7 Types of Apartments You Will Find Living in NYC

Whether you’re looking to rent or to buy, the different types of apartments you’ll encounter in New York City are often unique architecturally and diverse in terms of layout and design. Depending on where in the five boroughs you focus your apartment search – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx or Staten Island – square footage and amenities may vary, however, here are seven of the city’s most popular apartment styles.

Co-ops and Condos

For buyers, co-ops and condos are the most coveted types of home ownership in New York City. The Huffington Post reports that roughly 75 percent of the Manhattan housing inventory is made up of co-ops. Because there is more supply, co-ops tend to be less expensive than condos.

The main difference between the two is that a co-op is owned by a corporation. That means, when you buy a co-op, you own shares in the entire building, rather than your actual apartment. Usually, the larger the apartment, the more shares you will have in the corporation. For outright ownership of an apartment unit, you want a condo.

The board approval process for co-op buildings is more stringent than for condominium buildings. Potential buyers are required to interview with the board, which can approve or decline applicants at will. Because of the community nature of co-ops, residents tend to be more interactive, whereas condo owners operate more as loners.

Both co-op and condo dwellers are required to pay monthly maintenance or common charges, however these charges tend to be lower in condos than in co-ops. With condos, you can also sublet your apartment, because you own it.

Railroad Apartment

This style of apartment derives its name from its straight floor plan, with one room leading directly into another. A railroad apartment generally doesn’t have hallways or foyers, which means you may have to walk through a bedroom to get to the kitchen, or through the kitchen to get to the bathroom. In railroad apartments found in some older multi-unit apartment buildings, formerly called tenements, you’ll even find a claw foot bathtub in the kitchen. That’s convenient—you can boil pasta water and take a bubble bath at the same time. 


Built before World War II, prewar apartments are large (by New York standards), competitively priced and built to last, often with thick walls, crown moldings and other fancy architectural details. Prewar buildings tend to be sturdy brick and stone buildings with elevators and high ceilings often found on the Upper West and Upper East Sides in Manhattan – think the grand, Gothic Revival-styled Dakota on 72nd Street and Central Park West, where John Lennon lived. However, Brooklyn also boasts lovely prewar apartments in historic sought-after nabes like Brooklyn Heights and Crown Heights.


The loft apartment is perhaps the most romanticized New York City apartment type. According to Naked Apartments, the original lofts are in converted warehouses or factories in downtown Manhattan. Soho is arguably home to the city’s best lofts, however, spaces converted into tony residential lofts can also be found in Nolita, Tribeca, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, the Financial District, and in Dumbo in Brooklyn. The loft layout is usually a sprawling, open living space with high ceilings, large windows, hardwood floors and exposed brick walls. As depicted in TV and film, loft apartments are often adorned with modern Design Within Reach decor for Wall Street types (the aptly titled James Marsden thriller The Loft) or eclectic ABC Carpet & Home décor for creative couples (Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze’s home in Ghost).


Outdoor space is at a premium in New York City. So garden apartments, particularly in Brooklyn, are hot properties. According to the Brownstoner the term “garden apartment” was coined in 1914 by a Queens real estate company to describe an apartment complex designed around large green spaces. Although there are still apartments throughout the five boroughs with shared garden spaces, these days the description usually refers to the ground floor of a brownstone or townhouse originally built as a one or two family home with access to the back yard or a private patio. And a garden duplex would include all of that plus the parlor floor.

Parlor Floor

This coveted apartment type is located on the second floor of a townhouse or brownstone. As explained by thetownhousespecialist, 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. Before they became apartments, these rooms were usually living rooms, libraries or formal dining rooms. Brownstone-lined Brooklyn neighborhoods like Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant are home to some of the city’s prettiest parlor floor apartments.

Tracy E. Hopkins