Now more than ever, first-time home buyers are—how shall we put it?—scared shitless. If the mortgage crisis and waves of foreclosures haven't got you freaked out, then the crazy stock market and talk of recession do. But don't tuck that down-payment money under the mattress just yet. As prices in Manhattan and much of Brooklyn continue to defy logic and middle-class incomes, Queens remains within reach for many young families. What you'll get: good schools, a strong sense of community, one-of-a-kind cultural institutions, even luxurious extras like a water view. And let's not dismiss the quotidian value of countless authentic, affordable restaurants whose managements scorn the suggestion of a stroller ban. Sure, the nabes out here are admittedly low on baby boutiques and private play spaces, but some residents feel that's not such a bad thing.
It's true that the number crunchers at Moody's Economy.com forecast falling prices for single-family homes all over Queens through mid-2009. But these five established areas are among those less vulnerable to a downturn. In fact, the volatile economic climate means that sellers are ready to negotiate. "Many homeowners who tried to sell high now know they're not going to get that price," says Bayside resident Rene Nario, an associate broker at RE/MAX Universal who specializes in northeast Queens. Nario recently had a client slash the asking price by 15 percent, or $85,000. His advice: "Make any offer. Sellers are willing to listen."