NYC apartments are unique in the real estate universe. Not only do rental apartments in NYC make up 75 percent of the available housing units versus about 5 to 10 percent in other markets, but apartments in NYC have ownership and other important differences that are often puzzling to newcomers.
Approximately 70 percent of homeownership in Manhattan is in co-op apartments. The rest are condos, condops and townhouses. Most new construction developments are condo apartments. Most pre-war apartments are co-ops. All NYC apartments are classified as either pre-war (WWII) or post-war (modern).
Everyone wants their New York City apartment hunting experience to be a positive one. As a current or future New Yorker, no matter your lifestyle or budget, it pays to know the different building and apartment options and terminology.
1. Penthouse – At the top floor of the building, the penthouse apartment can be any size and often has outdoor space. A penthouse can range from a small studio to a mansion in the sky. A penthouse can be a simplex, duplex or triplex and may have wrap around terraces. Many buildings have several penthouse apartments while some buildings have an entire penthouse floor.
2. Loft - A loft is an apartment with large open space usually in converted industrial buildings, but many modern buildings feature loft-like apartments with open layouts. Lofts usually have high ceilings, huge windows and often a private elevator that opens directly into the loft.
3. Floor-Through - A floor thru is either an entire or half floor of a building, usually in a brownstone or townhouse. Many New Yorkers use the term brownstone interchangeably with the term townhouse. A brownstone is actually a type of townhouse that was made of brownstone, which was an affordable material in the 19th century. Many were row houses. The more expensive townhouse mansions were made of limestone or marble. Floor-through apartments have a window facing the front of the building and a window facing the back. These apartments usually have both north and south exposures, but can have east and west as well.
4. Townhouse - Most New York City townhouses were built in the 19th century. Most were built with brownstone ore limestone. Many were built as single-family mansions and carriage houses. There are still many single-family townhouses in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but many were converted to apartments. They are mostly walk-up buildings, but some have elevators. Many feature original details such as brick walls, high ceilings, mahagony stairs and bay windows.
5. Masionette - A maisonette is an apartment of the first floor of a pre-war building. It is usually found in full-service buildings, which have a full staff with 24-hour doorman and/or concierge, super (superintendent) handyman and porters.A masionette has it’s own private entrance from the outside of the building (a door on the front or side of the building that opens directly into the apartment). It usually also has another entrance inside the lobby. Maisionettes usually occupy two floors of the building with their own internal stairs. A masionette offers the privacy and lifestyle of living in a townhouse with all the amenities of a full-service doorman building.
6. Classic - A classic is a sought-after apartment in a pre-war building that has a formal dining room and one or two maid’s rooms. A “classic six” for example, is a six-room apartment in a pre-war building that has a living room, formal dining room, two bedrooms, kitchen, maid’s room and one to three baths. Some also have a small maid’s bath. In the larger classics – “classic seven,” “eight,” or “nine” – there may be several maids’ or servants’ quarters. Many may have also been combined into a larger room. A “classic five,” also known as an Edwardian five, is a one-bedroom with formal dining room and maid’s room. Many families today use the formal dining room as a second bedroom and the maid’s room as a small bedroom or home office.
7. Duplex - A New York City duplex apartment is on two floors of a building with its own interior stairs. A duplex can be an apartment of any size. Duplexes can range from a studio apartment with a sleeping loft upstairs to large homes with several bedrooms.
8. Studio - A studio is a small one- or two-room apartment. An alcove studio has a sleeping or dining alcove adjoining the living room. Studio apartments are very popular in Manhattan; they are often the first NYC apartment for newcomers as well as New Yorkers. Studios are ideal for first-time renters, first -time buyers, as a pied-à-terre (a NYC apartment that is not the resident’s primary residence), and as investment properties.
9. Alcove - An alcove is not only in a studio apartment. Many larger apartments have an alcove adjoining the living room. An alcove can be used for a dining area or separated and closed off to make a bedroom, den or home office. Apartments with alcoves or L-shaped living rooms are also called “convertible” or “junior.” A junior four is a one-bedroom with alcove. It is called a junior four because it is not quite four rooms; it is usually a 3.5-room apartment. A convertible two-bedroom is also a one-bedroom with alcove.
10. New Developments, New Construction and Conversions - Throughout the city new residential building construction and conversions are featuring apartments with the latest architectural designs and amenities. Many buildings from NYC’s industrial past have been converted to new residential apartments with postmodern interiors and finishes. Many of the recently constructed new developments are brand new luxury apartment buildings designed by “starchitects” (star architects), featuring designer apartments. From green technology LEED certified homes to glass mansions in the sky, these new developments are not only changing the Manhattan skyline, but they are also changing the way many New Yorkers are living.
Written by Mitchell Hall, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, The Corcoran Group