By joining one of the largest expat communities in the world, you get seemingly infinite access to new music, culture, fashion, food, theatre and more.

The more you visit New York, the more there is to see. One of the many great things about the Big Apple is a seemingly infinite amount of restaurants to try, events to attend, museum exhibits to see and trends to follow.

So imagine, instead of a whirlwind visit to hit the shops during sale week or a weekend trip just to see the shows, you had the luxury of stopping in whenever you wanted and having a favourite by-the-slice place or a doorman who knows your name or the time to finally go to Brooklyn and see what all the fuss is about.

What is it known for?
The question is: what isn't New York known for? You can get your music, culture, fashion, food, theatre, financial and who-knowswhat-else fix here. There are large expat communities from around the world, representing Britain to Cameroon, here for their career or part of an immigrant community that swells the outer boroughs with their home cuisine and culture.

Getting to really know the city means learning what subway to take so you end up in SoHo, not on the express to Coney Island; which bars are a good bet at 3 am; that everyone has an opinion and is not afraid to share it. The nice thing is that anyone can be a New Yorker, it just requires the right attitude and a set of keys instead of a hotel room keycard.

Where do you want to live?
Sure, mid-town Manhattan is great when you are only in town for a few days - it is easy to catch subways and buses and close to the major museums, theatres and landmarks. But when you are thinking about living here, you have to consider things like supermarkets, dry cleaners and pet stores - in other words, all the things that make a neighborhood your own.

Many pied-a-terre owners buy in the Upper East or West Side and it is worth checking out Turtle Bay, a separate enclave in the east 40s near the UN. In the end, it comes down to where a buyer wants to be and what they want to be near. "I have second home buyers looking all over the city, from the villages up to the Upper East or West Sides," said Noah Rosenblatt, founder of UrbanDigs. "That's the thing about this market, so many people have connections to specific neighborhoods from past times in their lives that when they get older they want to re-live those experiences in the same parts of the city. I think that is part of what makes this city so exciting."

Greenwich Village has delightful, leafy streets filled with townhouses and the extremely faint whiff of the neighborhood's bohemian past mingles with the well-heeled queuing in front of Magnolia Bakery. North of Central Park, Harlem and other upper Manhattan neighborhoods are a relative bargain, but prices are rising quickly. Morningside Park still has some brownstones with original detail, always good for inducing real estate envy.

Also, do not discount the other boroughs like Brooklyn, especially properties in neighbourhoods such as Williamsburg that have excellent nightlife and restaurants, are close to Manhattan and have some overstock. But beware, warns Joey Arak, senior editor of Curbed NY. "Brooklyn can definitely get you more bang for the buck, but it is by no means cheap," he said. "And the credit crunch has pretty much stopped construction dead in its tracks for two years, so inventory is running out."

Side trips
New York has the best transport connections in the United States with three major airports with direct connections to the rest of the US, Canada and the Caribbean, and high speed trainsthat connect the city to Boston and Washington and points beyond. Buses and commuter rail will take you to the Catskills in upstate New York and the Hudson River Valley to historic towns like Cold Spring, Woodstock and Hudson and great winter skiing, the Berkshires in Massachusetts are home to cultural centres like Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Hamptons and Montauk out at the end of Long Island, where the New York elite spends its summer.

Practical info
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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