Saturday, June 9, 2012

A brief vocabulary lesson from a real-estate pedant.

You, Gentle Reader, are way too smart to call a townhouse a "townhome."  Or call a brick house a brownstone.  Or confuse a mere top floor with a penthouse, or a balcony with a terrace, or a new apartment with a loft. 

But if you know someone who does make these errors, please pass the following along to him.

First of all, anything in that's in a town and that somebody calls home is a town home, from the $88 million penthouse at 15 Central Park West to, unfortunately, a refrigerator carton under the George Washington Bridge.

However, some developers use “townhome” to mean a maisonette that is part of a new apartment building.  

(A maisonette is a one- or often two-story apartment at the bottom of a building.  It  has an entrance from the lobby but usually also has its own separate entrance from the street.  In other countries, it is simply a two-story apartment with internal stairs; it's what we would call a duplex.)

Some brokers have also begun to use “townhome” as another name for a townhouse.

They think “townhome” sounds more elegant.  It doesn’t.  It sounds inaccurate and pretentious.  The only acceptable terms for a house in town are townhouse, rowhouse (that is, a house that shares walls with the houses on either side of it), or house. 

Unless, of course, the house in question is a brownstone. 

A brownstone is a townhouse that is faced with brown stone.  A brick townhouse is not a brownstone.
447 West 24th Street - Stribling & Associates
A brick townhouse.  If it's made of brick, it's a brick townhouse
or rowhouse, or simply a house.
Sure, there are those who use “brownstone” and "townhouse” interchangeably.  There are also those who say, “between you and I,” but that doesn’t make it acceptable.  
833 President St - Stribling & Associates
A brownstone. If it's not brown, it's not a brownstone.
A few more definitions: 

penthouse is a small house built on the roof of a building.  It is surrounded by terrace, usually on at least three sides. 

Brokers will sometimes describe the top floor of a loft building as a “penthouse.” 

But the top floor of a building is not always a penthouse.  Even if the owners of the top floor have exclusive rights to the roof, the top floor is not a penthouse.  A penthouse has outdoor space that you don't have to climb stairs to get to. 

A terrace is a setback, large or small, near the top of a building.  The floor of a terrace is the roof of the floor below.  

A terrace.
A balcony is outdoor space that has air under it.  This kind of outdoor space is always a balcony, never a terrace, no matter how big it is.

A balcony. 
A loft is an apartment in a building that was once a factory or a warehouse.  All lofts are pre-war.  Apartments in new buildings are not lofts, even if they are huge and have open kitchens and 10’ ceilings. 

And that concludes my rant for today.

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