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New York real estate is not for parvenus or idealists - it is a serious, hold-on-to-your-hat ride. It can also be a heartbreaker, so persevere and be realistic about where you want to be. Be aware that most apartments require a sizeable deposit up to 20 percent, although there are developer-owners willing to negotiate terms. Co-op boards have a rigorous approval process, so when in doubt, go condo.

It is currently neither a buyer's nor a seller's market, according to Rosenblatt. "However, the Manhattan market has reflated noticeably since the height of fear in early 2009," he said. "I see tight inventory and a recent uptick in pending sales over the past three to four months as we head into our most active time of year."

Other options include condo hotels and residence clubs where you own a hotel room or a percentage of a property and you can book the amount of time you want to spend. The upside is there is no board to pass, no maintenance to worry about and you get hotel service, like at the Plaza and the Phillips Club. But buying a unit or condo resale is probably best. "The residency requirement for places like Trump SoHo is 120 days and it makes getting a mortgage tough - the building still has hundreds of unsold units," said Arak. "Buying outright is a good idea because the apartment can always be rented out and serve as an investment property."

Also be aware that property taxes are on the rise. Rosenblatt said, "Recent estimates have taxes for condo owners rising just under 10% for 2011." This is partly due to the city's budget woes, compounded by New York State's fiscal crisis and the federal government's inability to pass more stimulus packages. "I generally tell clients to expect a 7% to 10% rate of inflation for monthly carrying charges, that takes into account higher labor costs, higher energy costs and higher taxes."

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