How Well Do You Speak NYC Real Estate? A Glossary of Terms Every New Yorker Should Know
Ogling apartments might be a citywide pastime, but even the most avid real estate voyeurs are baffled by some of the words that get thrown around on listings. (Condop? Concession?) We asked our friends at StreetEasy to help us decipher some of the most commonly used—and confused—terms.
Not gonna lie: For a long time our association with the word loft hung primarily on Dan Humphrey’s apartment in Gossip Girl. Officially, a loft is a space originally built for industrial use (say, a textile factory) that was later converted to residences. Typical characteristics include high ceilings, open layouts and big windows. Of course, plenty of places try to mimic that loft appeal but aren’t true lofts. The real deal accounts for only about 10 percent of the market (including this Williamsburg two-bedroom in a former Civil War munitions foundry).
If you’re apartment hunting, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the dreaded broker fee, that big chunk of cash you have to pay on top of your rent and deposit. When an apartment is advertised as no fee, it usually means the landlord is covering the fee—but there’s often a catch. If a listing includes the abbreviation CYOF (collect your own fee), it means the broker might still expect a fee. (Basically, always read the fine print.)
No, this has nothing to do with that jumbo tub of popcorn at the movies. In real estate–speak, a concession is an advertised temporary rent reduction, like when a building offers one or two months free upon lease signing. These types of listings usually also include the phrase net effective rent, which is what the rent comes out to after the concession and only for the duration of the lease. For example, this Prospect Heights one-bedroom is listed at $3,154, calculated from a gross rent of $3,785 and two months free. Basically, if you plan on staying long-term, make sure the actual monthly rent lines up with your budget.
To New Yorkers, the words rent controlled inspire a hushed reverence usually reserved for Oprah and people over 100. Essentially, this means an apartment has been passed down from one family member to another (though it’s worth noting that the inheriting family member must live in the apartment for two years prior to the previous tenant’s vacancy or death). In other words, you won’t be hitting the rent-control jackpot on StreetEasy—and unless you have an elderly relative who’s been in the same walk-up since the ’60s, you likely won’t end up living in one.
Unlike rent control, rent stabilization is something you have a decent chance of coming across. It usually applies to buildings constructed before 1974 that have more than six units, and the apartments are typically less than $2,700 per month. With a rent-stabilized lease, your landlord can raise your rent by only a certain amount each year and you have a guaranteed right to renew. (So yeah, people tend to hang on to these babies.)
Looking to buy? You generally have two options: a condo or a co-op. With a condo, you own the actual property: Each unit has its own deed and its own tax bill (though, of course, you’re still subject to the rules and regulations of the condo board). Generally, this means you can do whatever you want with the space, including subletting it. Condos tend to be in newer buildings and tend to be more expensive than co-ops.
Your other main buying option—the one that makes up the majority of the housing market, though that’s changing—is a co-op. Instead of owning your place, you own shares of the corporation that owns the building. Co-ops tend to be more affordable than condos, but they come with a rigorous process for being approved by the co-op board (including an in-person interview, yikes). Subletting is usually a no-go, but that means you’re surrounded by people who have lived there for a long time (or plan to) and an accompanying neighborly vibe that you may not get in a condo.
Wait, what? Yep, there’s a third category that’s sort of like a mash-up of the previous two. It’s effectively a co-op that was formed inside a condo building—often a building that includes a retail space on the ground floor (a condo) and residences above (the co-op). The application process is similar to that of a regular co-op, but the co-op is subject to condo rules. These are relatively rare, only about 5 percent of the market, but we spotted this Hunters Point two-bedroom.
Those of us who are suckers for “character” (even if it’s at the expense of practicality) are well acquainted with this term, which refers to buildings constructed before World War II. The draw is the distinctive architectural hallmarks of the era (think brick and stone buildings with details like crown molding, beamed ceilings and wide foyers), as in one of the city’s more famous examples, The Dakota, and this two-bedroom on the Upper West Side.
Simply put, a non-primary residence (it translates literally to “a foot on the ground”). Someone who lives outside NYC might own a pied-à-terre because they’re often in the city on business, or it might be a vacation home type of deal. Either way, certain buildings cater to that type of occasional use, while others (see: co-ops) are less amenable or straight-up forbid it.