Ever wonder what all the words mean in listing descriptions or real estate websites? Here is a handy guide.

Real Estate Vocabulary

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.




Convertible


An apartment where a large living room was divided in two, making an additional bedroom while still retaining some of the living room space. The magic formula is a large 1 bedroom converted into a 3 bedroom. Also called a "flex" apartment, both often can not have walls that touch the cieling because of fire code.




Classic 6, 7 or 8


The term “Classic” followed by a number refers to the number of rooms in an apartment. It is most often used with pre-war apartments. For example, a classic-six would be normally be configured as a two bedroom with a living room, dining room, kitchen and maid’s room or office.




Studio


An apartment where the living room and sleeping area are combined into one space. Usually studios have a walk-in or a Pullman-kitchen.




Penthouse


A luxury unit in high-rise buildings, usually on one of the top floors with best views. Often with outdoor space as part of the apartment.




Alcove


An alcove is the small area off the main living space in an apartment. Alcoves are generally used as sleeping or dining areas. In one or two-bedroom apartments, alcoves are sometimes converted into an additional smaller bedroom, forming a junior two or junior three bed room apartment.




Mezzanine or Loft Area


Is an additional space created in apartments with very high ceilings. The loft area is usually constructed above the living room, accessible by a staircase or ladder. Depending on the height of the ceiling, this space can be used for sleeping, storage or as a den.




High Ceilings


Ceilings above nine feet. Pre-war buildings are known for high ceilings, often with moldings. You will also find high ceilings in most modern condo/co-op developments.




Pullman or Petite Kitchen


Typically found in prewar buildings abnd often found in small apartments and studios. 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.




Murphy Bed


A bed that is built into a wall and that can be pulled out when needed. A great space- saver for small apartments.




California Closet


A walk-in closet with drawers and built-in compartments.




WBFP - Fire Place


“Wood-burning fireplace” – can be functional , or decorative (NWFP = “non-working fireplace”)




Original Detail


This term usually refers to the detailing in pre-war buildings, like molding on the ceilings, decorated fireplace mantels, etc




Partial Views


Generally refers to a partial views of something worth looking at like Central park, landmarks, one of the river or some city skyline.




Assignment


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.




Balcony


An outdoor space that protrudes from a building. Can often be very small and might be called a juliet balcony.




Brownstone


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.




Built Size


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


Often means you have an extra monthly fee for a set number of months! 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.




Co-Broke


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 listings to the brokerage community at large, 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.




Courtyard


This term most often refers to the interior outside grounds of a building, usually it is useable, sometimes it is not.




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.




Escrow


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




Exclusive Listing


A real estate listing promoted by a single broker for which they have been hired by an owner to market the 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 their 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 the property on their own and exclude the broker from any commission.




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.




Flex


An apartment where a large living room was divided in two, making an additional bedroom while still retaining some of the living room space. The magic formula is a large 1 bedroom converted or "flexed" into a 3 bedroom. Often the fles walls do not touch the cieling because of fire code.




Floor-thru


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




Junior 4


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 or Private Elevator


This terminology refers to a situation when an apartment occupies an entire floor in a building and the elevator opens up right into the apartment.




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.




Lease


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




Loft


Generally 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. The conversation of downtown space from commercial office building space to residential loft or loft-like space has brought record prices over the years. Some of the attributes of loft space may include high ceilings, open space, raw space, large windows, etc.




Lot


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




Luxury Doorman Building


These tend to be postwar buildings with usually twenty or more floors, and a twenty-four hour doorman. 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, bowling alleys, dog parks, gardens, parking garages and more.




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.




Mortgage


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.




Cozy


Almost always means small in size but cute and "cozy".




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.




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.




Pass-through Kitchen


A kitchen that is between of two rooms (usually a living room and a dining room) with either a 2nd door way or a cut out to pass food throught to the other room.




Pied-à-terre


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.




Possession


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




Post-War


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.




Pre-War


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.




Quadruplex


An apartment that is spread out over four levels.




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 was orginally built for deliveries and as a means of egress for servants.




Shortfall


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.




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.




Sublet


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. This could be a condo/coop owner or someone who is the lease holder and then "sublets" the aparmtnet to you.




Terrace


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.




Townhouse


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.




Triple-Mint


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.




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 with a max of 6 floors.




Fee apartment


If you rent a fee apartment, the amount is gennerally 15% of your annual rent. A broker fee goes to the real estate brokerage (not all to your agent), who then gives a portion to the agents involved. Totally a normal part of the NYC rental market, but used in just a handful of other major US cities. While you might think "no fee" is better, generally the broker fee is just broken up over 1 years rent, so if you stay longer than 1 year, you pay a lot more rent! The upfront broker fee can save you a lot of money over time.




Co-op


Short for 'cooperative,' a co-op runs like a corporation. Genearlly alower priced than a condo. Want in? Be prepared for a tough selection process almost every time—you'll need approval from the co-op board to close the deal. Except sometimes when it is a "sponsor unit". You'll actually be renting company shares from a coporation who then assign you the "apartment". All co-ops are different, some crazy strict, some not, talk to your broker to see what is best for you.




Condo


In a condominium, buyers own their apartments individually as "real property" and jointly own common areas (which is part of the monthly comon charges). There is still a condo "board", but unlike a co-op, they can not deny you for just any reason (there is a "right of first refusal" but is incredibly rare to ever be used).




Classic 6


The number '6' refers to three full bedrooms, plus a dining room, living room, and separate kitchen. Typically pre-war apartments fall into this category.




Railroad


Railroad apartments sound more fun than they actually are: The rooms are all connected with no hallway, which means you'll have to walk through one person's "bedroom" to get to the 2nd or 3rd bedroom.




Common charges


Monthly fees paid by condo owners to cover the common services and amenities shared by other condo residents, including management fees and operating expenses.




Contract


A legally binding agreement between a buyer and seller that outlines the terms of purchase or transfer for a given property.




Co-op Board


A group of residents elected to represent all shareholders within a co-op building. The board determines the rules of the building, addresses building issues and reviews applications for new buyers.




Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio


The amount of debt you have compared to your overall income. Lenders use this formula to assess your credit-worthiness and whether to extend you a loan. It is expressed as a percentage (i.e., 33%)




Down Payment


A for a condo is almost never lower than 10% of the sale price. For co-ops, the down payment is usually at least 20% and can often can go much higher.




Earnest Money Deposit


Small deposit a prospective buyer makes to a seller to prove their offer is made in good faith. It is held in escrow and is usually non-refundable if the buyer backs out of the contract.




Final Walk-Through


A few days before closing, the buyer “walks through the property” to make sure it’s in the condition the contract specifies.




In Contract


An offer has been made and accepted on a property. The buyer has paid a deposit and both seller and buyer have signed the offer. The listing is no longer available unless the deal falls through.




Landmark Designation


A specfic building or entire zone recognized for having special historical, cultural or aesthetic value. The Landmarks Preservation Committee must approve any alterations inside, outside or both. This apporval is ontop of standard zoning.




Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio


Comparison between the mortgage amount and the appraised value of property. Buyers with an LTV ratio under 75% are more likely to be approved for a loan since there is more equity in the home.




Maintenance Fees


Monthly fee co-op owners pay to cover operating expenses of the building, including taxes, insurance, etc. Amount is based on number of shares owned in the co-op. A condo has seperate common charges and real estate taxes.




Preapproval


Written statement from lender stating a buyer can qualify for a particular loan amount based on that lender’s guidelines. Having a pre approval BEFORE looking for an apartment is a very importaint part of the process in NYC. There are fee's, taxes and other expenses that are specfic to or higher for NYC. It will also prove to a seller that you are serious before you go to see a property which help build a foundation when you make an offer.




Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)


This is a type of insurance used with conventional home loans. Borrowers who don’t have a down payment of at least 20 percent are typically required to purchase PMI.




Rate Lock


A lender guarantees a borrower a certain interest rate at a certain price over a set period of time – perhaps 30, 45, 60 or 90 days.




Right of First Refusal


Essentially, it means the condo board has the right to become the purchaser of an apartment being sold in the building. This is extremely rare and if the borad decides to do it, they have to buy it at the same terms you would have. Generally only happens when the board needs the space for a building renovation, upgrade or something similar.




Concession


Is generally when a seller gives somenthing to help sweeten the deal. Maybe they cut you a check at closing for 1 year of common charges or taxes. For renting a concession can be paying the broker fee and/or an advertised temporary rent reduction, like when a building offers one or two months free upon lease signing. These types of listings usually also include the phrase net effective rent, which is what the rent comes out to after the concession and only for the duration of the lease.




Facade


The face of a building often consisting of limestone, brownstone, cement, glass, granite or marble.




Guarantor (or co-signer)


A guarantor is a person who assumes financial responsibility of a lease for a tenant or tenants who otherwise would not meet the Landlord’s financial qualifications. For example, a student who may not have an income may need a guarantor. This person is often a family member but does always not need to be. The guarantor guarantees payment of the rent in the event of non-payment by the tenants. Guarantors generally need to make 80 times the monthly rent in annual income to qualify.




Managing Agent


Most cooperative and condominium buildings will hire an independent company to manage the property. These firms are responsible for managing the daily maintenance, rent rolls, collection of rents, monthly or maintenance charges and enforcing overall building policies.





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New York   |   NY   |   10018

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