Below are some practical terms and definitions you might come across when looking for real estate in New York City.


A legal relationship between a principal and his agent arising from a contract in which the principal engages the agent to perform certain acts on the principal behalf.


A small half a room or area adjoining the living room. Often converted to an additional separate room or used as dining area.


A gradual paying off of a debt by periodic installments.


An opinion or estimate of the value of a property.


The amount of tax or special payment due to a municipality or association. This is applicable in condo buildings and co-ops where assessments can often amount to significant monthly expenses.

Building Codes

Regulations established by local governments describing the minimum structural requirements for buildings. Codes include foundation, roofing, plumbing, electrical, and other specifications for safety and sanitation.

Brownstone or Townhouse

Structures that were originally built in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries. Originally built as luxurious one family homes, these houses usually feature fireplaces, moldings and other typical pre-war characteristics. Offers the luxury of a private home in the city and have largely been converted to multiple apartment buildings.

Classic 5, 6, 7, etc.

The “Classic” apartments are usually in prewar buildings and are built “old fashion” style, with maid’s rooms and formal dining rooms. For example a classic 6 would have a total of 6 rooms. A living room, kitchen, master bedroom, second bedroom, maid’s room and a dining room.


Promises written into deeds and other instruments agreeing to performance or nonperformance of certain acts and/or requiring or preventing certain uses of the property.

Counter Offer

A rejection of an offer to buy or sell, with a simultaneous substitute offer.


A written document, property signed and delivered, that conveys title to real property. It is usually signed and handed over during closing.

Trust Deed

A conveyance of real estate to a third party to be held for the benefit of another. Trust deeds are commonly used in some states in place of mortgages that conditionally convey title to the lender.

Unrecorded Deed

An instrument that transfers title from one party (grantor) to another party (grantee) without providing public notice of change in ownership. Recording is essential to protect one’s interest in real estate.

Warranty Deed

A deed that contains a covenant that the grantor will protect the grantee against any and all claims. It usually contains covenants assuring good title, freedom from encumbrances, and quiet enjoyment.

Discount Points

Amounts paid to the lender (usually by the seller) at the time of origination of a loan, to account for the difference between the market interest rate and the lower face rate of the note. (They are often required when VA loans are used.)


An apartment with two levels or floors.


Any right to or interest in land that affects its value. This includes outstanding mortgage loans, unpaid taxes, easements, and deed restrictions.


Interest or value that the owner has in real estate over and above the liens against it.

Escrow Account

A separate bank account segregated from a broker’s own funds, in which the broker is required by state law to deposit all monies collected for clients.

Flex 3

A two-bedroom apartment with an alcove in the living room that is convertible to a room.


The party to whom the title to real property is conveyed is the grantee or the buyer.


Anyone who gives a deed is the grantor.


Tall elevator building. Usually with a doorman and over 15 stories high.


A physical scrutinizing review of property or of documents.

Junior 1

An alcove studio that was converted to a small one bedroom or a smaller then standard size one bedroom.

Junior 4

A large one bedroom with an alcove used for dining area or converted to an additional room. Also called a flex or convertible two-bedroom apartment.


A charge against property making it security for the payment of a debt, judgment, mortgage, or taxes. A lien is a type of encumbrance. A specific lien is against certain property only, while a general lien is against all of the property owned by the debtor.


Large open space with high ceilings. Typically found in former commercial buildings that were converted to residential.

Low or Mid-Rise 

Small elevator buildings, usually 10-12 stories. Pre-war and Post-war – The architecture of buildings in New York City is categorized by whether it was built before (pre) or after (post) World War II.

Market Value

The theoretical highest price a buyer, willing but not compelled to buy, would pay and the lowest price a seller, willing but not compelled to sell, would accept.

Personal Property

All property that is not realty. Property that is movable, not fixed to land; also called chattel.


Fees paid to lenders to induce them to make a mortgage loan. Each point equals 1% of the loan principal. Points have the effect of reducing the amount of money advanced by the lender.


An instrument authorizing a person to act as the agent of the person granting it.

Purchase and Sale Agreement

A written agreement between seller and purchaser in which the purchaser agrees to buy certain real estate and the seller agrees to sell upon terms of the agreement. Also called offer and acceptance, contract of sale, and earnest money contract.

Real Property

The rights to use real estate. Sometimes also defined as real estate.


The smallest standard size apartment offered. Features one main room, which is used for main living and sleeping area. The kitchen and bath are usually separate.

Tenancy in Common

On ownership of realty by 2 or more persons, each of whom has an undivided interest, without the right of share of the decedent is inherited by the party or parties designated in the decedent’s will.


Evidence that the owner of land is in lawful possession. Evidence of ownership.

Clear Title

A title free of any clouds, liens, or other possible interests against it.

Color of Title

A fake title that appears to be good but is not in reality. Cloud on the title- An outstanding claim or encumbrance that, if valid, would affect or impair the owner’s title.

Chain of Title

A history of conveyances and encumbrances affecting a title from the time that the original patent was granted, or as far back as records are available.

Abstract of Title

A historical summary of all of the recorded instruments and proceedings that affect the title to property. Title insurance- An insurance policy that protects the holder from loss sustained by defects in the title.

Title Report

A document indicating the current state of the title, such as easements, covenants, liens, and any defects. The title report does not describe the chain of title.

Title Search

An examination of the public records to determine the ownership and encumbrances affecting real property.

Transfer Tax

A tax paid upon the passing of title to property or to a valuable interest.


An apartment with three levels or floors.


Four to five story building with no elevator.

White Glove Building

A luxury doorman building usually with concierge. Often offers more services and elegance than a typical luxury building. The doorman’s uniforms would include white gloves, hence the term “White Glove”.


A legal mechanism for local governments to regulate the use of privately owned real property by specific application of police power to prevent conflicting land uses and promote orderly development. All privately owned land within the jurisdiction is placed within designated zones that limit the type and intensity of development permitted.