Many words might pop into a prospective home-buyer's head while browsing New Construction Manhattan's NYC condo listings, but the word "cheap" probably isn't one of them. There's a reason why Manhattan apartments have proven to be such a good investment, after all -- a limited supply (as discussed earlier at the NCM blog, possibly very limited in the near team) and virtually unlimited demand has ensured that Manhattan apartments tend to hold their value very well. Of course, if you are approaching it from a buyer's perspective, it might seem more correct to say that Manhattan apartments tend to stay quite expensive. But while the Manhattan real estate market remains one of the most competitive and expensive real estate markets in the world -- and while New York City occasionally seems to be its own independent country -- the market for NYC condos is not immune from the effects of the broader U.S. economy. Which is all sort of a long way of saying that, while Manhattan apartment prices remain high, they are in fact notably lower than in years past. No, really.A new study by the Wall Street Journal finds that home prices in New York City actually have fallen by 5.1 percent over the last three quarters. That's still much less severe a hit than that absorbed in other markets -- Sacramento, for instance, has three years worth of unsold housing inventory on the market, and home prices have fallen more than 12 percent even in the comparatively healthy housing market of Portland, Oregon. But it's still a notable number, given that New York City's apartment inventory is significantly tighter than that of other cities. It could be said that the market for NYC condos is the least sick of the nation's various housing markets, but it's not exactly healthy, either. But while that shortage of inventory should lead to a bump in prices going forward, what is still a shaky economic outlook promises to keep prices low for awhile longer. "Market conditions could get worse in the months ahead," the Journal's Nick Timiraos writes. "Sellers spurn what they see as low-ball offers, while buyers are demanding discounts because they are 'convinced prices will drop further, and they don't want to feel like suckers six months later,' says Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Redfin Corp., a Seattle-based real-estate brokerage that operates in nine states." From a seller's perspective, this is bad news. But for those searching Manhattan apartments, what's bad news for everyone else might be good news for them -- Manhattan apartments are still selling for less than Manhattan apartments usually sell for, and asking prices have not shown any sign of spiking on the whole. Eventually, the Manhattan real estate market being the Manhattan real estate market and economic cycles being what they are, apartment prices will doubtless go back up. For now, though, what's bad news for the real estate market looks, paradoxically but undeniably, to be good news for Manhattan apartment-hunters.