Selling Glossary

Adjustable Rate Mortgage

ARM. A mortgage with an interest rate that may change, usually in response to changes in the Treasury Bill rate or the prime rate. The purpose of the interest rate adjustment is primarily to bring the interest rate on the mortgage in line with market rates. The mortgage holder is protected by a maximum interest rate (called a ceiling), which might be reset annually. ARMs usually start with better rates than fixed rate mortgages, in order to compensate the borrower for the additional risk that future interest rate fluctuations will create.

Air Rights

Sometimes called Development Rights. It refers to the right to build above or add square footage to a building. The rights are the maximum amount of floor area permissible on a zoning lot. The difference between the maximum permitted floor area and the actual floor area is the unused air or development rights. Unused rights potentially allow a townhouse to be enlarged.


An estimate of how much money something is worth, especially one given by an expert.


The right to transfer a contract or a lease from one party to another. The term is often used to describe the process of assigning one’s primary lease to that of a second party until the end of the term.


A platform projecting from the interior or exterior wall of a building, usually enclosed by a rail or parapet.


A basement is a building story that has less than one-half of its floor-to-ceiling height below curb level. See Cellar.


Refers to the actual exterior dimensions of a building on a lot. For instance, a townhouse might be built 20′ x 70′ on a 20′ x 100′ lot. Today, city zoning regulations impose tough restrictions on how large a new building may be built on a lot.

Building, Mixed

A mixed building is a building in a commercial district used partly for residential use and partly for community facility or commercial use.

Building Size

The maximum size of a building is generally determined by the floor area ratio (FAR) assigned to each zoning district by the city of New York.


Reddish brown sandstone used as a building material.

Building Classes

Building classifications are used to differentiate buildings and help the reporting of market data in a manner that differentiates between building types.

Capital Improvement

An improvement on a piece of property which is going to increase the value of the property. Such an improvement may include a new roof, new windows or a new elevator.


A cellar is a level of a building that has more than one-half of its floor-to-ceiling height below curb level. See Basement.

Certificate of Occupancy

An official document showing that a building conforms to government regulations and can be occupied.


Perhaps one of the most important terms used in the residential real estate market and the foundation for working with other brokers in the community. When a broker sends out his/her listings to the brokerage community at large, he/she does so on a co-broke basis. This means that the brokerage firm representing the owner of the property will split the commission on a 50/50 basis with the brokerage firm that brings the buyer or tenant to the property and is able to conclude a transaction.

Commercial Overlay

A commercial overlay is a small portion of a residential district, usually the first and second floors of a building fronting on major avenues or wide streets, which is zoned for retail and service stores. A commercial overlay is shown on the zoning map as a pattern super imposed on a residential district.

Commercial Property

A classification of real estate which includes income producing property such as office buildings, gasoline stations, restaurants, shopping centers, hotels and motels, parking lots and stores, and other similar uses


When a property is sold, the brokers involved in the transaction are entitled to payment in the form of a commission. In a sale transaction, the commission rate is usually set by the owner and is typically six-percent of the sales price.


In this form of home ownership, one owns real property much like owning a townhouse. The condominium residents elect a board of managers who are responsible for overseeing the operations of the building. The main difference between owning a condo and a townhouse is, in addition to owning the apartment, you also own a small percentage of the common elements of the building such as the halls, stairwells, basement, and so on. Each homeowner receives a separate property tax bill from the city for their unit. In addition, each owner pays a common charge to the condominium association to pay for such items as payroll, building maintenance and supplies, management fees, and building repairs. The real estate taxes you pay on a condominium apartment are tax deductible, but the common charges are not deductible.


A formal or legally binding agreement, e.g. one for the sale of property, or one setting out terms of employment.


In this form of home ownership, one owns shares of stock in a corporation that owns the building. These shares are considered “personal property” similar to any other shares of stock. The corporation (coop) issues to each shareholder a “proprietary lease” which gives the shareholder the right to occupy their specific apartment. In addition, the corporation elects a board of directors who are responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the building. Owners pay to the Coop a maintenance fee, which pays for such items as: the building’s real estate taxes, underlying mortgage, payroll, management fees, and general maintenance. Typically, the portion of the maintenance that is attributed to the buildings real estate taxes and mortgage interest are tax deductible.


A house that is divided into two halves and is inhabited by two separate families or tenants with separate entrances.


The procedure of placing money in an account where neither buyer nor seller can access the money without the consent of an escrow agent.


This refers to a built addition to an existing building that increases the floor area of the building.

Exclusive Listing

The advertising of property for sale through one agent, rather than several.


This is the front of a building. The facade can consist of any number of building elements, such as limestone, brownstone, cement, glass, granite, marble, and or any combination of the aforementioned.

Fixed Rate Mortgage

A fixed rate mortgage sets the interest rate at the time the loan originates, and the rate does not change. The interest rate depends on market conditions at the time of the loan and the borrower’s creditworthiness.

Floor Area

The floor area of a building is the sum of the gross area of each floor, excluding mechanical space, cellar space, floor space in open balconies, elevators or stair bulkheads.

Floor Area Ratio (FAR)

This is the principal regulation controlling the size of buildings in Manhattan. FAR is the ratio of total building floor area to the area of its zoning lot. Each zoning district has a FAR control number which, when multiplied by the area of the zoning lot, produces the maximum amount of floor area permitted for construction. For example, on a 10,000 square foot lot in a district with a FAR of 1, the floor area for a townhouse cannot exceed 10,000 square feet.


The process by which a lending institution takes back a property because the property owner can no longer meet his/her monthly mortgage payment.

Full Bath

A room containing a bathtub or shower, and usually a sink and toilet.

Half Bath

A room in a residence that contains a toilet and wash basin but no bathing facilities, such as a bathtub or shower stall.

In Contract

Refers to the moment in time when a buyer and a seller both sign a contract of sale.


A structure or site identified and preserved because of its historical significance


A legal contract allowing somebody exclusive possession of another’s property for a specific time in return for a payment.


A small area of land that has fixed boundaries.


An agreement by which somebody borrows money from a money-lending organization such as a bank or savings-and-loan association and gives that organization the right to take possession of property given as security if the loan is not repaid.


To make a bid or financial proposal for something.

Parlor Floor

This is the second floor in a townhouse. In its original form, the building’s front steps accessed the parlor floor. The parlor is traditionally the grandest floor in the townhouse and almost always has the building’s highest ceilings. Historically, these floors were primarily used for entertaining with two rooms separated by a staircase. These rooms were usually Living Rooms, Libraries or Formal Dining Rooms.


This term refers to the time (month and day) that a new purchaser or a new tenant can actually take possession of an apartment or townhouse.

Pre War

The term pre-war or prewar (antebellum) is usually applied to the most recent or significant war in a culture’s history.

Professional Space

Office space usually for doctors, lawyers, architects or community facility.

Property Tax

A tax based on the value of a house or other property.


A building, especially a house that is divided into four separate living units.

Rent Controlled (brief description)

The rent control program generally applies to residential buildings constructed before February 1947 in municipalities that have not declared an end to the postwar rental housing emergency. A total of 51 municipalities have rent control, including New York City, Albany, Buffalo and various cities, towns, and villages in Albany, Erie, Nassau, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Westchester counties.

For an apartment to be under rent control, the tenant (or their lawful successor such as a family member, spouse, or adult lifetime partner) must have been living in that apartment continuously since before July 1, 1971. When a rent controlled apartment becomes vacant, it either becomes rent stabilized, or, if it is in a building with fewer than six units, it is generally removed from regulation.

An apartment in a one- or two-family house must have a tenant in continuous occupancy since April 1, 1953 in order to be subject to rent control. Once it is vacated after that date, it is no longer subject to regulation. Previously controlled apartments may have been decontrolled on various other grounds. On rare occasion, a decontrolled apartment is ordered back under rent control as a penalty for certain violations of the rent laws.

Rent Regulated

Encompasses both rent controlled and rent stabilized apartments.

Rent Stabilized (brief description)

In NYC, rent stabilized apartments are those apartments in buildings of six or more units built between February 1, 1947 and January 1, 1974.

Tenants in buildings of six or more units built before February 1, 1947 and who moved in after June 30, 1971 are also covered by rent stabilization.

A third category of rent stabilized apartments covers buildings with three or more apartments constructed or extensively renovated since 1974 with special tax benefits. Generally, these buildings are stabilized only while the tax benefits continue.

Residence or Residential

A residence is a building or part of a building containing dwelling units or rooming units, including single family or two family houses, multiple dwellings, boarding or rooming houses or apartment hotels.


An area within a building that is enclosed by a floor, walls, and a ceiling.

Security Deposit

A rental tenant will put down a security deposit on an apartment or townhouse so that the owner of the apartment has security against any potential damages in the apartment during the term of tenancy. This security deposit is not in lieu of a tenant paying his/her last month’s rent.

Square Footage

Square footage is a measurement of area, and area is the measurement of any two-dimensional space contained within a set of lines. Multiply the width of the floor by the length of the floor.


All the rooms on one level of a building.


A level outdoor surface that extends from one of the upper floors of an apartment or house.


A type of dwelling unit normally having three to five floors, with the living area and kitchen on the base floor and the bedrooms located on the upper floors.


A building divided into three apartments on three separate floors, or a single apartment that occupies three floors.


A use is any activity, occupation business or operation carried in a building.


The division of a city or town into zones and the application of regulations having to do with the structural, architectural design and intended use of buildings within such designated zone (i.e. a tenant needing manufacturing space would look for a building located within an area zoned for manufacturing).