NYC Real Estate Glossary


Brooklyn real estate ads are often a slew of acronyms (WFH is hot this year) buried in a heap of adjectives (“cozy” can have…several meanings). But one thing you’ll come across often are the big three descriptors—pre-war, post-war )you’d think these two would cover it all, right?), and new construction. We’ll break down the pros and cons of each so you know what you’re getting into to.  

But first? A quick NYC real estate glossary:

Full-Service, White-Glove and Doorman Buildings

A doorman building can be as regal as those in an old-time film or as basic as a part-time attendant with a live-in super. A full-service building means more staff, including folks like porters, resident managers, 24-hour door staffing, and even a concierge. White-glove buildings are disappearing but those are basically five-star hotel setups with the requisite glamour. 

Think about what’s truly important to you because staffing does add to the monthly or maintenance fees you’ll be assessed. Don’t forget to factor in holiday tipping, too, which can impact your bottom line. 

Elevator Building

This usually refers to anything between 5-15 stories. Most of the time it also implies the building is not a doorman building, though this has started to become muddy in recent years. Every so often, you may find an attended elevator building (think Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) but these are few and far between anymore).

Walk-up Building

No elevator, you’re hoofing it up to five floors. If you don’t mind stairs, these places can be a better value and come cheaper the higher you go (prices on first-floor places will likely be highgher here, though). You may also be enlisted to help with things like shoveling snow or walkways or yard maintenance, depending on the landlord.


What the designation means: 

This category of apartment was built prior to WWII and is still highly sought after. Known for their solid construction, typically generous and sometimes ornate common areas, pre-wars conjure the romance of old New York. 

What that means for you:

The charm is built in—which is great if you like this particular kind of charm. Most people love high ceilings but not everyone loves the layouts, which, in contrast to today’s zeal for “open concept,” mean rooms are each afforded a prescribed function and might be closed off from other rooms.  

What you should expect (good and bad):

Generally roomy

  • Solid (and we do mean solid) construction—expect picture hanging and Wi-Fi to be trickier prospects than you might expect if you’re dealing with concrete or plaster lathe walls
  • Vintage details
  • If you’re a renter, you might be living with some charm (such as old fixtures or noisy radiators) that you can’t change; likewise, if you’re a buyer, expect that the place may need to be babied more than a modern unit and reno can quickly become expensive
  • Heads up for buyers that most pre-war are co-op, meaning they’ll require a board interview, a look at your financials and a 20% down (no FHA option here, sadly)
  • You probably expect to not have a rooftop deck and fitness center in the lobby but know that some standard everyday luxuries we forget about today (like a dishwasher or lots of storage), might be missing too
  • Fads come and go but it’s hard to argue that pre-wars have ever gone out of style


What the designation means:

Oof, this one’s a bit of a grab bag. Essentially these can be anything built from the 1950s to the turn of this century. That generality, however, means more styles to choose from and though the facades might be less ornate, the construction is still reliable. Don’t forget too that post-war America was pretty drunk on optimism and often these apartments reflect that fun-loving spirit with unique touches and fun character.

What that means for you:

Unlike Pre-Wars, Post-Wars tend to be split more evenly between condos and co-ops. Condo buyers may not need to put up a full 20% down and, while the prices tend to be cheaper, the initial costs can be much higher than for those buying a co-op. Good news on the reno front though; most Post-Wars will not require extensive updates to mechanicals that Pre-Wars do, and you’re more likely to have “mod cons” like central air.

What you should expect (good and bad):

  • Let the sunshine in with bigger windows (generally speaking) and bring your stuff because there’s likely more storage. 
  • There’s no polite way to put this but some Post-Wars can look a little utilitarian but if you’re a buyer, this can work to your advantage if external aesthetics are not that big a deal for you.
  • For both renters and buyers, these can be a bargain


What the designation means:

It was built after Outkast released “Ms. Jackson,” which was…..(gulp) 21 years ago. Anything built after 2000 fits under this mantle. 

What that means for you:

Oh, baby, do you like amenities? Cause they’ve got ‘em. You’re likely to find updated fixtures, stainless steel appliances, and the clean lines everybody talks about on HGTV. If the building is really new, buyers may even get to take advantage of tax abatements offered by developers. 

What you should expect (good and bad):

  • These buildings tend to skew a bit younger—mainly because new builds require space and no one is knocking down a Park Slope brownstone to put up a high-rise. But Williamsburg? Bushwick? Downtown Brooklyn? This is where you’ll find the biggest selection.
  • The style is decidedly contemporary—great now, but will you love it in 15 years? If the answer is yes or if reno is no big deal for you, then don’t worry about it.
  • New Construction tends to reflect what we want now, like more storage, open concept, beaucoup amenities, and gorgeous fixtures
  • Beware, not all new construction is as good as it looks on the surface. Your agent can help you suss out the developer’s reputation and a home inspector can alert you to any potential problems you may encounter after the shine wears off a bit.
  • You won’t have any of those wi-fi hassles of a Pre-War; New Construction is typically outfitted with the latest tech and many offer smart home features.
  • All those amenities come with a fee, so watch out for high common charges or go into it knowing that the amenities are worth it for you. 


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