you don’t get much value for your dollar. For $50 per square foot less than new construction you can live right in the heart of Alphabet City, above the bars and falafel joints that turn East Villagers into lifers.
Best Buy: Skip the new condos in favor of the fifties-vintage brick towers south of Delancey. The last wave of subsidized tenants are dying off, and prices can run as low as $550 per square foot.
Despite the neighborhood’s many powerful cheerleaders—Mayor Bloomberg, Paul Goldberger—the fact is that it will not really get going until the World Trade Center site is rebuilt. There are gourmet stores (two), full-service gyms (two), a restaurant row (Stone Street), and that’s about it. So, if you’re a young financial pro working so many hours that you don’t have time for a life, a studio or one-bedroom may be a smart move. You can be sure the neighborhood will take off, even if the career doesn’t.
Best Buy: A loft that overlooks ground zero. Because of the dust and the noise, prices are now below $800 per square foot.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.