Manhattan Homes, Apartments and Amenities – A Glossary

Is this really a 2 bedroom apartment?

Is this really a 2 bedroom apartment?

I realized when I did the post of some of the most annoying words in real estate (and real life)   that some of the terms used to describe New York City apartments were inaccurate or misleading.

The most common errors can be found in the room count where alcoves are called rooms (a 3.5 room apartment called a 4 see floor plan left), balconies are called terraces, and the number of bedrooms is just plain wrong/inaccurate and should be called half rooms.

Perhaps more than any other U.S. city, Manhattan has its own distinctive types of housing and there are some standard terms used to describe them.  Knowing the differences can help you choose the best apartment and neighborhood for your needs and your lifestyle.  Let’s define the terms:

Alcove/Alcove Studio

An alcove is an area that’s usually less than 70 square feet adjoining the living room. May be called a half room, often used as a dining room, bedroom or home office. May have a wall added to create a separate room. To be a “legal” bedroom it must be at least 80 to 100 square feet, have a window and a closet.

An Alcove Studio is an apartment with an alcove, often in an L shape.


Outdoor space of an apartment projecting out from the building’s façade


Built as luxury homes in the 1800s through the 1930s, brownstones usually have four to six floors and are row houses, sharing side walls with adjacent homes. They may be single family town homes or they may have been converted to co-ops or condos. Likely to have features especially desirable to lovers of old homes – spacious rooms, high ceilings, lots of wood floors and ornamental trim, fireplaces, and yards or gardens. The term comes from the brown sandstone used on the building exteriors. Brownstones don’t lend themselves to doormen, and rarely have them.


Larger apartments, usually pre-war. Indicates the apartment has a formal dining room. Usually used with the number of rooms, like a “Classic Six”, typically a living room, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms and a maid’s room.


Condo, short for condominium, is an alternative choice for apartment ownership. When you buy a condo, you own your apartment outright just like you would own a single family house.  You don’t have to go through the board approval process.  You have more control over your home and  usually, you can rent it or sell it to anyone you choose. More


Co-op means cooperative ownership. Rather than owning your apartment, you become a member of the corporation which owns the entire building and you own shares in that corporation. Your ability to buy, sell or rent the property is subject to board approval.  More


A condop is a co-op with less restrictive condo-type rules. With condops you  own shares in the co-op but the rules are often more relaxed than the standard co-op.  Condops, like most condos,  may allow you to finance a higher portion of the price, rent out the apartment and sell it to anyone you choose with no board approval. More

Convertible, Junior or Flex (also see Alcove)

An apartment with an alcove off the living room. May be listed as a Junior 4, which would mean a traditional living room, bedroom and kitchen plus a living room alcove that may be converted into a separate room or bedroom. To be a “legal” bedroom it must be at least 80 to 100 square feet, have a window and a closet.


In New York, an apartment on two floors.

Elevator Building

Generally don’t have doormen; most provide intercom and security systems as well as elevators.

Flip Tax

A flip “tax” is something of a misnomer. Rather than a tax levied by the government, it is an income generating fee used by some co-op’s and, much less frequently, by condos. As determined by the co-op board or condo association, the fee can be on the profit of the sale, a fixed amount, a percentage of the gross or net sale or a fee per share. The co-op or condo by-laws determine if the buyer or seller has to hand over the check.  In reality however who pays the flip tax is determined by market conditions and contract negotiations.


Apartment that occupies an entire floor or half floor of a building. Usually found in low-rise walk-up buildings.

Full Service Building

Built from the 1980s to present modern (but could be pre war as well),, more likely to have facilities such as fitness centers, and both doormen and concierges. Many offer garages.

Half Room (see also Convertible, Junior or Flex)

Usually an alcove, sometimes a large foyer that might be used as a room.


Usually conversions of former commercial or factory buildings, though some are new construction. Feature very open floor plans, may have period details such as supporting columns. Ceilings are high, up to 20 feet and large windows are common. Utility pipes are often exposed. Doormen unlikely.

Loft Area

In buildings with very high ceilings, similar to a partial second floor accessed by stairs or a ladder. Often used as a bedroom or storage area.


This apartment is usually found in mid and high rise buildings. Has its own entrance to the street like a town house and usually is two stories. Could have access through the lobby of the building as well. A building may have several maisonettes.

Number of Rooms

Other than kitchens, to be counted as a room a space must have at least 100 square feet and a window. Any kitchen except a Pullman is usually considered a room. Baths are not counted as rooms. A three-room apartment is usually a living room, kitchen and bedroom. A four-room would usually have two bedrooms, or one bedroom and a separate dining room.


Apartment on the top floor of a building usually includes an outdoor area (see terrace) on the roof.


Apartment the owner doesn’t use full-time. Typical example would be someone who lives in the apartment when visiting from his/her primary residence.


Built in the late 1940s through 1980s, with more modern amenities such as larger closets, laundry facilities, and larger spaces in smaller apartments – studios as well as one and two bedrooms. Fewer architectural details, fireplaces, etc., both inside and out. Most have doormen and live-in superintendents.  May be co-ops or condos.


Built before the mid-1940s, or World War II, virtually always co-ops. Tend to have high ceilings, large rooms, and features like wood floors, decorative trim and fireplaces. Usually 10 to 20 stories. May have doormen.

Pullman or Petite Kitchen

The kitchen is a strip along the living room wall, rather than a separate room. Most common in hotels converted to apartments.

Studio Apartment

The living and sleeping areas are combined. One rooms have Pullman kitchens, two rooms have separate kitchens.


Typically larger than a balcony and is open to the sky. Can be part of the building’s roof as in a penthouse or could occupy a building’s setback.

Town Houses

Self-contained homes. In Manhattan, these are likely to be brownstones, typically row houses sharing side walls. Can be single or multi family home and/or could have been converted to a co-op or a condo.


In New York, an apartment on three floors.


Usually four to five stories with no elevator, built as pre-war apartments. Overall the least expensive kind of apartments in Manhattan. Unlikely to have doormen.

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