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NYC Real Estate Terminology


Abstract of Title:

A chronological summary of the recorded instruments and proceedings on the title of a property.


Air Rights:

The right to build above or add square footage to a structure. These buildable rights are determined by city zoning regulations and public need. Air rights can be sold to adjoining structures for a negotiated price between land owners. Many of the city’s taller structures have risen to their final height as a result of purchasing additional air rights from neighboring structures. Case in point is the Trump World Tower built on East 48th Street.



An area adjoining the living room which can be used for a dining area or be separated or closed off to make a bedroom, den or office.



The process of determining the value of a property, usually against values of other similar propertiese in the immediate neighborhood.



The right to transfer a contract or a lease from one party to another. The term is often used to describe the process of assigning one’s primary lease to that of a second party until the end of the term.



An outdoor space that protrudes from a building.



A dwelling faced with brownstone, a native New York State stone. Also, a colloquial term for townhouse. Three to five floors. No doorman. Built in the late 1800s and early 1900s as single-family homes. Many were converted during World War II to create multiple apartments (3-10 units per building). Brownstones often have “charm”, high ceilings, architectural details, and often wood-burning fireplaces. Square footage is generally less than a similar room count would provide in a doorman building. Closet space and storage is usually sparse.



Refers to the actual exterior dimensions of a building on a lot. For instance, a townhouse might be built 20′ x 70′ on a 20′ x 100′ lot. Today, city zoning regulations impose tough restrictions on how large a new building may be built on a lot.


Capital Improvement:

An improvement on a piece of property which is going to increase the value of the property. Such an improvement may include a new roof, new windows or a new elevator.


Certificate of Occupancy (“C of O”):

Each building in New York City possesses a Certificate of Occupancy which outlines the legal uses of that piece of property. The Certificate of Occupancy may allow a building owner to enjoy certain uses not allowed by the particular zoning in which the property falls.



In a pre-war building, an apartment which has a formal dining room, and, in a larger apartment, one or two maids’ rooms. A “classic 6″, for example, is a six-room apartment in a pre-war building that has a living room, formal dining room, two bedrooms, kitchen, maid’s room, and 1, 2, or 3 baths. In the larger classics, it is common to find the smaller maids’ rooms combined into one larger room. Frequently, pre-war buildings have been gutted and “rehabbed,” but room counts and layouts will usually be listed according to their original configuration.


Convertible, Flex or Junior:

An apartment with an alcove off the living room which can be converted to another bedroom or used as a dining area. A “convertible two-bedroom” or “flex two” is a one-bedroom apartment with a large alcove and one or two bathrooms.



Perhaps one of the most important terms used in the residential real estate market and the foundation for working with other brokers in the community. When a broker sends out his/her listings to the brokerage community at large, he/she does so on a co-broke basis. This means that the brokerage firm representing the owner of the property will split the commission on a 50/50 basis with the brokerage firm that brings the buyer or tenant to the property and is able to conclude a transaction.


Contract Out:

Refers to the moment in time when a buyer and seller have agreed to a price on an apartment and the parties’ attorneys have drafted a contract of sale and have sent it to the purchaser for signature.



This term most often refers to the interior outside grounds of a building.


Duplex Apartment:

An apartment that is spread out over two levels.



The acronym used to describe an Eat-In-Kitchen.


Elevator Building:

Usually six to nine stories; and many are found on side streets. Non-doorman building; many with intercom security and live-in superintendents.


En Suite Bathroom:

French term literally meaning ‘together’. In the realtor’s lexicon, this term refers to a bathroom that is attached to and only accessible from the adjoining bedroom. In other words, one does not have to leave his/her bedroom in order to go to the bathroom. This type of setup is most common with Master Bedrooms.



The procedure of placing money in an account where neither buyer nor seller can access the money without the consent of an escrow agent.



Describes the condition of an apartment that is in a superb shape.


Exclusive Listing:

An exclusive listing is a listing promoted by a single broker for which he/she has been hired by an owner to market his/her property. In an exclusive right-to-sell arrangement, the individual broker has the right to earn a commission in the event that the property sells during the term of the exclusive. This type of arrangement precludes the owner of the apartment from selling the property on his/her own. Under the terms of an exclusive, the broker has the fiduciary responsibility to market the property to other brokers. The exclusive broker is accountable to the owner of the property and is responsible for seeing the transaction to its conclusion. The other type of exclusive is an exclusive agency. The only difference between an exclusive right-to-sell and an exclusive agency is that in an exclusive agency arrangement, the owner can sell his/her property on their own and exclude the broker from any commission.



This is the front of a building. The facade can consist of any number of building elements, such as limestone, brownstone, cement, glass, granite, marble, and or any combination of the aforementioned.


Fixed Rate:

One of two types of rates offered by lending institutions. In a fixed rate scenario, the lender offers an interest rate which remains constant over the term of the loan.



See “convertible” or “junior.”


Floating Rate:

One of two types of rates offered by lending institutions. In a floating rate scenario, the lender offers an interest rate which fluctuates with the prevailing rates offered to lending institutions.



An apartment that extends from a building’s facade to its rear wall, so that the unit occupies an entire floor.



The process by which a lending institution takes back a property because the property owner can no longer meet his/her monthly mortgage payment.


Furnished Units:

Apartments which are fully equipped with furniture and amenities. Such apartments are for long or short term leases.



Refers to a bathroom with no bath or shower. A half-bath is also commonly referred to as a powder room.


High Ceilings:

Typically refers to ceilings with a height of nine feet or more.


In Contract:

Refers to the stage when a buyer and a seller have both signed a contract of sale.


Interest Rate:

The amount charged by a lending institution to mortgage holders for the use of borrowed money. Rates can vary over time and are set by the Federal Reserve Board.



A “junior 4″ would be a potential 4- room apartment: living room, bedroom, kitchen, and alcove area (bathroom is not counted as a room).


Keyed Elevator:

This terminology refers to a situation when an apartment occupies an entire floor in a building. In other words, the elevator opens up right into the apartment to a foyer which leads directly to the particular apartment.


Lease Assignment:

At times a tenant will need to leave a rental property prior to the end of the lease. In a lease assignment, the landlord allows the tenant to assign the remainder of his/her lease to a new tenant. The new tenant is completely responsible for rent payments for the duration of the lease term. 


Lease Break:

The landlord allows the tenant to find a replacement tenant. Unlike a sublet or lease assignment, in a lease break the original lease agreement is terminated. The landlord and replacement tenant sign a completely new lease agreement, for a full term and possibly at a higher rent.



A legal document which outlines the responsibilities and parameters between a landlord and a tenant.


Loft Space:

By definition, this term refers to space which has been converted from commercial usage to residential usage. This can include the conversion of office space, factory space or warehouse space. At present, there is a wave of conversion of downtown space from commercial office building space to residential loft or loft-like space. Some of the attributes of loft space may include high ceilings, open space, raw space, large windows, etc.



Each New York City parcel of land is divided into lots for the purpose of identification.


Luxury Doorman Building:

Twenty to forty or more floors, and a twenty-four hour doorman. These tend to be postwar buildings. The more luxurious buildings also have a concierge who provides services such as receiving laundry and packages. Some of these buildings have a health club and/or swimming pool and a parking garage.


Mortgage Points:

A point is a fee equal to 1 percent of the loan amount. There are two kinds of points: discount points (which are prepaid interest on the mortgage loan) and origination points (fees the lender charges to cover the costs of making the loan). Points are paid at the closing. 



When a lender provides a borrower with a loan for the purpose of purchasing a property,  that property is used as security for the loan. There are several components to a mortgage, including the interest rate (amount and whether it is fixed or floating), the term (often 7, 15, or 30 years), and the percentage of the purchase that is being financed. 


Oblique Views:

This term is used to describe views from an apartment when one has a rather ‘turn of your head’ view of a park or river.


Offer Accepted:

This is the stage of the purchase process when an owner accepts the terms of an offer for a property. The terms can include the price, closing period, and any contingencies the parties may agree upon. 



A one-bedroom is a three-room apartment (kitchen, living room, and bedroom). A one-bedroom with a windowed alcove large enough to be a bedroom is called a “junior 4" (4 rooms), “flex 2″ or “convertible 2″ (convertible to two bedrooms).


Open House:

When promoting a property, the listing broker may hold an open house in order to allow a large number of buyers and/or brokers to view the property in a short period of time. Open houses are often held on Sunday afternoons. 

Open Kitchen:

A kitchen which opens on to the living room of an apartment. There is no door or wall separating the kitchen from the rest of the apartment. These types of kitchens are most often found in loft spaces or newer renovations.


Original Detail:

This term is used to describe detailing in pre-war buildings. This can include crown moldings, chair rails, ornamental decorations around doors or fireplaces, etc.


Parlor Floor:

This is the second floor in a townhouse. In its original form, the building’s front steps accessed the parlor floor. The parlor is traditionally the grandest floor and typically has the building’s highest ceilings. Historically, these floors were primarily used for entertaining and housed Living Rooms, Libraries or Formal Dining Rooms.


Partial Views:

This term refers to views that offer partial vistas of a park or river.


Pass-through Kitchen:

This term refers to a Kitchen with an opening from the Kitchen into another room in the apartment, usually a Dining Area or Living Room.



Translated literally from the French, pied-à-terre means foot on the ground. In English, we would call it a “landing pad.” A pied-à-terre is a small, comfortable apartment maintained by someone who resides in another city. Usually, the owner has a career that requires them to be in New York several days per month, or even per week. The pied-à-terre allows its owner to avoid the daily commute, or to spend occasional late nights in the city. However, these apartments can also be kept by the well-heeled who simply enjoy having access to the exciting culture and glamorous society found in major cities.



This term refers to the time (month and day) that a new purchaser or a new tenant can actually take possession of an apartment.



Refers to buildings built after World War II. Post-war needs and modern building techniques dramatically altered the composition of the middle and upper-class apartment house. Apartment houses were built in a “plain vanilla” style with lower ceilings, fewer moldings and details, an absence of fireplaces and reduced room proportions. The exterior of the New York apartment house also saw dramatic change. Plain red and white brick exteriors replaced the ornate limestone detailing of the pre-war apartment house.


Powder Room:

Refers to a bathroom with no bath or shower. A powder room is also commonly referred to as half-bath.



Refers to buildings built prior to the start of World War II. Some common elements of these structures include hardwood floors, moldings, high ceilings and fireplaces.


Professional Space:

Office space set aside in a residential building for use by professionals, usually in the medical field. Professional space does not refer to attorneys or architects. The strict interpretation is for the medical profession. Similar to maisonette’s these spaces can have separate street entrances as well as lobby entrances.


Pullman Kitchen:

Typically found in prewar buildings that were originally constructed as hotels. A Pullman kitchen is situated against a single wall, and consists of a full or half refrigerator, oven (or sometimes only a stovetop) and a sink. This type of kitchen does not count as a room when calculating room counts.  



An apartment that is spread out over four levels.


Recessed Lighting:

Lighting that is located above the ceiling rather than having a light fixture hanging from the ceiling. This type of lighting provides a very clean and contemporary.


Room Count:

Every apartment has a room count. Living rooms, formal dining rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens count as one room, and alcoves count as ½ room. Bathrooms and Pullman kitchens are not included in room counts. For example a “Junior 4” is a 3.5 room apartment: living room, bedroom, kitchen, alcove (which can be converted to a 4th room). A “Classic Six” is a six room apartment found in prewar doorman buildings. It consists of a formal dining room, living room, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, and a “maid’s room”. These days, the maid’s room is commonly used as a smaller bedroom or office. 


Security Deposit:

A rental tenant submits a security deposit upon lease signing to his/her landlord. The security deposit is intended to cover any potential damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear.  The security deposit cannot be used to pay the last month’s rent. 


Service Entrance:

This term refers to a second entrance to a kitchen from either the main or rear hallway. This entrance is basically was orginally built for deliveries and as a means of egress for servants.



A situation in which a building owner is unable to meet the operating expenses of a building because the expenses exceed the building's income.


Studio with a full kitchen:

A studio is a two-room apartment (the kitchen is considered one room). An “alcove studio” is a studio with an alcove for dining or sleeping. 



The landlord allows the tenant to find a replacement tenant for the remainder of his/her lease. Unlike a lease assignment, in a sublet situation the original tenant is still responsible for the remaining rent payments and any damage to the property. 


Tax Abatement:

New York City often offers developers tax incentives in the form of abatements in order to encourage development in a particular neighborhood. The most recent wave of development in the downtown Manhattan has been spurred on by tax incentives offered for the conversion of commercial space to residential housing.



Each rental lease is for a duration of time. This period of time is called the term and will range from one month to two or three years. Typically an unfurnished apartment will rent for a term of 12-24 months.



By definition, a terrace is a roof or part of a roof in a building. In NYC, terraces can be found when there is a setback on a high-rise. A terrace and balcony are often confused and the terms are used interchangeably.



Townhouses were primarily built as single family homes, and were the dominant housing structure from 1840’s through the 1930’s. They were usually built in groups and were sometimes referred to as row houses. Townhouses were built four to five stories high and shared many common design elements. Typically there was an English basement level (slightly below street grade) which housed the kitchen and a dining room leading to the private garden. This level was accessed through a service entrance beneath the stoop. The second level, commonly referred to as the Parlor floor, was used for entertaining . Visitors entered the townhouse via the steps leading to the Parlor floor. The floors above housed the family’s bedrooms.



This term refers to the condition of an apartment. In this case the ‘triple’ refers to the general condition of the apartment, the condition of the kitchen, and the condition of the bathroom.


Triplex Apartment:

An apartment that is spread out over three levels.



A two-bedroom can be a four, five or six-room apartment. A “flex 3″ or “convertible 3″ is a two-bedroom apartment with space for an additional room (third bedroom, dining room, den, maid’s room, etc.).


Walk-through Kitchen:

A Kitchen with two means of egress. An individual can actually walk through the Kitchen by entering through one room and exiting into another room.


Walk-up Building:

A building without an elevator. This term usually refers to four to six story pre-war buildings.

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