The New York townhouse is not an ordinary townhouse you would find in other parts of the country. These are non-uniform units that are the closest equivalent to stand-alone houses in smaller cities or suburbs. Townhouses were built in the 1800’s until the 1920’s; they were occupied by wealthy families that could afford a private house in the middle of the metropolis. Living in a townhouse, you will enjoy all the decorum and comfort of the old historic building.
These three to five stories’ buildings have a street entrance, a private backyard and other amenities more traditional to stand-alone houses. Some townhouses would also have a separate entrance in the back. Usually both walls are shared with the adjacent properties.
In modern times, many townhouses were remodeled and converted to fit multiple apartment units. Many townhouses are known as the Brownstones because of the brown sandstone used as a building material until the turn of the XXth century.
Brownstones are signature to New York and most of historic cities in New England. These are townhouses build throughout the 1800’s and in the beginning of the XX century. The name comes from the brown sandstone used as a building material until the turn of the XXth century. These houses share a common wall with the neighboring properties, forming long rows of houses that define the look of many New York neighborhoods.
Originally designed as single family townhouses, most brownstones were subsequently redesigned to fit 4-8 apartments. You will hardly find two matching units – they are all unique, with no standard layout. Sometimes there are add-ons to the original construction, to suit amenities of the ground floor apartments.
From the street you will see a nice grand staircase that leads to the ground floor (referred to as ‘parlor floor’). Another entrance is sometimes available, just below the staircase – it leads to the cellar floor (‘English basement’).
Thick walls, ornamented high ceilings, decorative or real wood fireplaces and carved doorways will give you the Old Times vibe and make you feel truly at home. Brownstones will offer lots of comfort to you and your family, while not being the most energy efficient or rich in additional features like closet space. You rarely find a doorman or laundry room in a brownstone.
Walk-ups are three-five story building without an elevator. An elevator is required for buildings of six floors and higher. Build before the WWII and until the 70’s, the walk-up apartment buildings are the most common for New York. The walk-ups are very popular, because they offer the same prime location as more luxurious buildings, at a lower price. And don’t forget the healthy exercise – at no price at all!
Hi-Rise / Luxury High-Rise
Hi-Rises, as the name suggests, are apartment buildings, which boast ten stories or higher.
Hi-rise apartment buildings vary widely in age, construction material, service level and availability of modern amenities. The older hi-rises, ranging from 10 to 20 floors, were erected between 1940-1970s and offer all the comfort of the modern living in an old-architecture ambiance. You will enjoy the luxury of having a doorman and/or concierge, spacious hallways with elaborate detail, as well as additional amenities like a gym, common recreation area and roof deck. Buildings that are constructed more recently are generally more sophisticated. In modern luxury developments you might also find swimming pool, garage parking, and have access to hotel-like concierge services.
Buildings constructed before World War II.
There was a vast variety of buildings constructed before WWII – from the famous art-deco skyscrapers like the Empire State Building to the numerous hi-rises and modest walk-ups on the Lower East Side. However, one type of apartment buildings deserved the special ‘pre-war’ reference. These are charming 10-12 stories’ high buildings, abundant in architectural details like crown moldings, arched doorways, large fireplaces and non-standard window cases. Pre-war buildings generally offer larger rooms, high ceilings and hardwood floors. Some of them were recently renovated to fit modern amenities. They usually have a part-time or full-time doorman. Although there are not many of them (just a bit over 125 in Manhattan), these beautiful buildings form the essential character of Fifth and Park avenues and adorn many other areas of Manhattan.
Originally, lofts are former commercial or industrial buildings converted into residential spaces. They usually feature large open spaces, exposed brick walls, big kitchen areas and very high ceilings adorned with open A/C pipes. Sometimes the bedroom is arranged into a separate room.
Generally, the open spaces can be customized for any purpose and uniquely decorated. True lofts do not offer much in additional features like laundry facilities or doorman services. In recent years, the term became widely used as a description of an apartment with open living space or partial second floor that can be used for a bed.
Classification by ownership:
As the name implies, all apartments in rental buildings are rented out and not sold. These buildings vary in architecture – from Brownstones to Luxury hi-rises. They are run either by an owner (who would sometimes live in the building), or by a management company in charge of maintaining the property, screening prospective renters and collecting the rent.
Rent can be stabilized, rent-controlled or ‘free-market’. In a rent-stabilized apartment, the tenant is protected from rent increases over certain percentage per year. ‘Free-market’ apartments are not subject to this regulation.
These type of ownership is unique to New York City. A cooperative building is owned by a corporation. When purchasing an apartment in a coop building, one purchases shares in the corporation and becomes its stockholder. Coop buildings are run by a Board of Directors, which approval is required for subleasing apartments to prospective tenants. Approximately 80 percents of buildings in New York are Coops. They are less expensive to buy when a condominium, however, monthly maintenance charges are usually higher. As an owner, you will be responsible for monthly maintenance fees which, depend on the availability of additional services like a doorman, maid service, gym, valet parking, etc. Sublets require Board’s approval and a background check.
Condominium (Condo) building is a multi-unit dwelling where individual apartments are owned privately, and common areas are owned collectively by all unit owners.
As an owner, you will be responsible for monthly common charges and will have to abide by the building’s policy regarding pets, installation of Washer/Dryer, subletting, etc.
As a renter, you will be subletting your apartment directly from the unit owner. In most Condo buildings, prospective tenants require an approval by the condominium’s Board of Directors and a thorough background check.