Townhouse Building Terminology

Abstract of Title:  A chronological summary of the recorded instruments and proceedings on the tile 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. Case in point is the Trump World Tower built on East 48th Street.

 Appraisal:  The process of determining the value of a property usually against values of other properties of similar-type in the immediate neighborhood.

 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.

 Brownstone:  A dwelling faced with brownstone, a native New York State stone. Also, a colloquial term for townhouse.

 Built:  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: 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.

 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 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.

 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.

 Duplex Apartment:  An apartment that is spread out over two levels.

 EIK:  The acronym used to describe an Eat-In-Kitchen.

 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.

 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.

 Excellent:  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.

 Exclusive Listing:  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 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 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.

 Facade:  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.

 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.

 Floating Rate: 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.

 Floor-thru:  An apartment that extends from a building’s façade to its rear wall, so that the unit exclusively occupies an entire floor.

 Foreclosure:  The process by which a lending institution takes back a property because the property owner can no longer meet his/her monthly mortgage payment.

 Half-Bath:  Refers to a bathroom with no bath or shower. A half-bath is also commonly referred to as a powder room.

 High Ceilings:  When we refer to high ceilings, one usually refers to ceilings with a height of nine feet or more.

 In Contract:  Refers to the moment in time when a buyer and a seller both sign a contract of sale.

 Interest Rate:  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 Board.

 Keyed Elevator:  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.

 Lease Assignment:  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.

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

 Loft Space:  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.

 Lot:  Each New York City parcel of land is divided into lots for purpose of identification

 Mortgage Points:  Often when a consumer takes out a mortgage, the lender will tack on points to the mortgage amount as 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.

 Mortgage:  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 interest.

 Oblique Views:  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.

 Offer Accepted:  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.

 Open House:  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.

 Open Kitchen:  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 Detail:  This term is used to describe detailing in pre-war buildings. This can include ceiling moldings, chair rails, ornamental decorations around doors or fireplaces, etc.

 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 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 Rooms.

Partial Views: This term refers to views that offer partial vistas of Central Park, the Hudson River or the East River.

 Pass-through Kitchen:  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.

 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 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.

 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.

 Professional Space:  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.

 Pullman 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 as hotels.

 Quadruplex:  An apartment that is spread out over four levels.

 Recessed Lighting:  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.

 Room Count:  Every apartment has a room count. Straight Studio, pullman 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.

 Security Deposit:  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.

 Service Entrance:  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.

 Shortfall:  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.

 Tax Abatement:  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 housing.

 Term:  Each rental lease is for a duration of time. This period of time is called the term and will range from one month to two or three years. Typically an unfurnished apartment will rent for a term of 12-24 months.

 Terrace:  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.

 Townhouse:  This type of structure was pre-eminent in the 1840’s and up through the 1930s. Townhouses were 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.

Triple-Mint:  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.

Triplex Apartment:  An apartment that is spread out over three levels.

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. This term usually refers to four to six story pre-war buildings that were built without an elevator.