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ALCOVE STUDIO (ALC) - A studio apartment unit annexed with an additional and smaller alcove space, which often forms an L shape. Screens or other partitions are optionally used for privacy, creating a separate sleeping area/bedroom.

BROWNSTONE/TOWNHOUSE (BSTN, TWNHSE, TH) - Four to five story high buildings that were built in the late 1800's through the early 1900's as single-family homes. Their architectural styles usually reflect early Dutch, French and German influences. Many brownstones and townhouses were converted to multi-unit buildings (with 7-10 units) around World War II, but in recent years many have been restored and converted back to single-family homes. Generally, apartments in these types of buildings can have high ceilings, fireplaces, gardens or 'garden views' (if on a high floor and in the back) and hardwood floors. Prices range from mid-priced to expensive, depending on location, size and renovations. Virtually none have a doorman.

CLASSIC 6, 7 OR 8 (CLASSIC 6/7/8) - The term classic followed by a number (usually starting at six) refers to the number of rooms in an apartment. It is most often used with pre-war apartments. For example, a 'Classic 6' would be a two bedroom with a living room, dining room, kitchen and maid's room. Bathrooms are not included when counting the rooms of an apartment.

CONDOMINIUM (CONDO) - A condominium apartment is real property. A buyer receives a deed to the property, and owns the apartment outright. By law, there cannot be an underlying mortgage on the property. A unit owner must pay a monthly common charge to cover the costs of maintaining and running the building. Since a condo is real property, the owner is responsible for paying real estate taxes. If the unit owner has a mortgage, the bank collects 1/12 of the yearly real estate taxes every month and pays the city directly out of an escrow account. If the owner pays all cash and has no mortgage, the city will bill them twice a year.

Buying a Condo

  • You can finance up to 90% of the purchase price, provided you have good credit and sufficient income.
  • There is an application process when buying a condo, but it is not nearly as rigorous as that of a co-op. You will still need to provide some financial information about yourself, but you do not have to interview. The managing agent of the building sets the rules for buying and renting in the building.
  • Condos are generally more expensive than a comparable co-op. This price difference is due to the fact that there are less condominium buildings in New York; they are less expensive to carry; easier to rent out; and easier to purchase and sell.

Renting a Condo

  • Though much less complicated than a co-op application, there is a formal application procedure that must be followed when renting a condo.
  • The documents and requirements asked of the prospective tenant are similar to those in a rental building, but the process takes one to three weeks.
  • The condo board has the 'right of first refusal', meaning they can turn you down if they have an applicant of their own, but this is rarely exercised.

CONVERTIBLE/FLEXIBLE 1,2,3, OR 4 BEDROOM (CONV1/2/3/4 OR FLEX1/2/3/4) - An apartment that is convertible or flexible in terms of the number of bedrooms it can provide. For example, a convertible two bedroom is a one bedroom apartment with enough space (usually in the living room/dining area) to partition off an area for the second bedroom. A convertible three bedroom is a two bed apartment where a third bedroom is carved out of the living space, and so on and so forth. The terms 'convertible' and 'flex' are used interchangeably.

COOPERATIVES/CO-OP (COOP) - A co-operative is a form of ownership in which individual owners do not own their actual apartments, but rather they own shares in a corporation that owns the building. The resident/shareholder then has a proprietary lease for the apartment. It is important to note that co-ops often have an underlying mortgage on the entire building, meaning the tenant will have to pay a monthly share of the mortgage. This payment, along with the other costs associated with running the building (real estate taxes, employee salaries, fuel oil, etc) are passed along to the resident/shareholder in the form of a monthly 'maintenance' fee. The amount of shares the resident owns determines their proportion of fees. The amount of shares a resident owns is determined by their apartment's size, floor, light, and views. A Board of Directors, (known as the 'co-op board' and comprised of tenants of the building), determine the rules of the co-op and the requirements for applicants looking to either buy or rent in the building. There are both modern and older co-op buildings. Most prewar buildings will fall into the co-op category. About 85% of apartment units for sale and purchase in New York City are in co-ops.

Buying in a Co-op

  • In all co-ops there is a minimum down payment set by the board of directors. It is usually 20-25%, but can be any amount of the board's choosing.
  • A prospective buyer must go through a formal approval process set forth by the Board of Directors. This usually involves divulging all of your financial information, gathering a set number of reference letters from friends and business associates, and sitting for an interview with the board.
  • The co-op board has the final say on all applications, and does not have to give a reason if they deny an application.
  • Most co-ops want the applicant to have a set number of month's or year's worth of maintenance fees in liquid assets after they make the down payment. For example, if the board's rule is that the applicant must have one year of maintenance fees in liquid assets, and the monthly maintenance is $1,000, you must have at least $12,000 in cash equivalents after you make the down payment.
  • A portion of the maintenance charge will be tax deductible - this is the interest on the underlying mortgage. The deductible portion is usually expressed in an apartment listing as "Maint. $750/mo, 35% TD", meaning that $262.5 of the $750 is tax deductible.
  • Real estate taxes are included in the monthly maintenance fee

Renting in a Co-op

  • Renting an apartment in a co-op can be difficult, as many co-ops have very strict rules in regard to shareholders 'sub-leasing' their apartments.
  • Many co-ops have rules that stipulate that the apartments may only be sub-leased three out of five years, only one year at a time with no renewal, or not at all.
  • Most co-ops will subject prospective sub-tenants to the same application process as a buyer.
  • Co-op boards usually meet only once a month at a set time, making the timing of an application very important. If an applicant misses the co-op board meeting one month, they will have to wait until the following month for the board to review their application.

DUPLEX (DPLX) - An apartment with two levels.

ELEVATOR BUILDING (ELEV BLDG) - This term refers to a building, which has elevator service but no doorman. Usually these buildings have some type of intercom security system, and a laundry facility.

FLOOR-THROUGH (FLR-THRU) - This refers to an apartment that runs from the front to the rear wall of the building, occupying an entire floor. Usually found in brownstones and townhouses.

JUNIOR FOUR (JR4) - A one-bedroom apartment with a separate alcove area - usually the dining area. The "junior" refers to the fact that the alcove qualifies as a junior fourth room. The other three rooms are the bedroom, the kitchen and the living room. This separate alcove can be used as an office area, or, if the building management or owner allows, as a walled off second bedroom.

LOFT (LFT, LOFT) - Originally commercial buildings converted for residential use. Characterized by wide, open airy space, most lofts have very high ceilings, huge windows and a uniqueness in design. Lofts commonly do not have a doorman. Many have private, locked elevators and are located in downtown areas such as SOHO, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Flatiron and Tribeca. Lofts command very high prices.

LUXURY HIGH RISE (LUX HI RISE) - This term refers to buildings over twenty stories tall. Many in Manhattan have been built in the 1980's or later. They typically have a doorman and many feature concierge services. You may also find many with health clubs and swimming pools.

PENTHOUSE (PTHSE) - A luxury apartment in a high rise building, on the highest floors of the building.

PIED A TERRE - A French expression; translated literally it means "foot on the earth". It refers to an apartment that someone uses as a second home, usually because their business requires them to spend several days or weeks in New York every month, with their primary residence being too far away for a daily commute. Pied à terre are also kept by those who simply enjoy having a place to stay, of their own, when they visit New York for shopping and social activities.

POST-WAR BUILDING (POST-WAR BLDG) - Typically constructed between the late 1940's through the 1970's, these buildings are usually ten to thirty stories tall and constructed of white, red or brown brick. Most will have a doorman. Post-war buildings often have larger layouts when compared to pre-war or luxury high rise style buildings.

PRE-WAR BUILDING (PRE-WAR BLDG) - Known for their character, pre-war buildings were built prior to World War II. They can be recognized them by their unique architecture and attractive, often ornate exterior and interior details. The apartments typically have higher, beamed ceilings, with some featuring fireplaces and other decorative touches. Laundry facilities can usually be found in the basement. Doormen are common, but a good number will only have an intercom and buzzer system. Most pre-war buildings are co-ops. Pre-war buildings are in great demand and command premium prices.

QUADRAPLEX (QDRPLEX) - An apartment with four levels.

RAILROAD FLAT (RR) - An apartment with all rooms organized in a linear sequence, which requires passing through one room (Bedroom) to get to the next (Kitchen, Bath).

RENTAL BUILDING - A building where the apartments are only rented and not sold.

SHARE - An arrangement whereby one rents an apartment with one or more individuals who already live in the apartment.

STUDIO - A one or two room apartment where living and sleeping areas are combined as a single room. The kitchen is either a separate room or set in a wall off the living area. This type of kitchen is usually referred to as a "Pullman Kitchen", after the Pullman railroad cars.

SUBLET - An arrangement whereby a legal tenant of an apartment rents part or all of the apartment to someone else. The legal tenant becomes the 'Over-Tenant' acting as landlord to the 'Under-Tenant' (Subletter). The Subletter's relationship is with the 'Over-tenant' only. They pay rent directly to the 'Over-tenant' and have no contact with the original landlord.

TENEMENT - A building with many apartments of which most open into an airshaft.

TRIPLEX (TRPLX) - An apartment with three levels.

TOWNHOUSE (TWNHSE, TH) - A townhouse is a private residence where at least one wall is shared with another residence. In New York City, townhouses are a very popular providing more private way of living.

WALK-UP BUILDING (WLK-UP BLDG) - This term refers to any building that does not have elevator service. It can apply to a brownstone, townhouse or a post-war 3-6 story building. These apartments can also be situated over storefronts located on the avenues or on side streets.

WINGED APARTMENT - You enter a winged apartment through the kitchen. To the left is the door to bedroom #1. Bedroom #2 is to the right. The bathroom is located straight through the kitchen. This kind of floor-plan allows roommates to share with privacy.