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
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.
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.
An apartment where the living room and sleeping area are combined into one space. Usually studios have a walk-in or a Pullman-kitchen.
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.
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.
A bed that is built into a wall and that can be pulled out when needed. A great space- saver for small apartments.
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”)
This term usually refers to the detailing in pre-war buildings, like molding on the ceilings, decorated fireplace mantels, etc
Generally refers to a partial views of something worth looking at like Central park, landmarks, one of the river or some city skyline.
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. Can often be very small and might be called a juliet balcony.
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.
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”)
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.
This term most often refers to the interior outside grounds of a building, usually it is useable, sometimes it is not.
Usually six to nine stories; and many are found on side streets. Non-doorman building; many with intercom security and live-in superintendents.
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.
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.
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.
An apartment that extends from a building’s facade to its rear wall, so that the unit occupies an entire floor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Almost always means small in size but cute and "cozy".
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 building without an elevator with a max of 6 floors.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
Monthly fees paid by condo owners to cover the common services and amenities shared by other condo residents, including management fees and operating expenses.
A legally binding agreement between a buyer and seller that outlines the terms of purchase or transfer for a given property.
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%)
Earnest Money Deposit
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.
Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio
Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
Right of First Refusal
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.
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.
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.