NYC Listings Vocabulary
Most of us have watched enough HGTV to understand what “open kitchen” or “double vanity” means, but other terms or abbreviations used in listing descriptions may not be as familiar or obvious. If you’ve ever wondered what a “Classic 6” or “EIK” is, consider the mystery solved.
An alcove is a section of a room that bumps out like the bottom of an “L.” In apartment listings, “alcove” is most frequently used to describe a dining area that is offset from the living room, or, in the case of an “alcove studio,” a sleeping area just off the side of the main area to provide some separation and privacy. Alcoves can often be walled off to create a separate room (see Junior 1 or Junior 4 below…).
"Bring Your Architect" or Estate Condition
Listings that say “bring your architect” or “estate condition” mean the apartment has not been renovated in a long time and is not in move-in condition. These apartments are not simply outdated; they typically require major renovations and the replacement of major systems (electrical, plumbing, etc). The asking price usually takes into account the condition of the apartment, but a proper renovation will likely cost more than the difference in price. These are best for people who want (and are willing to pay for) a customized look in a unit with good bones.
Brownstone (brown sandstone) is a building material used to clad the exterior of many buildings in the 1870s through the 1930s. Brownstone is very durable and has a distinctive look. It is also used colloquially to refer to single-family and small multi-family townhomes of a certain size and height, attached on both sides (think of the townhomes lining the blocks of Park Slope or Harlem).
Casement windows are windows that have hinges at the side and open outward to the left or to the right, similar to the way that a door would open. Casement windows were once popular, but fell out of favor as double-hung windows became nearly ubiquitous. However, casement windows — especially steel casement windows — are a distinctive aesthetic that appeal to homebuyers seeking period accents and are even being installed in new developments.
Six refers to the number of rooms: a living room and separate dining room, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a spare room with adjoining small half- or full bath (historically referred to as a “maid’s room” but which can be used for many purposes such as a guest room, nursery, or study). Most Classic 6’s have two other full bathrooms and a foyer or gallery.
A combination apartment means that two adjacent units have been purchased and combined to create one single apartment. Apartments can either be combined vertically with the unit above or below, or horizontally with the unit to the left or right. In some cases, a portion of the hallway can also be purchased and made part of the new apartment. Combination apartments may have higher maintenance fees than a comparable apartment that was not a combination. They are usually designated by the combination of both original apartments (e.g. 7FG or 101/102).
EIK or WEIK
While I hate abbreviations, these refer to an eat-in (or windowed eat-in) kitchen characterized by a kitchen with enough space to have a table with chairs of any size.
En Suite Bathroom
“En suite” is french for “in continuation.” An en suite bathroom is a bathroom that is in continuation of the bedroom, meaning that it is attached to/inside the bedroom, and can only be accessed by going through the bedroom. An en suite bathroom can be an asset or a liability. In a home with multiple bathrooms, an en suite creates a master bedroom suite, which is a plus and expected in very high-end listings. If the en suite is the only bathroom, however, it means that guests must go through the host’s bedroom to access the bathroom.
A floor-thru apartment occupies the entire floor of a building. Floor-thru apartments are typically found in brownstones and townhouses.
Full Service refers to the level of service provided by building staff — namely, a full-time doorman, porters, elevators, and possibly a concierge.
A galley kitchen is a long and narrow kitchen with counters on either side of the central walkway. Many buyers today prefer an open kitchen layout. Some galley kitchens may be opened up into the main living space.
JR-1 or Junior One
A junior one is an alcove studio that has been converted to have a separate room, usually designated for sleeping or as a “bedroom.” The separate area may or may not meet the legal qualifications for a bedroom, but the apartment is often listed as having one bedroom. It is the functional equivalent of a small one-bedroom apartment.
JR-4 or Junior Four
A junior four is a one-bedroom apartment that has a separate alcove area that can be left as an alcove (dining area), or walled off to create a separate space (sleeping area or home office). Most agents list junior four apartments as having two bedrooms if the alcove is walled off, regardless of whether the area meets legal qualifications for a bedroom.
A keyed elevator is a secure elevator that serves as the direct entrance to an apartment. As the name suggests, you need a key to use the elevator and access an apartment; guests are usually “pulled up” by the host calling the elevator to their floor when their guest has entered the elevator. Keyed elevators are often found in lofts and penthouses.
Legal bedroom qualifications vary depending on city and state, but a legal bedroom in NYC must meet the following requirements (subject to some exceptions): be at least 80 SqFt with a minimum width of 8 feet and a minimum ceiling height of 8 feet (if the bedroom is in a basement, ceiling height minimum is 7 feet), have at least one window and at least two means of exit (either windows or doors), and the room cannot be used as a passage to another room. It is a common misconception that a legal bedroom must contain a closet.
Prewar vs. Post War
Pre-war in NYC refers to apartments built before World War II, and have a grandiose aesthetic. Think grand lobbies, hardwood floors, plaster walls, solid wood finishes, crown moulding, high ceilings, and sunken living rooms. Pre-war apartments generally have a minimum ceiling height of 9 feet. Post-war refers to apartments built after World War II which incorporate sleeker, less ornate designs and often use different materials than just plaster and solid wood. Post-war apartments often have more efficient layouts (fewer hallways and foyers), more usable square footage, and lower ceilings (usually 7.5 to 8 feet).
A railroad apartment is an apartment where all the rooms lead directly into each other without a hallway, meaning you need to walk through one or more rooms to get to either end of the apartment. Similar to floor-thru apartments, railroad apartments typically run from the front of a building to the back.
A video intercom system in buildings without a doorman or live-in superintendent. If the resident is not home, the system connects to an offsite operator who is able to give access to authorized delivery persons into the common hallway or a dedicated package room. It is a cost-efficient way for many buildings to ensure packages are delivered without hiring dedicated on-site staff.
This stands for a wood-burning fireplace, whether currently working or not. Since 2014, there is a ban on wood-burning fireplaces in NYC, but the ban exempts existing fireplaces, so there are a finite number in the city. Non-working fireplaces can often be restored with the cost largely dependent on how many floors separate the fireplace from the chimney (roof).
Are there any other terms that we’ve missed? Please let us know and we’ll update the post… And of course, feel free to reach out with any other questions related to NYC real estate.