There are five types of buildings in which one may reside in New York City: a cooperative, a condominium, a cond-op, a single-family townhouse and a rental building. Each of these types has their own rules and regulations and it is important to distinguish the differences between them as this will influence your decision in choosing your new home. Please click the headings below for more information regarding each of these types of buildings…

COOPERATIVE: A cooperative (or co-op) is a building which is owned by a corporation comprised of the tenant shareholders of the building. Each tenant shareholder owns a number of shares in the corporation that are represented by his or her apartment. The number of shares depends on the apartment size, view and location. The tenant shareholder has the right to occupy the apartment as his or her home by holding a proprietary lease to that apartment.

In New York City, approximately 80% of the apartments available for purchase are in cooperative buildings, while 20% are in condominiums. Therefore, in general, since there is a larger inventory to choose from, prices are more attractive for co-ops.

Co-ops can be any type of building including pre-war buildings, high-rise luxury buildings, elevator buildings or townhouses, but typically not buildings constructed in the last fifteen years.

CONDOMINIUM: A condominium (or condo) is a building in which the apartment is defined as “real property” and is owned by an individual. You, the buyer get a deed just as though you were buying a house. Since this is real property, there is a separate tax lot for each apartment. Hence, this means you pay your own real estate taxes for your property. A condo owner will also pay common charges on a monthly basis which are similar to maintenance in a cooperative. However, these charges will not include real estate taxes since these are paid separately, nor will they include the building’s mortgage and interest given that a condominium, by law, cannot have an underlying mortgage.

Condos are typically hi-rise luxury buildings and are rarely pre-war structures. Since condos are relatively new to New York City, they tend to be more recent construction.




  1. Financing the purchase of a condominium is much more flexible than in a cooperative. Generally, a buyer can finance up to 90% of the purchase price.
  2. Although there is an application process, it is not as formal as in a cooperative. An interview is almost never required, whereas it is required for a co-op purchase, and the likelihood of rejection is minimal in a condo.
  3. There is greater flexibility in sub-leasing your apartment. This makes condominiums the best choice for investment property.
  4. A condo is the ideal choice for non-U.S. citizens or for those with their assets held outside of the United States. This is due to the fact that co-ops are unlikely to approve a buyer whose funds are not in the U.S.
  5. Given that there are fewer condominiums than cooperatives in New York City, and that they are “easier” to purchase, they are generally more expensive than co-ops.

COND-OP: A cond-op is a residential cooperative in which the ground floor, typically commercial units, is converted into a separate “condominium”, whereby it is either owned by an outside investor or the original sponsor of the building. Although the residential units are co-operative apartments, the commercial units are owned as an entity other than a co-op. Therefore, the cooperative does not receive the benefit of the income from the units.

FEE SIMPLE: A townhouse or brownstone provides the owner with a “Fee Simple” ownership of real property. The owner is responsible to pay all real estate taxes, maintenance and repairs of the property. No prior approval is required when purchasing a townhouse other than the seller. The two typical types of townhouses are single family and multiple family: A single family home may be occupied by only one family although the entire house may be rented to another single or family user. In a multiple residence, the owner may occupy or rent one of the two or more units while also leasing the other units as income producing properties.

RENTAL: The building is owned entirely by a landlord, and all of the apartments are available for lease, not for sale.

A rental building that is rent-stabilized is subject to New York City guidelines for yearly rental increases. Rent stabilization was established in the late 1960’s in response to the critical housing shortages and low vacancy rates. Rent stabilization sets limits on the amount that owners can raise the rent for vacant apartments or renewals of existing leases. The guidelines for yearly increases are set in July and become effective every October. In a rent-stabilized building the tenant has the right to renew the lease indefinitely and the right to sublease the apartment with the Landlord’s permission, subject to obeying all the terms of the lease.

A non-stabilized rental building is not subject to any specific guidelines. Based on a free market system the rent level is based purely on supply and demand. The terms of the lease are established by the landlords’ specifications and renewal options may be included in the lease.

The types of leases include rent-stabilized, non-stabilized and subleases, and rentals can be in virtually any type of building in Manhattan.




Prewar buildings are those built before World War II and are usually ten to twenty stories. They are recognized for architectural features such as larger rooms, higher ceilings, fireplaces, moldings, hardwood floors and gracious floor plans. Pre-war buildings can be doorman or non-doorman buildings.


Post-War Buildings were built between the late 1940’s through the 1970’s. They are generally hi-rise structures constructed of white, red or brown brick. Most will have doormen. Postwar apartments generally afford less interesting layouts than their prewar counterparts.


Luxury doorman buildings are generally associated with new construction or are apartment buildings that were built from the 1980’s through present day. These buildings tend to be condominiums and are typically twenty to forty or more stories with doorman and concierge services. You may also find many with health clubs and swimming pools.


This description is usually reserved for a non-doorman building that is approximately six to twelve stories tall. There is usually an intercom security system, and some may have video security. Elevator buildings may fall into either the pre-war or the post-war category.

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A townhouse or brownstone is typically a four to six story building that was built in the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s. They can be single family houses or converted over the years into multiple apartments. As a single family home, a townhouse or brownstone offers buyers privacy and the ability to purchase without cooperative board approval. Some apartments in townhouses have grand living spaces and, therefore, will be quite expensive. Generally, these buildings offer more “prewar charm” with features such as gardens, fireplaces, elaborate floors and ornamental wood moldings. In almost all cases these buildings will not have a doorman.


Former commercial or industrial buildings that have been converted into apartments offer lofty layouts. Generally, lofts offer large open spaces with high ceilings. They are usually found in Greenwich Village, SoHo, TriBeCa, Chelsea, Flatiron and lower Manhattan and often do not have the services of a doorman.


This is the least expensive type of housing, and the quality can vary widely. Usually these are 4 to 5 story buildings with no doorman and no elevator, hence the term “walk-up.” They were originally constructed as multi-family housing and usually lack the charm and elegance of traditional brownstones or townhouses.


It would be very helpful for you to familiarize yourself with the apartment terms provided in this section which are almost all unique to New York City. Also, it is important to know that apartments are referred to in terms of “number of rooms,” as well as with the definitions outlined below.

By definition, a “room” in Manhattan must be at least 70 square feet and have a window, except in the case of a kitchen. Most kitchens are considered rooms, unless they are Pullman types, which would be found as part of the living room. Bathrooms are not counted as rooms. So, a Three Room Apartment would be comprised of a Living Room, a Kitchen and a Bedroom. A Four Room Apartment would have a Living Room, a Kitchen, Two Bedrooms, or One Bedroom and a Dining Room. Another term is Half of a Room, such as, Three and a Half Rooms. This means that the Living Room has an alcove adjacent to it which is not quite the size of a true room, or in some cases it may mean a foyer large enough for dining.


An alcove is an area adjoining the living room space of an apartment. It can be used for dining or an additional sleeping area, and depending upon size and if it has a window, it may actually be “walled off” to create an additional bedroom.


The word “classic” is usually followed by a number indicating the number of rooms in an apartment. It is generally associated with pre-war apartments that meet criteria of room numbers and design for buildings of that period. However, a “classic” can exist in a post-war building, assuming it follows the same guidelines. As an example, a “classic six” is comprised of a six rooms: living room, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms and a maid’s room.


A convertible or flex is a term that identifies an apartment with an alcove adjacent to the living room that can be used to create another bedroom. By utilizing this “flexible” space, we can “convert” the apartment from a one bedroom to a two bedroom. Hence, a one- bedroom with this alcove could be called a Convertible or Flexible Two Bedroom.


In New York this means an apartment with two floors or levels, not two apartment units.


Again, a junior is an apartment with an alcove off of the living room which can be converted into a bedroom or used for dining. A Junior 4, for instance, would be a three room apartment (living room, kitchen and bedroom) which has the potential to be four rooms by using the alcove space to create an additional room.


A loft area is an additional space created in apartments with very high ceilings. The loft area is constructed above the traditional living area, accessed by a staircase or ladder, and used for extra storage, sleeping or living space (e.g., a mezzanine).


One or two rooms with combined living and sleeping area. If the studio is one room, then it has a Pullman kitchen. If it is two rooms, the kitchen is separate.