Glossary of Terms
An alcove is an L-shaped area off the main living space in an apartment.
There are two types of alcoves, a sleeping alcove and a dining alcove. Sleeping
alcoves can be found in alcove studios; dining alcoves are found in one or two bedroom
apartments and often can be converted into an additional smaller bedroom.
A charge imposed by a co-operative or condominium apartment building
on apartment owners to cover the cost of an improvement on the building. Assessments
are levied proportionately to the number of shares or the percentage of the common
charges owned/paid by an apartment owner.
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.
The process of determining the value of an apartment usually against
values of apartments in the same building or similar-type buildings in the immediate
Some older buildings in the city have manual elevators that need
to be operated by an elevator operator on a full-time basis.. In some pre-war buildings,
these operators also serve as a form of full-time security for residents. Usually
these operators also control access into the building by a video security system.
In some of the city's full-service buildings, the staff of the building will include
Abstract of Title:
A chronological summary of the recorded instruments and proceedings
on the tile 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. Case in point is
the Trump World Tower currently being built on East 48th Street.
Each building has something to offer its owners or tenants.
These are called amenities. Amenities can be basic such as a doorman or as unique
as high speed Internet access. Other common amenities include garages, valet services,
health clubs, pools, recreational rooms, laundry facilities, etc.
An outdoor space that protrudes from a building and is usually enjoyed
for the private use of an apartment owner.
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.
This is the individual usually hired by the owner of the building
or the developer to show and promote the property.
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 the 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..
A type of apartment ownership in which the owner owns real property,
yet the apartment is part of a much larger building in which other owners own individual
units. Condominiums are a very liberal type of ownership and are usually favored
by foreigners looking to buy in Manhattan. The regulations regarding ownership are
more lax than those in co-operative apartments. Condominiums usually allow owners
to finance upwards to 90% of the purchase price; subletting rules and pet policies
are more open than in co-operatives; individual owners are responsible for monthly
Common Charges and monthly Real Estate Taxes.
Refers to a situation when a large one or two bedroom contains a Dining-L
which could be converted into another bedroom with the construction of a wall. In
order to be transformed into a legal bedroom, these L-shaped areas need to contain
Collect Your Own Fee:
This is usually a rental listing distributed by a brokerage
firm on the basis of the cooperating broker collecting the entire fee. A broker
might do this because he/she feels that the apartment is overpriced or that in an
effort to do an owner a favor (he/she may manage the unit), he has offered the brokerage
community at large an inducement to rent the property quickly.
This term most often refers to the interior outside grounds of a building.
When you see the term "courtyard views" in an advertisement or on a listing, this
usually means that the apartment receives little light an looks away from the street.
A listing, rental or sale, sent out to the brokerage community at
large by a brokerage firm on behalf of the owner of the apartment. The firm sending
out the listing is doing so on the basis that the buyer's or tenant's broker can
collect an entire fee.
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.
A term used to describe the change in usage of a building. A classic
example is when an older, underutilized commercial space is converted into residential
space. An owner of a building may do this in order to derive the best financial
means from his/her property. A large commercial vacancy rate, a change in the make-up
of a neighborhood, a tight residential market, or city tax incentives may lead an
owner to alter the usage of a building.
This term can have several meanings. A second use of the term in
the local market is when a rental building is converted to a co-operative type of
ownership. This occurs when an individual or a company plays the role of a sponsor
in the conversion process.
A concierge is an individual who sits inside the building lobby and acts
as a clerk as well as a security person for the comings and goings in a building
lobby. A concierge is not situated at the door and does not open the door for tenants.
The concierge's duties can include accepting packages, informing tenants of visitors,
When an apartment owner takes two separate yet adjoining apartments
and combines them into a larger single apartment. The city of New York has streamlined
this process so that the procedure is far less cumbersome.
When a property is sold, the brokers involved in the transaction are
entitled to payment in the form of a commission. In a sale transaction, the commission
rate is usually set by the owner and is typically six-percent of the sales price.
If the property is of great value, the owner and the broker(s) may agree to cut
the commission to a lower percentage of the sales price. If the property for sale
is a particularly difficult property to sell, the owner may increase the commission
rate to a higher percentage of the purchase price.
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.
The area in a building that is shared by all of the tenants/owners
of the building. This could include the lobby, a common courtyard or roof garden
or the hallways.
Dual Sinks/Dual Vanity:
When there are two separate sinks in a bathroom, usually
his and hers.
An apartment that is spread out over two levels.
In lieu of the term 'mint', some people use the word 'excellent' to describe
the condition of an apartment that is in a superb shape.
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 apartment. 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 through
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.
The procedure of placing money in an account where neither buyer nor seller
can access the money without the consent of an escrow agent
En Suite Bathroom:
French term literally meaning 'together'. In the realtor's lexicon,
this term refers to a bathroom that is one with 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 acronym used to describe an Eat-In-Kitchen.
Each co-operative building allows shareholders to finance a certain
portion of the purchase price of a co-operative apartment. This number can vary
greatly. Very often, the number is somewhere between 70% and 80 % of the purchase
price. However, more prestigious and more established buildings can have a much
lower number. Some co-operatives may allow no financing at all. This number is completely
arbitrary and determined by the co-operative board of directors.
Flip Tax/Transfer Fee:
Two different ways to say the same thing. A Flip Tax or a
Transfer Fee is a tax imposed by the co-operative on the sale of a co-operative
apartment. This fee could be a percentage of the gross sale, a percentage of the
net sale, a percentage of the gain, a fee based on the number of shares held by
the shareholder, or a fixed amount determined by the co-operative. These fees can
be either paid by the buyer, the seller or shared by both parties in a transaction.
Sometimes the co-operative pre-determines from whom they would like to receive these
monies. The determination of who pays this fee can also be negotiated by the parties
involved in the transaction. These fees are used by a building to increase the building's
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.
The process by which a lending institution takes back a property because
the property owner can no longer meet his/her monthly mortgage payment.
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.
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.
Full Service Building:
We use this term to describe a building which employs both
a concierge and a full-time doorman.
When we refer to high ceilings, one usually refers to ceilings with
a height of nine feet or more. Most pre-war apartments and many of the newer, more
expensive condominiums have high ceilings as do loft spaces.
Refers to a bathroom with no bath or shower. A half-bath is also commonly
referred to as a powder room.
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
In Contract: Refers to the moment in time when a buyer and a seller both sign a
contract of sale.
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 on into a foyer which leads directly to the particular apartment.
This type of elevator can be seen in loft spaces where an apartment can occupy an
entire floor or in high-end apartments where one must use a key to control access
to a penthouse apartment.
Brokers refer to available apartments as listings. These can be either
sale or rental availabilities.
A legal document which outlines the responsibilities and parameters between
a landlord and a tenant.
When a lessee (tenant) must leave his/her apartment prior to the
end of the particular lease and he/she remains responsible for the duration of the
term. In such an instance, the lessor (owner) will allow the lessee to assign the
remaining term on the lease to a new tenant. However, in most situations like this,
a prudent owner/landlord will keep the original tenant on the lease and thus responsible
for the remainder of the term. Whether or not the owner/landlord allows the new
tenant to remain in the apartment is strictly at the discretion of the owner/landlord.
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 purpose of identification.
Most co-operative and condominium buildings will hire an independent
company to manage the property. These firms are responsible for the daily maintenance
of a property, the collection of rents or monthly maintenance charges, enforcing
building policies, etc.
This refers to the amount of monthly charges paid by an individual
co-operative owner to the co-operative as their proportionate share of the expenses
of the building. Maintenance is comprised of three components: 1) The daily cost
to run and operate the building; 2) The shareholders proportionate share of the
building's underlying mortgage and 3) the shareholders proportionate share of the
building's local real estate taxes.
A ground floor apartment with a separate street entrance from the rest
of the building. This type of apartment will usually have a second entrance inside
the building's lobby and will enjoy the same amenities of the building. Typically
these apartments are located in Park Avenue or Fifth Avenue co-operative apartment
buildings and provide the owners of these apartments a more private existence within
a co-op and a 'townhouse' type of environment without the maintenance of an actual
In order to purchase a property, an individual often will enter into an
agreement with a lending institution to provide him/her with a loan to cover a large
percentage of the purchase price. A mortgage is a very common vehicle used in the
purchase of a home and most Americans use this type of financing throughout their
lives when they purchase property. There are several components to a mortgage, including
the interest rate due on the loan (this can be either a fixed or floating rate),
the term of the mortgage in number of years (usually 15 or 30) and the amount that
is being financed. Using simple math, one can figure out his/her monthly payments
for the term of the mortgage. If the rate is fixed, the amount for each payment
period will be identical and will be comprised of two components, principle and
A bed which is built into a wall or attached to a wall and can be pulled
down when needed. One can find Murphy Beds in smaller apartments. These beds can
provide for great space saving and often resemble wall units so that when they are
not exposed they are hardly if at all noticeable.
Often when a consumer takes out a mortgage, the lender will tack
on points to the mortgage amount is an upfront cost of doing business. In other
words, if the lending institution offers a mortgage rate at 2 points, you will be
paying 2% of the total mortgage upfront as an added cost of doing business.
When a building replaces its windows. The monies for this type of capital
expenditure comes from either the building's reserve fund, a building wide assessment
or a maintenance increase. A building will change its windows for a variety of reasons.
These include noise abatement, aesthetics, and the ability to keep out silt from
the city traffic.
No Board Approval:
This terminology can refer to two situations: The first is when
a prospective purchaser of an apartment does not have to go through the scrutiny
of a board approval process when purchasing a co-operative apartment. The second
situation is when a prospective renter does not have to go through the board approval
process when renting an apartment from a co-operative owner.
There are several different types of residential ownership in Manhattan.
Each of them has their distinct characteristics. They are Condominiums; Co-operatives;
A kitchen which opens up to the living space of an apartment. There
is no door separating the kitchen from the rest of the apartment. These types of
kitchens are most often found in loft spaces.
Original Room Count:
Many pre-war apartment buildings when built were designed to
accommodate one or two apartments per floor. Often these apartments could encompass
from 10 to 16 rooms. Over time these apartments have been slimmed down to smaller
apartments of significantly smaller sizes. Today we may also see a situation where
individual apartment owners may take a six or seven room apartment and combine two
maids' rooms or add a maid's room to a kitchen to create fewer, yet larger rooms
in an apartment.
This term is used to describe detailing in pre-war apartments.
This can include ceiling moldings, chair rails, ornamental decorations around doors
or fireplaces, etc.
This term describes one of chain of events in the purchase of an
apartment. This refers to the point in time when an owner accepts the business terms
of an offer for an apartment. This can include the price, the closing period, and
any contingencies the parties may agree upon.
A listing offered to the brokerage community by an apartment owner,
a developer or a management firm which is not being marketed on a co-broke basis.
This type of listing often allows a broker to earn a larger fee than if the property
were being marketed by a co-operating broker.
This term is used to describe views from an apartment when one has
a rather 'turn of your head' view of Central Park or either of the two rivers.
In order to promote a property, the listing broker or the owner of the
property may hold an open house in order to get a large number of people and/or
brokers through the property in a short period of time. Often you will see Open
Houses advertised in the Sunday New York Times Real Estate Section.
Owner Pays (OP):
A situation when an owner of an apartment building or an individual
apartment will offer an inducement to a prospective tenant or to a broker by paying
all or part of the commission on the rental of an apartment. In hot rental market,
it will be less likely that an owner will pay any portion of a rental commission.
On-Site Broker or Contact Person:
This is the person hired by the owner of the building
(rental) or a developer to sit at the building to field questions about the property,
show vacant apartments and follow-through with any transactions at the building.
This is usually the person with whom the listing manager of a real estate firm will
have contact for updates.
Each building has a pet policy particular to that building. This can
vary from a strict no pet policy to a more liberal pet policy in which tenant or
owner can harbor as many pets as he/she desires. Some particularizes to different
pet policies may includes the following: No dogs, weight limits on dogs, no pets
on sublets, board interviews of pets or pets by written permission of the board.
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.
This term refers to the time (month and day) that a new purchaser or
a new tenant can actually take possession of an apartment.
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 in the townhouse and almost always has the building's highest ceilings.
Historically, these floors were primarily used for entertaining with two rooms separated
by a staircase. These rooms were usually Living Rooms, Libraries or Formal Dining
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.
Pullman or Petite Kitchen:
This type of kitchen is most often found in small apartments
and are situated against a single wall. Usually these kitchens are no bigger than
the size of a closet and consist of a refrigerator (full or half), an oven and a
sink. This type of kitchen does not count as a room when counting apartment rooms.
Many of these kitchens are found in pre-war buildings that were originally constructed
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
Refers to buildings built after World War II. Post-war building 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.
Refers to a bathroom with no bath or shower. A powder room is also
commonly referred to as half-bath.
This term refers to views that offer partial vistas of Central Park,
the Hudson River or the East River.
An apartment that is spread out over four levels.
These buildings are owned by an individual or a company and the
apartments are available on a rental basis only.
A broker earns a rental commission on the rental of an apartment.
The prospective tenant typically pays this commission which can range from ten to
fifteen percent of a year's aggregate rent. In a hot rental market, these fees will
tend to be in the neighborhood of fifteen percent. In a soft market, one may induce
a real estate agent to reduce his/her fee in order to conclude a transaction.
Each co-operative and condominium maintains a reserve fund. The objective
of the board of directors or the board of managers is to grow this reserve fund
so that the building has the ability to pay for the monthly expenses involved in
the upkeep of the building as well as for those expenses that are out of the ordinary
(such as elevator, repairs, roof repairs, new boilers, etc.).
Every apartment has a room count. Straight Studio, Petite Kitchen: One
room. Straight Studio, Full Kitchen: Two rooms. Alcove Studio, Full Kitchen: 2.5
Rooms. Junior-One, Full Kitchen, No Wall: 2.5 Rooms. Junior-One, Full Kitchen, Wall:
3.0 Rooms. One Bedroom, Living Room, Kitchen: 3 Rooms. Junior-Four, Living Rooms,
Kitchen, Dining Alcove: 3.5 Rooms. Convertible-2, Living Rooms, Kitchen, Dining
Alcove, No Wall: 3.5 Rooms.
This term refers to lighting that is located above the ceiling and does not
have a light fixture hanging from the ceilings. This type of lighting provides a
very clean and contemporary look to an apartment.
When a tenant in a rental building decides that he/she must rent
out their apartment for a short period of time because they are leaving New York,
they have an opportunity to assign their lease to another tenant for the period
of time that they will be out of town. These types of sublets are usually furnished
and last for less than a year in duration.
When one refers to a building's service level, one is referring to
the level of the front-door service available in a particular building.
Each apartment in a co-operative actually owns shares in the co-operative
(The same way that an individual might own shares in a publicly traded cooperation).
These shares represent the proportion of the building that is owned by that individual
shareholder. This is determined by the size of the apartment, the floor on which
the apartment is located and if there are any particular special features associated
with a particular apartment. Two identical apartments located on different floors
will possess a different number of shares.
Many apartments are available on a short-term basis ranging from 1-6
months. These apartments are typically furnished and offer the tenant a less expensive
alternative to weekly hotel bills. These apartments are typically not subject to
New York City Hotel taxes and average out to be far less expensive on a per diem
When referencing square footage in the Manhattan residential marketplace,
the term can mean almost anything. Measurements are usually approximate and most
often done by the subjective eye of the real estate broker or the apartment owner.
Brokers should always use the term approximate when describing the square footage
of an apartment. In the sale of condominium units, square footage is measurements
are fairly accurate because people refer to the condominium offering books where
by law these measurements need to accurately reflect the square footage of the units.
A rental tenant will put down a security deposit on an apartment
so that the owner of the apartment has security against any potential damages in
the apartment during the term of tenancy. This security deposit is not in lieu of
a tenant paying his/her last month's rent.
A situation in which a building owner is unable to meet the operating
expenses of a building because the building's income is less than the building's
expenses. In a co-operatives where there is sponsor maintaining unsold shares, there
is a good chance that the tenants occupying unsold share apartments are paying below-market
rents while the sponsor is responsible for the maintenance payments to the co-operative
for the particular apartment. There is a tremendous likelihood that the difference
between the collected rent and the maintenance due the co-operative can create a
long-term financial burden for a sponsor. This is referred to as a shortfall. Obviously,
the more unsold shares owned by a sponsor the greater the financial strain.
This term refers to a second entrance to a kitchen from the common
hallway or a rear or private smaller hallway. This entrance is basically used for
deliveries and as a means of egress for the servants of the house.
Each co-operative has a yearly number that reflects an amount
that each individual shareholder is allowed to deduct from his/her personal taxes
each year. This number will be in the form of a percentage. The number reflects
the shareholders proportionate share of the building's underlying mortgage and the
New York City real estate taxes paid in that particular year.
This terms 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.
This type of structure was pre-eminent in the 1900s and up through the
1930s. The townhouse primarily built as private residences for its occupants with
one family owning and occupying the entire structure. These structures were usually
built in groups and were commonly referred to as row houses. They were built four
to five stories high and enjoyed many common design elements. Typically, the houses
were built with an English basement level (slightly below street grade) which housed
the kitchen at the front of the building underneath the building stoop (or stairs)
and was entered via a service entrance. At the rear of the first level was usually
a Dining Room leading to the private garden. The second level, commonly referred
to as the Parlor Floor was the garden floor and used for entertaining. Visitors
entered the townhouse via the steps leading to this floor.
An apartment that is spread out over three levels.
Each rental lease is for a duration of time. This period of time is called
the term and will range from one month to a 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
Manhattan, terraces can be found when there is a setback on a high-rise. These terraces
are also enjoyed for the private use of an individual apartment owner. We categorize
a terrace as outdoor space. A terrace and balcony are often confused and the terms
are used interchangeably.
The city of New York often offers developers tax breaks in the form
of abatements in order to induce development in a particular area of the city. Most
recently the wave of development in the downtown area has been spurred on by tax
incentives offered by the city for the conversion of commercial space to residential
In some buildings you will find that Electric and Gas (sometimes
Cable TV) is included in the monthly maintenance charges.
This term pertains to shares in a co-operative apartment building
that have not been sold to shareholders (owners of individual apartments). These
shares (apartments) remain as assets of the co-operative sponsor. When a building
is converted from a rental property to a co-operative apartment building, there
are almost always rental tenants who do not wish to purchase their apartments, but
would rather remain in the apartments and continue to pay the sponsor rent (as opposed
to the maintenance charges on the apartment). These shares remain 'unsold' until
the tenant either changes his/her mind on purchasing the apartment, the tenant moves
out of the building, the sponsor offers the tenant a monetary sum or incentive so
that he/she moves. Another scenario facing a sponsor is one in which market conditions
prohibit the sponsor from selling the unsold shares at a profit margin that he deems
financially acceptable. In such a case, the sponsor may rent out these apartments
for a period of time until the market shifts in favor of selling the units at a
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.
The acronym used to describe a windowed Eat-In-Kitchen
A building without an elevator. This term usually refers to four
to six story pre-war buildings that were built without an elevator. Today it is
uncommon to see new construction without the incorporation of an elevator.
This refers to the treatments an individual may put on a window.
These can include shades or blinds.