Glossary of Terms

glossary of terms

Abstract of title A historical summary of the recorded instruments and proceedings on the title of a property.
Air rights The right to use or control the space above a property. Air Rights can also be sold, rented or leased to another party.
Amenities The benefits from home ownership, such as a feature that enhances value.
Appraisal An estimate of the value of the property. During a sale, an appraisal may be conducted to determine the offering price.
Assignment The process by which a right or contract is transferred from one party to another. Assigned contracts include mortgages, leases and deeds of trust.

Type of Buildings

Brownstones or townhouses

These are typically four to six story buildings built in the 1800s to early 1900s. They are either single family houses or have been converted 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. Generally, these buildings afford more charm, with features such as gardens, fireplaces, beautiful floors and ornamental wood moldings. These buildings typically do not have a doorman. One can also purchase a co-op or condo unit in a townhouse building. Some apartments in townhouses can have grand living spaces and be quite expensive. The term “brownstone” refers to the type of material used as facing on the front of the structure.

pre-war buildings

Pre-war buildings are those built before World War II. These buildings are usually 10 to 20 stories, provide spacious apartment lay-outs and gracious architectural amenities with features such as large rooms, fireplaces, hardwood parquet floors and high ceilings. These can be doorman or non-doorman buildings.

post-war buildings

Post-war buildings were built between the late 1940s and 1970s. They are generally high-rise and are constructed of white, red or brown brick. Most will have doormen. Post-war apartments may actually afford more living space than their pre-war counterparts in studio, one and two bedroom sizes. They have ample closets, a live-in superintendent and laundry facilities.

High -Rise Full Service buildings

These are generally associated with new construction or are apartment buildings that were built starting in the 1980s. They are typically condominiums, 20 to 40 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 6 to 20 stories tall. There is usually an intercom security system, and some may have video security. These buildings can 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 buildings. The spaces typically offer higher ceilings (9 to 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 building.

walk-up buildings

This is the least expensive type of housing, and the quality can vary widely. Usually these are four to five 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.

Types of apartments

Familiarizing yourself with the following terminology will facilitate the buying process. It is also important to know that New Yorkers speak in “number of rooms,” as well as using the terms 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 in which the kitchen is part of the living room. Bathrooms are not considered rooms. So, a Three Room Apartment would be comprised of a living room, kitchen and bedroom. A Four Room Apartment would have a living room, kitchen, and 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.


One or two rooms with combined living and sleeping area. If the studio is one room, the kitchen will be Pullman style. If it is two rooms, the kitchen will be separate.


An 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 is 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 an often L-shaped alcove 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 Four, 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.


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).


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.

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