May 1, 2007

Building Terminology in New York City

New York City Building Terminology

Rent Stabilized Building

Rent Stabilization was established in New York City in the late 1960's to set limits on the amount building owners could raise rents and to set performance guidelines for both the landlord and tenant.

  • Rent increases for one and two year leases are determined annually by the New York City Real Estate Advisory Board.
  • Over the past five years, annual rent increases have been in the 3-7% range.
  • Tenants are guaranteed renewal rights to stabilized leases provided they have fulfilled the terms of the lease.

Introduced in 1993, luxury destabilization provides for lease-end destabilization of apartments that rent for over $2,000 per month when occupied by a tenant earning more than $175,000 per year. There are very few rent stabilized buildings remaining in Manhattan.

Non-Stabilized Building
  • Landlords set a market-value rent based upon current supply and demand.
  • A landlord may, but is not required to, follow rent stabilized guidelines.
  • Renewals are not guaranteed unless so stated in the lease.
  • Rental buildings with fewer than six units are non-stabilized.

All of the following buildings can be either a Rent Stabilized Building or a Non-Stabilized Building, a coop or condo.


One to five floors. No doorman. Built in the late 1800s and early 1900s as single-family homes. Many were converted during World War II to create multiple apartments (3-10 units per building). Brownstones have "charm", high ceilings, architectural details, and often wood-burning fireplaces. Typically, square footage is generally less than a similar room count would provide in a doorman building. Closet space and storage is usually sparse.

Elevator Building

Usually six to nine stories; and many are found on side streets. Non-doorman building; many with intercom security and live-in superintendents.

Loft Apartment

Four to eleven or twelve story buildings. Former commercial buildings converted to apartments. Large open space. Usually an elevator (sometimes a freight elevator) but no doorman service. Most are found in SoHo, Tribeca, or Chelsea. Some have restrictions regarding tenancy such as a status as a certified artist.

Luxury Doorman

Twenty to forty or more floors, and a twenty-four hour doorman. These tend to be postwar buildings. The more luxurious buildings also have a concierge who provides services such as receiving laundry and packages. Some of these buildings have a health club and/or swimming pool and a parking garage.

Prewar Building

Typically nine to sixteen floors. Doorman and non-doorman. Built 1900's to 1940's. Exterior and interior architectural detailing. Common features include high ceilings, hardwood floors, arched doorways, or fireplaces.

Postwar Building

Since 1946 there have been more than five decades of new construction in Manhattan. Exteriors are usually white, red, or brown brick. Usually less expensive than pre-wars. Long corridors with many apartments per landing. Eight foot ceilings, big closets and small kitchens. Laundry facilities are usually in the basement.

Walk-Up Building

Up to six floors. No elevator or doorman. Originally built as multi-family housing, this is one of the cheapest apartment options. Sometimes called "railroad flats," these apartments can also be very charming compared to newer buildings

For more information about buying and selling coops and condos in New York City click here to download Manhattan coop and condo Buying Guide.

Mitchell Hall, REALTOR®


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