What 20 NYC real estate terms REALLY mean

Finding an apartment in New York City feels like waiting for a subway that’ll never arrive, while someone plays an electric sitar on the platform, and another person pees on you. Now, while the entire process is awful, trying to decipher NYC’s notoriously confusing real estate terminology is enough to make you crazy. Like, full-blown, “I’m going to rent street-level on Avenue D because I no longer give a rat’s ass whether I live or die”-type of crazy.

But before you do that, read this: a glossary of 20 of NYC’s most ludicrously dishonest real estate terms, and what they all actually mean.


“Broker”: Constantly late and consummately unprofessional, you will nonetheless pay this person $11,000 for services best summed up as “opening a door” and “lying to you about what’s inside”.

Flickr/Jeremy T. Hetzel

"Recently renovated": Between tenants, multiple plumbers went and sledgehammered various surfaces while smoking four packs of unfiltered cigarettes each, then jacked copper fittings from the condemned building next door. Also: there’s a condemned building next door!

"Exposed brick": The contractor ran out of sheetrock, which is perfect, because you’ve always said you wanted to pay an extra $50/month to have masonry cement crumble into your clothes/bed/food.

"Rooftop access": Either 1) it’s a high rise, and the beautifully finished sun deck will be crawling with roughly 400 Blue Moon-drinking I-bankers wearing “America: Back 2 Back World War Champs” beach tanks, or 2) it's a walk-up, and you’ll lose three pairs of Havaianas to the melty tar paper. In both cases, it’s worthless nine months out of the year.

"Live-in super": A basement-dwelling caretaker who blacks himself out on home-distilled grain liquor every damn day. You’d call the cops, but then there’d be no one to fix your radiator. You lose sleep knowing that this man has a key to your apartment.

"Elevator building": The only tenant brave enough to use that 3'x3’ metal death-box is Muriel, the ancient, rent-control-holdout on the ninth floor who drinks grain liquor with the super and gambles her social security checks up at Aqueduct twice a month. She’s twice the man you’ll ever be.


Flickr/Nano Anderson

"Tasteful fixtures": Are breakfast counters technically “fixtures”? Either way, this one isn’t bolted to the floor, and looks to be reinforced with a 1992 Erector Set.


"Up-and-coming neighborhood": Freelance graphic designers who somehow own cars Instagram that mural on the wall of Key Foods daily. You’ll be pissed when Konditori opens on your block, even though the bodega coffee gave you an ulcer, and the atrocious residential Wi-Fi makes it impossible to work in your apartment.

"Vaulted ceilings": 10ft by the windows, but the downward slope is severe enough that you have to hunch your way to bed, Being John Malkovich-style.

Flickr/Orin Zebest


"Emerging neighborhood": If you convince someone to sleep with you, it’ll never happen in your own bed, because no cabbie will take you to “East Crown Heights”... because no one calls Brownsville that except for that dirty, lying realtor who rented you the place. Congratulations on saving $100 a month!

“Fun & safe neighborhood close to the BEST restaurants and bars!”: You’re paying $2,000/month for a partitioned flex-two with no shower. Every night, a fat Bucknell alum will stumble out of The 13th Step to vomit on your front step.

"Transit-accessible": The nearest subway station is four avenues away. You’ll eventually learn the crosstown bus schedule, but despite your sermons on its remarkable efficiency, your friends will never visit you. Ever.

"Plentiful parking nearby": HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Flickr/chad magiera

"Partially furnished": In any other context, the bubble tea stains and obvious bedbug larvae would make this couch garbage. But your lazy-bastard landlord didn’t bother removing it after the previous tenant, so now it’s yours! Say thank you!

"Easy walk to [supermarket]": You won’t quite “trust” the meat, or the produce, or the fish, or most of the dairy, but it’s so convenient. Several bouts of food poisoning later, you’ll begin riding the subway to/from Trader Joe’s like everyone else.

"New appliances": The refrigerator may’ve started out white, but now it’s closer to “armpit”. The stainless steel dishwasher will begin corroding within three cycles. Eventually, you’ll max your out-of-network health coverage seeking treatment for the chemical burns you got from touching it.

So now that you’ve carefully studied this glossary, you’re ready to wheel & deal your way into a Big Apple abode, right? Wrong! It may seem obvious here, but this real estate word-trickery is much harder to recognize in its natural habitat: the Craigslist apartment posting. To give you a fighting chance, we translated a normal NYC listing into what it really means:

Dave Infante is the Executive Editor of The Crosby Press, and is still looking for a third roommate to fill his flex-3 in Jackson Heights. Follow @dinfontay for more details.