Glossary of Terms
Types of Buildings
Brownstones or Townhouses These are typically 4 to 6 story buildings built in the 1800’s through the early 1900’s. They are either single family houses or have been converted over the years into multiple apartments. As a single family home, a townhouse or brownstone offers buyers privacy and the ability to purchase without the cooperative board process. Some apartments in townhouses can have grand living spaces and, therefore, will be quite expensive. Generally, these buildings afford more “charm”, with features such as gardens, fireplaces, beautiful floors and ornamental wood moldings. In almost all cases these buildings will not have a doorman. One can also purchase a coop or condo unit in a townhouse building. The term “brownstone” refers to the type of material used as facing on the front of the structure.
Pre-War Buildings Prewar buildings are those built before World War II. These buildings are usually ten to twenty stories, provide spacious apartment lay-outs, gracious architectural amenities with features such as larger rooms, fireplaces, hardwood parquet floors and higher ceilings. These can be doorman or non-doorman buildings.
Post War Buildings These buildings were built between the late 1940’s through the 1970’s. They are generally hi-rise and are constructed of white, red or brown brick. Most will have doormen. Postwar apartments may actually afford more living space than their prewar counterparts in studio, one and two bedroom sizes. They have ample closets, live-in superintendent and laundry facilities.
Hi Rise Full Service Buildings These are generally associated with new construction or are apartment buildings that were built from the 1980’s through the present. They are typically condominiums, twenty to forty or more stories with doorman and concierge services. Other amenities often include: health clubs and swimming pools, valet services and parking garages
Elevator Buildings This description is usually reserved for a non-doorman building that is six to twenty stories tall. There is usually an intercom security system, and some may have video security. These buildings could fall into either the pre-war or the post-war category.
Loft Buildings These buildings either were previously built for commercial or manufacturing purposes and are now used for residential living spaces or are newly constructed as loft buildingsThe spaces typically offer higher ceilings (9 feet-20 feet), open spaces and original details such as supporting columns, tin ceilings, etc. They are usually found in Greenwich Village, SoHo, TriBeCa, Chelsea, Flatiron, Nolita, and lower Manhattan and often do not have the services of a doorman.
Walk-Up Buildings This is the least expensive type of housing, and the quality can vary widely. Usually these are 4 to 5 story buildings with no elevator, hence the term “walk-up.” They were originally constructed as multi-family housing and lack the charm and elegance of traditional brownstones or townhouses.
New York City Terminology
Familiarize yourself with the following terminology.
It’s almost all unique to New York City. It’s also important to know that we speak in “number of rooms,” as well as using the definitions below. A room in Manhattan must be at least 100 square feet and have a window…except in the case of a kitchen. Most kitchens are considered rooms, unless they are Pullman types, which would be found as part of the living room. And we don’t count baths as rooms. So, a Three Room Apartment would be comprised of a Living Room, a Kitchen and a Bedroom. A Four Room Apartment would have a Living Room, a Kitchen, Two Bedrooms, or One Bedroom and a Dining Room. You’ll hear the term Half of a Room, e.g., Three And A Half Rooms. This means that the Living Room has an alcove adjacent to it which is not quite the size of a true room, or in some cases it may mean a foyer large enough for dining. Review the list below, and check with your agent for further clarification.
STUDIO One or two rooms with combined living and sleeping area. If the studio is one room, the kitchen will be of the Pullman variety. If it is two rooms, the kitchen will be separate.
ALCOVE Alcove is an area adjoining the living room space of an apartment. It is generally less than 100 square feet and is not considered a full room, but often called a half room. It can be used as a “dining alcove” or “sleeping alcove”. Depending upon size, it may actually be “walled off” to create an additional bedroom.
ALCOVE STUDIO This is either a one and a half or two room apartment with a separate alcove, often L-shaped, which can be used as a sleeping area.
JUNIOR OR CONVERTIBLE This is an apartment with an alcove off of the living room which can be converted into a bedroom or used for dining. A Junior 4, for instance, would be a three room apartment (living room, kitchen and bedroom) which has the potential to be four rooms by using the alcove space to create an additional room.
DUPLEX In New York this means an apartment with two floors or levels, not two apartment units.
LOFT AREA This is an additional space created in apartments with very high ceilings. The loft area is constructed above the traditional living area, accessed by a staircase or ladder, and used for extra storage, sleeping or living space (e.g., a mezzanine).
CLASSIC The word “classic” is usually followed by a number indicating the number of rooms in an apartment. It is generally associated with pre-war apartments that meet a criteria of room numbers and design for buildings of that period. However, a “classic” can exist in a post-war building, assuming it follows the same guidelines. As an example, a “classic six” is comprised of a living room, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms, and a maid’s room.