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If you’re thinking about playing the New York City real estate game, you’ll need to learn the terminology. While pursuing properties you’ve probably come across some foreign words and phrases, so first things first. Learn what you’re reading and what you hear before you can wheel and deal on the apartment of your dreams.

Abstract of Title

A comprehensive summary of facts regarding the property title, including ownership and legal proceedings related to the title.

Adjoining

A property that is in contact with, or attached to, another property. Same as contiguous.

Air Rights

The property rights an owner has to the airspace above their property or ground; these rights are determined by city ordinances and necessity.

Alcove Studio

A studio apartment with a separate space adjacent to the living room. Often a wall can be added to create a bedroom.

Appraisal

An estimate of the value of a particular property, based on a comprehensive examination of the property, its location, and other related factors.

Architectural drawing

A formal illustration drafted by an architect that includes all layouts for a planned building, including plot plans, floor plans, elevations, sections, details, schedules, and other information. These exclude mechanical, electrical, and structural drawings, as well as specialized illustrations that are typically created and controlled by specialists.

Assignment

The transfer, in writing, of interest in a contract from one party to another. The holder of the lease effectively transfers the contract to another individual, who is the new tenant, for the remaining time and amount left on the lease. The new tenant is now liable for rent to the original owner of the lease.

Broker

Another term for a licensed real estate agent who lists properties for sale and rent, and or represents buyers.

Brownstone

These townhouses were constructed in the 19th Century, made from brown sandstone. They have below-level entrances, which are sometimes called English basements, and many have a garden at the back. These homes have many charming features of the times and maintain that old-fashioned feel.

Building Amenities

The specific services or perks that a building offers its tenants. Common amenities are garages, pools, fitness areas, laundry facilities, doormen and lobby attendants.

Building Permit

A formal, written approval granted to a builder by a state or local authority. Drawings and specifications for the proposed structure must be filed with legal authorities for the building permit to be issued.

Classic 6

A three-bedroom apartment with a separate living room, dining room, and a full kitchen. Often considered the ultimate NYC family residence.

Condo

A unit or part of an apartment building or large property that is individually owned. Common areas are shared. Also called a condominium.

Co-op

A membership-based corporation in which a person buys shares to live in a building. The more square footage, the more shares owned in a co-op. Many of the apartment buildings in New York City are co-ops or condos.
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Convertible

Can be converted. A convertible two-bedroom could be turned into a three-bedroom.

Cash flow

The net operating income of a property (minus its debt servicing fee, interest, and other expenses). An amount, expressed in a percentage, calculated by dividing a property’s cash flow by the total amount invested in the property and multiplying by 100. The guarantee also called the cash yield.

Certificate of Insurance

A certificate issued by an insurance company and its authorized agents. Verifies that there is a current and valid insurance policy in effect for certain amounts and coverage for a particular property. Also, contains the named beneficiaries of the policy.

Certificate of Occupancy

This called COO. A document issued by the local government stating that a piece of real estate is up to all proper health and building codes and can be occupied by the public.

Co-broke

When the real estate firm representing the seller states they will split the commission of the sale 50/50 with the real estate firm representing the buyer.

Commission

The payment a real estate broker receives from selling a property. The commission is set by the owner selling the property and is usually 6% or 5% of the value of the property. In some cases, as if the property is difficult to sell or is very valuable, the commission rate may be adjusted up or down.

Common areas

Areas that are used by two or more tenants and third parties, not controlled by any one tenant; public areas that are open to using from the building’s tenants.

Concierge

A concierge is a person situated inside the lobby of a building which acts as a receptionist. This individual is responsible for receiving packages or alerting tenants of visitors. In some buildings, the concierge may work as security in the lobby as well. This person usually does not have the same duties as the doorman.

Constructive eviction

The process by which a landlord, through negligence or a willful act, renders a property unsuitable for occupancy. The tenant is not liable for further payment of rent and may seek damages.

Contract documents

Documents consisting of the agreement and the conditions of the contract (general, supplementary, and other conditions). They include the drawings, the specifications, all addenda issued before execution of the contract, and all modifications. A modification is (1) a written amendment to the contract signed by both parties, (2) a written interpretation issued by the architect in the form of a drawing or otherwise, (3) a change order, or (4) a written order issued by the architect for a minor change in the work.

Conversion

Change in use of a building, like from a commercial space into a residential space. Also referred to a rental building being changed to a condominium or co-operative property ownership.

Convertible

A large one or two bedroom apartment that has an “L” shaped room. This room could year’s into another bedroom with the addition of a wall. For the new room to be considered a bedroom, it must have a window.

Contract Out

The time at which a buyer and seller agree on a price. At this time, the seller will have their attorney write up a contract of sale for the purchaser to sign.

Deed

A legal document is stating title of a property.

Default

The failure of a party to meet a financial obligation when due, or to perform any provision of a lease, mortgage, or other agreement.

Diffuser

A device that reduces airflow velocity from a mechanical duct system supplying a building with air. The shape of a diffuser is usually circular or square, and it is set in the ceiling at predetermined locations to diffuse air within that space.

Duplex

An apartment with two levels, joined by stairs.

Effective gross income

The scheduled gross income of a property, minus the vacancy rate.

Egress

The right to leave a tract of land. Often used in connection with access.

Eminent domain

The right of a government or municipal quasi-public body to seize private property for public use. It is acquired through a court action called condemnation, in which the court determines the use is a public use and decides upon the compensation for the owner.

Encumbrance

Any lien, such as a mortgage, tax, or judgment lien, placed on a property. It can also be an easement of a restriction on the use of the land or an outstanding dower right that may diminish the value of the property.

En-suite

A bathroom directly connected to the bedroom. This type of bathroom is for the use of the bedroom occupants only and is attached to the master bedroom.

Encroachment

A building or structure that extends beyond the legal limits of the owner’s land past the borders of public or private land next to it.

Equity

The interest or value an owner has in real estate over and above the mortgage against it.

Escrow

A process by which two or more parties, through a written agreement, agree to place certain instruments, assets, or property with a third party for temporary possession until certain conditions are fulfilled. The holdings are then delivered to a designated party upon completion.

Estate Sale

The total of all property, personal and real, a person has at the time of death.

Exclusive Listing

A listing contract in which the owner appoints a real estate broker as the exclusive agent for a designated term. The broker must sell the property on the owner’s stated terms, and the owner agrees to pay the broker a commission when the sale is complete.

Facade

One side of the exterior of a building. Typically, this refers to the front, but can at times refer to the sides or the back. From a design standpoint, the facade sets the tone for the building and refers to the materials on the outside of the building such as brick, marble or brownstone.

Fiduciary

An individual to whom power or property is entrusted for the benefit of another party. A real estate broker is a fiduciary for an owner who is selling his or her property or when representing a buyer in the case of an Exclusive Buyer Agent.

Financing Allowed

Something unique to co-operative buildings. Co-op’s may allow an owner to finance up to 70-80% of the purchase price. However, some buildings do not allow financing at all. The co-op’s board of directors determines whether or not this is allowed.

Flip Tax

A transfer fee or tax charged when selling a co-op apartment in New York City, and most often paid by the seller. Most coop flip taxes range between one and three percent of the purchase price. Flip taxes are a way for a cooperative to generate surplus funds for building improvements.

Fixture

Personal property or improvements so attached to the land as to become part of the real property. The right of the tenant to remove fixtures may be given by stipulation in the lease or by separate written agreement.

Floor-thru

An apartment occupying an entire level of a building, which runs from the front of a building to the back wall of a building. This is often seen in townhouses.

Foreclosure

A court action in which the owner of a mortgage or lien has the underlying property sold to pay a debt owed by a debtor. A landlord who does not pay the mortgage as stipulated in the mortgage agreement is subject to foreclosure.

Full-Service Building

A building that employs a doorman and a Concierge. At some buildings, both of these positions are staffed 24 hours.

General Contractor

An individual and firm contracted to work on construction projects. There are different classes of contractors, which are normally listed under the heading of subcontractors. The function of the subcontractor is to perform a particular task only under the direction and coordination of the general contractor, who is normally selected through bidding procedures and is wholly responsible for completion of the project in a skillful manner that is acceptable to both the architect and owner. The contractor also could be contracted on a time-and-material basis, which may or may not have a guaranteed maximum cost.

Ground Lease

A lease of land to a tenant who intends to occupy and develop the land for a specified period. If the tenant defaults, the owner may foreclose on the tenant (see “subordinated ground lease”).

Hazard Insurance

Insurance that protects property when damages are incurred by fire, natural disasters, vandalism. All insurance policies are written differently, be sure you know what your policy covers.

Historic District

A specific area in a community in which the properties have historic significance or value. This value is not always reflected in the market value. City zoning or historic societies usually define historic districts.

Holdover Tenant

A tenant who remains in possession of leased property after the lease has expired.

HVAC

An abbreviation for Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning.

Insured

The beneficiaries of an insurance policy in the event of insurable loss or damage.

Income approach

An approach to value that estimates the value of an income-producing property by capitalization of the annual net income expected to be produced by the property during its remaining useful life.

Interest Rate

A fee that is charged to a one who is borrowing money from a lender. The rate itself can vary and is ultimately set by The Federal Reserve Board.

Junior 1 bedroom (JR1)

A small one-bedroom apartment or a studio with a nook for sleeping. Similar to an alcove studio.

Junior 4 (JR4)

A one bedroom apartment with a separate space that can sometimes be converted to a second bedroom. Most often the additional space is a dining area outside the kitchen.

Joint tenants

Two or more landowners who have been specifically named in an agreement as joint tenants. Upon the death of a joint tenant, the surviving joint tenant or tenants receive the deceased tenant’s interest by the right of survivorship.
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Keyed Elevator

An elevator that usually opens directly to an apartment or the foyer of an apartment. These elevators are usually seen in lofts or penthouses, or any large apartment that covers the entire floor of an apartment.

Landlord

One who leases a property to a tenant.

Lease

A written agreement between a property owner and a tenant defining the responsibilities and agreements of each party.

Lessor

The landlord in a lease.

Lessee

The tenant in a lease.

Loft

This usually refers to property that has been converted from commercial use to residential use. The loft usually covers one entire floor of a building. Some of the benefits of a loft space are large windows, lots of open space and high ceilings.

Lien

A right, given by law, to a creditor to have a debt satisfied out of the property of the debtor, usually through a right to possession. A tax lien, for example, is a lien placed on a piece of property by the government for failure to pay taxes.

Loss Factor

The percentage of the gross area of a given space that is taken up by walls, elevators, etc.

Maintenance

This is another fee that is unique to co-ops. It’s comprised of: 1) The daily cost to operate the building. 2) A share of the building’s underlying mortgage 3) A share of the building’s real estate taxes. These three things combined are the monthly charges paid by a co-operative owner to the co-op.

Maisonette

A ground floor apartment usually in a co-op that has a separate street entrance than the rest of the building. Apartments like this give the tenants the feel of a townhouse in a co-op environment.

Market Price

The actual selling or leasing price of a property.

Market Value

The expected price that a property will bring if put on the market for rent or purchase. Assumes that the property is on the market for a reasonable period with reasonably competent owners and potential tenants.

Managing Agent

An independent company hired by a co-op or condominium to manage the property. The management agents are responsible for things such as collecting rent or dues, property maintenance or enforcing building policies.

Mansion Tax

A one percent state tax paid by the buyers of any properties costing over $1 million.

Mechanic’s lien

A lien established by law in favor of those who provide labor or material for the improvement of real estate.

Mortgage

A contract between a lending institution and a borrower to ensure repayment of a loan. The components of a mortgage are the amount being lent, the period of repayment and the interest rate set for the borrowed money.

Multiple Listing

An arrangement between real estate brokers that calls for each broker to make available his or her real estate listings to other brokers. Then, if a purchase contract or lease is written, commission for the listing is divided between the broker who owns the listing and the broker who makes the lease.

Murphy Bed

A bed that is attached and built into a wall and can be pulled down or out of the wall. You will usually find Murphy beds in small apartments.

No Board Approval

This can refer to one of two things. 1) When a prospective purchaser of a co-op unit does not have to be reviewed by the co-op board. Or 2) When a prospective renter of a co-op unit does not have to be approved by the op-op board or owner.

Notary public

An officer appointed by a state governor with authority to formally identify and acknowledge persons executing documents, sign the certificate, and affix a seal.

Note

A legal document that outlines the obligation a borrower has to pay off a mortgage at a stated interest rate over a specific period of time.

Oblique Views

This term refers to an apartment that has somewhat panoramic views of either Central Park or both of either of the two rivers.

Offer Accepted

This is the point at which a seller accepts the terms of an offer submitted by the buyer.

On-site Broker

This is a person hired by a building owner to show the apartments, answer any questions about the units or take care of any transactions at a building.

Open House

A sales tactic that is used by a real estate broker to advertise an available listing usually on a Sunday or Wednesday for a two-hour period. At an open house, prospective buyers are able to take their time and look at the property as well as question the broker about the property.

Option

A contractual agreement giving one party a privilege of demanding, within a specified time, the carrying out of a transaction upon stipulated terms.

Open Kitchen

A kitchen that is not separated from the other living areas of the apartment; this is a pretty common feature in loft style apartments.

Open listing

A listing contract under which the broker’s commission is contingent upon the broker producing a buyer before the property is sold by the owner or another broker.

Original Detail

This refers to original design details on the interior of a pre-war apartment. The design details can refer to ceiling moldings, fireplaces mantels or staircases, etc.

Parlor Floor

The second floor of a townhouse. Typically this, a room is the room in the townhouse that has the highest ceilings, and because of this, it was traditionally used for entertaining.

Partial Views

This term refers to units that offer partial views of either the City Skyline, Central Park or one of the two rivers.

Pass-through Kitchen

A kitchen one can walk through to enter into another room, usually a dining area or the living room.

Penthouse

An apartment located on the top floor of a building, often quite luxurious and offers more privacy than other apartments in the same building.

Pet Policy

A policy a building has about what types, sizes and how many (if any) pets a tenant may have.

Pied-á-Terre

Translated from French it means “foot on the ground,” but we would call it a “landing pad”. These apartments are usually small, but quite comfortable and often kept by business travelers that need to be in the city for business monthly or weekly. At times these apartments are kept by the well to do so they can have a location in the City without the bother of frequently traveling from their home to enjoy the City life.

Prewar Apartment

If a building was built before 1945, it is considered pre-war. At 10-20 stories tall, they are mid-size as far as apartment buildings go. Some buildings might have a doorman. The advantages of living in a pre-war apartment often include hardwood floors, spacious rooms, and higher ceilings. Many also have a fireplace.

Post-war Apartment

Refers to buildings built after the World War II, or after about 1945. The style of these buildings and the apartments in them are drastically different than the pre-war apartments. The interior and exterior are less ornate with less trim, moldings and exterior decor.

Purchase Agreement

A written contract signed by a buyer and a seller defining the terms under which a property will be sold.

Pullman Kitchen

A small kitchen situated against one wall consists of a room for a fridge, oven and a sink. These kitchens are often found in pre-war apartments or pre-war buildings that were originally hotels. This small kitchen does not count as a separate room. Pullman Kitchens are sometimes referred to as Petite Kitchens.

Quiet enjoyment

A clause present in leases that guarantee’s the tenant will be able to reside or do business in the premises in peace and without disturbance from the landlord.

Real Estate Agent

An individual who is employed or contracted by a real estate broker to buy, sell, or lease a property, or to help in facilitating the negotiations involving buying, selling, or leasing a property. These individuals receive compensation per the contract between the salesperson and the broker.

Real Estate Broker

An individual, association, or business that facilitates the buying, selling, or leasing of any real estate or real estate improvements and represents interested parties involved in the process. In turn, the broker receives compensation or consideration per the terms of contractual agreements. Real estate brokers must be licensed by the state in order to operate within its jurisdiction.
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Real Estate Board

An organization comprised of real estate professionals, such as agents and brokers.

Realtor

A term designating an active member of a local real estate board that is affiliated with the National Association of Real Estate Boards. A realtor facilitates the buying, selling, and leasing of real estate.

Recessed Lighting

Lighting that is located set into the ceiling and not hanging from a light fixture. This style of lighting offers a continuation of clean lines in a building.

Recording

The official act of entering a record of documents representing the real estate in a county recorder’s office. Until recorded, a deed or mortgage is not effective against subsequent purchasers or mortgagees or other third parties (see “constructive notice”).

Replacement cost

The current cost of completely replacing a property with property containing the same utility (usefulness) and amenities.

Rent Control

A form of rent regulation; a limit on the price a landlord can charge or increase rents.

Rental Commission

Refers to the commission a real estate broker earns from the rental of an apartment. It is typical for a renter to pay the commission and the rate is about 10-15 percent of a year’s rent.

Reserve Fund

A fund set aside by a co-op or condo’s board to pay for monthly expenses or unexpected expenses.

Revocation

The act of rescinding a power or privilege previously authorized by the terms of an agreement.

Room Count

The number of rooms an apartment has. Every style of the apartment has a different number of rooms.

Styles:

  • Straight Studio, Petite Kitchen: One room.
  • Straight Studio, Full Kitchen: Two rooms.
  • Alcove Studio, Full Kitchen: 2.5 Rooms.
  • Junior-One, Full Kitchen, Wall: 3 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.

Rules and Regulations

Building standards of use that are binding on the tenants and are usually established in a part of the lease. Consequences for violating rules and regulations are usually stipulated in a lease agreement.

Security Deposit

Money deposited by a tenant to a landlord or a rental agency as security against damages and terms of the lease.

Service Entrance

An entrance usually into the kitchen from the rear of a building or a secondary hallway. In the past, this entrance was typically by servants, and still may be used the same today.
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Shares

This is something unique to a co-op building in the real estate world. Each apartment owner in a co-op owns a share in the building, like a publicly traded company. The share represents the amount of the building that is owned by a shareholder, and the amount is determined by the size of the apartment, which floor it’s on and if there are any special features associated with the apartment.

Square Feet

The amount of livable space, in square feet, an apartment or building. Sometimes the amount of square footage is approximated, while at condo’s the measurements are often more accurate.

Sublet

An agreement a new tenant would make with the current tenant of a property who is moving out. The new tenant would assume responsibility for all rental costs from the person who is moving out.

An apartment owned by the original owner (sponsor) who converted the building to a co-op or condo.

Super

Super is short for superintendent. The super runs the show and is responsible for maintaining the building.

Tax Abatement

Tax breaks offered to developers for developing residential properties in certain areas. Many developers pass along these tax breaks as incentives to home buyers that reduce monthly tax payments for a period.

Tax Deductible

The percentage of a shareholder at a co-op can deduct from their annual taxes.

Townhouse

Townhouses are usually single-family homes, up to four stories high. They can be freestanding or in a building of between 4-6 stories. People who move into townhomes are afforded privacy that is rare in New York City, and as such, these homes can be quite pricey. However, many people say the price is worth it since a townhouse exudes a charm that other dwellings just cannot compare with. Many townhouses have “extras,” including a private backyard, eat-in kitchen, fireplace, expanded living space and classic decor. Best of all, residents purchase townhouses without the need to go through a co-op and its lengthy application process. Most townhouses were built in the late 19th century through the early 20th century.

Unsold Shares

These are shares or apartments in a co-op that have not been purchased outright. It is common when a rental property is converted into a co-op that some renters would prefer to continue paying rent on their unit for a period as opposed to buying it.

Utilities Included

This refers to charges for some of an apartments utilities to be included in the monthly rent price. Often the utilities will be water, electric, gas and sometimes cable.

Vacancy Rate

Amount unoccupied units or apartments in a building compared to all units in the building. This rate is usually expressed as a percentage

Window Treatments

This refers to the types of coverings someone may put on windows. This can refer to blinds, shades or curtains.

Walk-up Building

A walk up is an apartment without an elevator and can range from 4-7 stories. You’ll hear the terms “third-floor walkup,” fourth-floor walkup,” etc. You walk up to that floor number to reach the unit. For example, a fifth-floor walkup would be on floor five of the building.

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